High Anxiety: Reducing Email Creative Stress

Email marketers should examine their content processes -- they may be creating anxiety.

Do you think this is a joke? A Hightail survey of 1,040 people working on creative shows that 77% find the review process stressful, and 53% say this results from more people becoming involved in content approval. In addition, 55% worry about meeting the increasing demand for high-quality content.

These findings are the “dirty little secret that nobody talks about,” Hightail says. Not that there’s anything new in them.

“This pretty much the same as it's always been,” said Elaine Tyson, owner, Tyson Associates Inc., in a LinkedIn message. “Particularly if there's a client involved.  Most creative 'teams' are pretty adept at working together especially because so many of them work with the same team pretty much all the time. It's those non-marketing brains that tend to clog up the pipeline, at least in my experience. Inexperience plays a big role in throwing a wrench into projects as does 'the boss' who many times feels as if he/she must add their two cents or they aren't doing their job. “

Anyone who has ever worked on content knows just how true that is. Let’s say you’re a writer at a B2B company. You dig into a technological problem, and extract the information that will help your readers make purchasing decisions. Your designer creates an infographic. You’re ready to blast this versioned email (to selected, permission-based names, of course).

Then the corporate overseers step in: the lawyers, the managers, the people from PR and HR. Most of them are incapable of judging what you wrote: They’re there to protect the brand (and their turf).   

Meanwhile, the CEO returns from a trip to Hong Kong and wants a rewrite. “This is so bad,” he says of your contribution. The result is a tardy email written by committee. There’s no sense, as there was when writers like Bill Jayme and Frank Johnson were around, of one human being talking to another.

Some executives would dismiss these findings and say, “Suck it up.” And they’d be right up to a point. Life is stressful: Don’t be so sensitive. But this fractured process can hurt a company financially, and that’s the real point of this survey. Hightail also found that:

  • 48% say revenue growth is stunted because they couldn’t keep up with content demands
  • 62% believe time and money are wasted as a result of miscommunication
  • 63% complain that they’re not able to test different creative, and that this limits the “impact of their media investment.”
  • 52% feel that increasing sales and revenue will be the biggest benefit for a company that addresses these challenges.
  • Over 50% say that “all parts of their creative development progress are problematic,” Hightail says.

The survey covered anyone who works on content campaigns -- both creatives and non-creatives. 

So what do you do? In an earlier report, Hightail COO Mike Trigg griped about the ineffective, email-driven feedback loop that makes it “increasingly hard to meet deadlines and keep in budget.” Here’s one of his prescriptions:

“The traditional top-down, hierarchical, command-and-control structure stifles creativity. The skills required in creative teams are highly fluid and each creative project is different. Your organization should build flexible creative teams that are non-hierarchical and encompass a variety of creative professionals based on the particular needs of that project.”

Trigg added: “When beginning a project, establish clear checkpoints for the ultimate approver to provide feedback. This will help ensure a smoother path to the finish line.”

We would add one thing: That the CMO should act like an umbrella, protecting everyone on the team. Let the writers and artists go out for a beer when they’re done. Deliver the feedback gently. And don’t let the CEO get near them.


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