We all have that friend — you know, the one who occasionally sends a text that breaks all etiquette with a novella that forces you to stop, skim and well, mostly ignore. In internet parlance, it’s called TL;DR (i.e., too long; didn’t read).

As a content guy, I spend my days writing marketing materials to support our clients’ programs. Whether it’s an article, blog, white paper, email campaign or brochure, these projects usually start out as well-intentioned efforts to tell a targeted, concise story. But all too often during the review process, the inevitable happens: the story grows. And like a ball of wet snow in perfect packing weather, it takes on a little weight with every roll; or in this case, every set of eyes.

In the B2B marketing world this snowball effect is known as “content by committee,” and it’s problematic for a variety of reasons. Let’s look at a few.

  1. TL;DR: as I’ve written about previously, our attention spans are on the decline. Doubling a 400-word blog, turning a four-page brochure into 12 pages, and increasing a white paper word count from 1,500 to 2,500 are all real-world examples of the snowball effect — which greatly reduces the chances of content ever getting read.
  2. Watered down (or overflowing) messages: achieving consensus (and approval) among multiple contributors is not easy. Often the original purpose of the piece either gets watered down, or the content cup overflows to the point where it’s no longer recognizable.
  3. Timeliness: if you’re producing content against a tight deadline, there’s a high probability you’re missing the due date. You can just watch that ship sail away with the content committee on-board.

So, how can you avoid these pitfalls and make sure content doesn’t end up in the TL;DR pile?

When it comes to word count, there are two things I recommend. First: Create an outline, get it approved before writing and stick to it. This will serve as a reminder of the original scope and intent. Second: Edit, review and edit again (rinse and repeat, if necessary). It’s not easy to keep it short, but it pays dividends in the end.

Finally, if possible — and I’m fully aware that there will be those times when it’s not — keep your content committee limited to a select few subject matter experts (the fewer the better). This will not only keep your content goals intact, but will also help you stick to the production schedule and stay on budget.

And if all that doesn’t work, do your best and accept the fact that not every piece of content is destined for greatness.