My 3 Biggest Professional Disappointments of 2012

by Marcus Sheridan

You may have noticed that I’m not big on focusing on failure, negatives, or anything of the sort as it typically doesn’t inspire others (nor myself) to reach greater heights of success on a personal or professional level. Notwithstanding, I wanted to share a few experiences I’ve had this year that, although disappointing, have taught me greatly, and I’m hoping they might touch you in some way as well. Here goes:

1. Failed Buy-In for a Culture of Content Marketing

For me, this was the year of the content marketing workshop. After having left my swimming pool company in the hands of my two amazing partners 18 months ago, I was able meet with multiple companies and give workshops on what it truly means to have a culture of content marketing—one where every employee sees themselves as a teacher of what they do, with a voice that needs to be heard by the world.

From these workshops, many such cultures have been established, some of which you’ll see described with in-depth case studies during the coming year. Notwithstanding, two of the companies have not taken off at all since my departure. Despite my best efforts, and despite the fact that they fully believe content marketing will work–especially if all the employees participate–they just haven’t done anything.

For me, as one who prides himself in helping others “get it and go,” such inaction is painful to watch. Furthermore, I hate rendering a service where I get paid and despite it being very much out of my control, the results don’t come.

Content Marketing Friends

Despite not achieving a 100% success rate of “action” from all my workshops, many companies have flourished. Three of the companies– Block Imaging, US Waterproofing, and Yale Appliance–all attended CMW with me where we had our own little “mini-conference,” something that was a highlight of my year.

This being said, cultures aren’t force-fed, and sometimes the organization simply isn’t ready.

2. Failed Hirings of Chief Content Officers

Often times when I consult with companies it works something like this: Workshop –>Hire CCO–> everyone produces content –> I oversee the campaign for 6 months until the company is off to the races.

So just as 2012 was the year of the “Content Marketing Workshop,” it was also the year of “Hire and Train Chief Content Officers” to carry the culture forward when I’m gone.

Most of the CCOs (or whatever you want to call them, I’m not particular about acronyms) have done incredibly well, but there was one occasion when I hired a CCO for a company and the individual simply didn’t work out. From that experience (and others), I’ve learned that great CCOs have the following qualities(as well as many others):

  • They are incredibly social within the organization in the sense that they laugh lots, smile lots, and know how to make friends with everyone.
  • They love to write and edit content.
  • They are passionate about analytics.
  • They are willing to try new things and push the envelope.
  • They know when to fold ‘em, and know when to hold ‘em.

As you can see, a great CCO has some special qualities, and the more CCOs I hire and train, the better I’m becoming at identifying a good fit from a bad fit. Notwithstanding, it hurts when a company counts on you to find an employee and train him/her to lead them to content marketing greatness and it doesn’t work out whatsoever.

3. My Screw-Up Keynoting Content Marketing World

As some of you may recall, I gave the keynote at Content Marketing World this year. About 12 months ago, when I found out I’d been chosen for the slot, I literally shed tears of joy. And over the next 11 months, I thought, and pondered, and thought, and pondered over what that talk was going to look and sound like for hours upon hours. But I made one mistake in all this preparation—a mistake someone with my experience should never make—I didn’t account (at least not well) for the length of the presentation.

Content Marketing World

Birds-eye view of my CMW 2012 Keynote

Because of this error, Joe Pulizzi had to come up on stage 65 minutes into my keynote and let me know I was over time.

He was kind enough to let me finish, and after rushing through the final slides, I ended up going about 15 minutes over what my allotted time was for the session. What was supposed to end in a bang clearly didn’t match the vision I’d laid out in my head. And despite the fact that the tweets, feedback, and response from the keynote were overwhelmingly positive, to this day I cringe at my error and am bothered that I wasn’t my best when I wanted it most. Joe had been kind enough to entrust me with 60 minutes to his entire audience and I took 75…Not cool, hard lesson learned.

Gratefully, Joe immediately laughed it off, but you can be assured I will not make that mistake ever again.

I’m sure I could discuss some other “learning experiences” from 2012 but I think that will suffice. Needless to say though, I’m grateful to have such experiences, and to learn from each. And I also know 2013 will bring with it another set of challenges but without question, I’m excited for what it will bring, and hope we’ll walk the path together. :-)

Your Turn:

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about some of your biggest professional disappoints of 2012. What did you learn from the experience? And how do you envision 2013 for you professionally?

As always, your thoughts and support are appreciated.

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