Like so many people, I’m adjusting to the reality of working from home with family in the time of Coronavirus. My wife, who usually works from the office, is now working here. Our oldest daughter came home from NYC before it was locked down, and our 12 and 14 year olds were on Spring Break from distance learning. The quiet house I used to enjoy as my day-to-day office has turned into one in which I ponder questions heretofore unconsidered:
- Is it acceptable to take a conference call in a bathroom?
- How did I suddenly become the de facto IT department for everyone?
- When will I wear something other than sweats or PJs?
Our family has also become reacquainted with cleaning duties which we were fortunate enough to have handled by a professional – our dear Estella who came every week to keep our home clean. When shelter in place became the rule and Estella was no longer able to keep our world tidy, we suddenly discovered unwelcome guests in our home. Dust bunnies.
We’d never seen these when Estella was in charge. As a 21st century man, I immediately sprang into action. I sought out a technological solution and ordered… a robot vac.
I became obsessed with the device. It roamed, it weaved from one side of the hall to the other. It expertly navigated chairs, tables, dogs, socks, shoes, and other items left in its way. I marveled at the amount of dust and dog and cat hair it sucked in. But, then, obsession turned to frustration. It would make pass after pass in a room, but would miss that piece of paper on the floor. It would turn around just before it got to a piece of suburban debris, pass to the left of it, or just miss it to the right. I’d set it in one part of the house, and 30 seconds later, it would have slipped off into another room that didn’t need to be cleaned. And when I’d move it back, it would beat a hasty retreat, seemingly unable to avoid that room’s siren call.
The randomness, the lack of direction, avoiding of obvious. the limited repertoire, not to mention the stubbornness of its programming! It wasn’t serving my purpose.
And then it hit me: The robovac is how a lot of marketing departments approach content. One day they talk about one subject, the next day, another. Or there’s a social media post about yet another topic, or the content keeps repeating itself in the same small square foot of brain space. And just like the robovac, some content spends time in a room where it’s not needed.
That both confuses and dulls a potential customer or partner. The random variety of topics paints an inconsistent picture about the organization. How often have you looked at a company’s social media history and wondered, “What do these people do?” Or, “I wouldn’t have these people vacuum my floors!”
So many companies struggle to articulate purpose. Tech companies often extol features and functions of their products at great length. Big new customers, and being number one in their category are favorite tropes. And there’s a place for that. As support. That not the content that defines you. You lose that customer, or that widget becomes ubiquitous? You got nuthin’.
What we rarely see is how achievements and developments further the organization’s reason for being. A clearly articulated purpose brings a degree of order to the chaos. It’s the North Star for your content creation. Every post, white paper, ad, webinar, AMA session, video or podcast should offer a small thread back to your purpose. Don’t be like the robovac wandering aimlessly about from one topic to another. A purpose will make your content focused, relevant and effective.
As I discussed recently, this time of coronavirus provides an excellent opportunity to think clearly about purpose. Crises have a way of getting people to focus on what really matters. And there will be a new normal. But with many businesses slowed, and facing existential questions, purpose becomes much more tangible and relevant. If any good can come out of this troubling time, it may just be your organization finds a purpose that will guide it through bad times, and help you thrive in good ones.
In the meantime, I have some sweeping up to do.