Who Is Your Content Really For?

I turned the key in the ignition.  The dashboard read:


I walked around the car.  My last stop was the front right side.There was a huge rupture in the tire.  It couldn’t be any flatter.

I called my local chapter of the AAA.  A repair truck showed up within 30 minutes, and changed the tire.  They did a fine job.

Fast forward to yesterday.I received a letter from the national Quality Measurement department of AAA.  They’re seeking feedback on the service I received.

Being the busy guy that I am, usually these kinds of surveys wind up in the trash. However, since they did such a fine job, I thought, I’ll fill it out.

It turned out to be a twenty question survey, some questions having up to 10 sub-questions.

The first three questions were:

  1. For the service event date, which service did you use?

  2. How did you obtain service?

  3. How did you contact AAA for this Emergency road service?

The answers to these questions were already known by the local AAA chapter.

The last four questions were:

  1. How long have you been a member of AAA?

  2. What type of AAA membership do you have?

  3. Are you male or female?

  4. What is your age?

Again, more information the local chapter already has.

By my count, 35% of the questions being asked were not necessary.

As of today, the survey is still sitting on my desk–incomplete.  I’m not feeling particularly enthused to fill it out.

As a result, AAA has none of my customer feedback.

What Do You Really Need To Know?

We’re no longer working in an information age.  We’re living in an interruption age.  People are drowning in information.  They’re feeling more overloaded, overwhelmed and distracted than ever.

The most precious (and scarcest) resource people have is their attention.  If you don’t offer up a compelling reason as to why others should keep paying attention to you, they’re going elsewhere.

This AAA evaluation is a reminder of one of the biggest challenges that leaders face:

Don’t fall in love with your own content.

Consider these other examples:

  • Why do hardware engineers over-design products with tons of features that users don’t actually want?

  • Why do instructional designers insert five conceptual models into a 45-minute long training course?

  • Why do CEOs take two hours to give a “State of the nation” speech at an annual conference?

They all fell in love with their content.  They’re excited and interested.  They are coming from a paradigm that “more” equals “better”.

Here’s the dirty truth:  It’s really hard to not fall in love with your own content.  After all, it’s yours.  You should be excited by it.  In fact, getting passionate about your work is a necessary step towards exceptional work.While it’s a necessary step, it’s not the final step in the process.

Content is one thing.  Context is another.

When creating content,  you need to step into the shoes of the person on the other side of the relationship.  It’s important to consider details like:

  • How many questions would they be willing to fill out on a questionnaire?

  • How many features do they really want?

  • How many conceptual models make sense?

  • How much time can people realistically keep listening?

Your questionnaire (or hardware, training, speech) isn’t the goal.  It’s a means to an end.

To really succeed, you need the humility (and courage) to edit your work.  You have to be willing to leave parts on the cutting room floor.  As painful as that feels.

Ultimately, it’s not about you, it’s about them.

What strategies do you use to move from content creation to content editing? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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