It’s inevitable and yet we all pretend like it will never happen to us: Our campaigns will always do well, we don’t need any systems in place for coping with our failures, professional, personal or otherwise.
And we always learn how wrong we are just a little too late.
So rather than trying to pretend like failure isn’t something we have to deal with, let’s reframe it as an inevitable learning opportunity- yes, just like some chipper self-help book author with all of the answers!- and be sure we have some systems in place to deal with it. That will make it much more likely you can minimize any damage and move forward faster.
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When a project or campaign fails
We’ve written before about what to do when no one shows up for your campaign.
First things first: Do you know exactly went wrong? Sometimes it’s a great big obvious glaring thing, but other times it’s not. If you can’t pinpoint what it is immediately, start with some basic questions:
- Was this campaign different from your last? It might have been too much like your last campaign or might have been way too different. You’ll have to do a little more digging to see if it was either of those things.
- How long ago was your last campaign? If they’re launched too close together, your audience could simply be suffering from fatigue. Give them some time to come back to you by being there for them, quietly.
- What was the timing of your posts? Were they too spread out for your audience, or maybe too close together?
- Did you tweak the wording across platforms? If you sent the exact same messaging and used the exact same images on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that could also be a cause of audience fatigue.
- Is your messaging way off? When is the last time you checked in on your content strategy? Have you just been plugging away using the same tactics without taking time to do some research (a content audit for your blog, across social and maybe also with your email marketing) and refreshing your strategy?
- Is your target audience way off? When’s the last time you checked in on your audience? Do you really understand them? If they’ve shifted, then you might be talking to the wrong people, so it’s no surprise they didn’t come to the party.
The best way to prevent a post-mortem on a campaign is to do a pre-mortem. What are all the different ways you can think of that things can go wrong? How would your brand deal with them? Who, specifically, would be responsible for dealing with each particular thing?
Think through all of this and have it laid out prior to launch of any future campaigns. Be sure you also have a comprehensive measurement system in place for tracking your campaign. Mid-campaign measurement is crucial to knowing when something is off and being able to correct it before things seriously spiral out of control.
Dealing with personal failure
Sometimes work is going great but you’re still feeling off and you don’t want the personal to start affecting work. Maybe something in a campaign went wrong but didn’t derail the whole thing, and you feel personally responsible. Our Social Media Manager has written about this before in one of her columns:
“Here’s a big thing that can help other people stop being mad at you, if that’s part of what you’re dealing with: Come forward with a plan based on what you’ve learned from what went wrong. That shows the responsibility and initiative you want to prove back to yourself, not just your boss or colleagues.
The hard part is always actually living up to those ideas we have of our best selves.”
That same strategy can help you being mad at yourself as well; throwing a pity parade isn’t going to fix the situation. Honestly addressing it is.
So actually sit down, make a plan and go over it with whoever is necessary— your boss, your team, your partner. They can help you stay accountable if you’re trying to build some new habits or learn some new skills.
And always remember: This too shall pass.