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The Blink Test: Expert Assessments

I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” last week.

Like the rest of his books, I found it dripping with tips and advice for content marketers. The big idea is both compelling and counter-intuitive: that instant decision-making, particularly from the gut of a genuine expert, is as good (if not better) than forensic analysis of lots of data.

In a world growing ever more obsessed with the potential of big data this is important; we need to be aware of the darker, flip side of the analytics mountain:

Procrastination
Many of today’s reports are based on yesterday’s data. It’s easy to get paralysed by data as your nimble competitors react decisively and creatively to real-time events.

Contamination
Your first impressions are pure, but your next impressions can be invaded by what you (or others) want to see. It’s the positivism trap that leads you to bad decisions as you over-rule your better judgement.

Convention
We judge things by what we already know works. That means you might overlook innovative new concepts, ideas and structures because they don’t conform to fixed decision making frameworks.

From the military to the health service via the music industry, Gladwell supplies a number of real-life stories to show when the snap judgement of experts wipes the floor with slow, conventional responses.

The Blink Test
I love measurement. But I also (instinctively) believe the ‘measure everything that moves’ idea is overstated. We don’t need analytical sledgehammers to crack every decision nut.

Content marketers make their lives easier by remembering one simple fact: the audience is usually a bunch of experts.

They will know (in the blink of an eye) whether you’re producing credible, useful, innovative and entertaining stuff. And yet how often are they asked (or even paid) to review new, big budget campaign material? Not enough.

These days we’d rather wait for the quantitative report on traffic, engagement and conversions to see whether a campaign’s working. Not the type of bad news you want to get three months after you pass the point of no return.

Passing the Blink Test
The best content will involve, at the bare minimum, experts at three key stages: subject experts providing input, content experts creating the output, and user experts making sure it’s of real utility.

Yet, if we’re honest, the content marketer is often cast in all three roles (even if they’re only qualified for one) as they struggle to find experts to help drive a campaign. The audience will expose the gap in credibility quicker than Google Analytics can count the page bounce.

Who wants crap campaign data if you can avoid it? Too many bad figures is simply a sign that the balance between rapid analysis and deep measurement is out.

The simple fact is that an expert can tell you in seconds what analytics can tell you in month. If you’re going to fail the blink test, you want to fail it fast, and there’s not better way to do it then calling on the people who just know.

If you want to know more about Blink, then tuck into the video here. It’s compelling stuff.

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2 Responses to “The Blink Test: Expert Assessments”

  1. Doug Kessler

    Nice one. You had me at Blink.

    I love the ‘three experts’ insight.

    As a copywriter, I know when I’m writing from a position of authority — when I got access to the right expert – and when I’m tap dancing. I don’t need analytics to tell me which will resonate with the audience (though analytics will surely validate it in time).

  2. Neil

    Cheers Doug.

    I think you’ve nailed the key point. We want analytics to measure the campaign, not test the idea.

    N

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