Regarding So-Called Best Practices

One of the things we are asked to deliver most often to management, clients, panel audiences, is the lauded list of "Best Practices." On conference calls and around tables around the world, all day long, these lists are passively solicited on topics as broad as digital media, or in specific areas: search, social, mobile, video. Or more specifically still: search retargeting, social monitoring, mobile campaigning, video seeding and distribution.

The implication that once we've provided the list, the job is done, can be discouraging. For markets to truly mature, anything that approximates pat "to do" lists, will not allow us to take full advantage of the opportunities before us.

Be wary of this request. If delivered in the context of more aggressive strategic thinking and planning, that's great. But, often the call and response is more akin to: tell me exactly what to do, and I shall go do it -- or have my team in the trenches go do it. What could be my motive? Well...



-        A list of "best practices" will allow me to create an artificial framework for understanding and get my hands (at least a little bit) around something complex and outside my reach.

-        It's a safety move. In following your instructions, I will be at least as good as any of my competitors who are doing a reasonably satisfactory job.

-        Speaking of "safety moves,"  I am desperately afraid of getting it wrong in the eyes of my management. This cute list quells my desperate fear.

-        Data on how we are doing sort of scares me. At least if I execute this list, I will be able to identify a set of foolproof measures I am taking. Then I can blame factors beyond my control for any blips in performance.

So, while we all take pleasure in giving a pithy list of best practices, let's package them a bit differently to help mature a client or team scenario. The list should be short and robust -- your TOP recommendations -- with each item thoroughly explained and illustrated. That's if your intention is more authentic than just wanting to hand off the to-dos and run.

Then, this list gets paired with guidance on more assertive, valuable testing and learning scenarios: what are some new or experimental measures and tactics we can try and scale, if they work? How do marketing, media and creative need to conspire, as we continue to course-correct? How do we use data to continue to mature the relationship between all?

After all, we should know by now that there is no silver bullet. The most promising path forward is some elusive combination of tried and true "to-dos" and a few "why the heck nots."


2 comments about "Regarding So-Called Best Practices".
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  1. Tim Watson from EMV, August 9, 2011 at 3:13 a.m.

    Pleased to see someone giving the truth about best practice.

    Very often best practice should be considered useful guideance and hints of approaches that often work, but only as input into considered thinking. Not a ready packaged solution.

    I breakdown what is best practice and why it can and should be ignored here

  2. Daniel Fell from ND&P, August 9, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.

    Nice column. I know we frequently offer or get asked to provide "best practices" - especially in the areas of interactive and social media - as part of our work for clients and I have had concerns that they either become trivial exercises with little meaning or poorly integrated into what we are doing long–term.

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