In the past ten years or so I’ve occasionally been engaged by people who want great content, but who appear not to want other people’s input.
Very often, they’re people just starting in business.
By which I mean, it’s their first business. Not their second, or their third, or whatever — but their first time running a business that they own.
Sometimes they’re pretty good at articulating the kinds of audiences they’re after.
They might even have a great sense of a business model. Sometimes they’ve even had some good coaching, and can speak knowledgeably about their market and their growth.
(Which is imagined, by the way, like all “projections”.)
Sometimes they’re so good that even I get sucked in and say yes to working with them.
The trouble is, they don’t want their ideas challenged. Have you ever been in that situation?
It often manifests as someone editing everything back into its original shape. They might edit direct quotes into something they’d rather say themselves, without realising that they’ve overstepped an ethical boundary.
They might remove anything that has been meaningfully crafted for a specific audience, and sometimes they turn it back into a generic, nobody-facing, third-person boring.
They do it because they know better.
Sometimes they’ll even pay an industry professional big money, and then turn around and tell them that they have no idea. In worst cases, they pay the money and flat-out ignore them.
It’s easy to take it personally — and I know many creative, web, and tech professionals who do.
But it isn’t personal: It’s simply the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias, in which people of low ability have illusory superiority. This gives them the mistaken idea that their skills are much greater than they are.
Then, because they aren’t aware that they’re thinking this way, they can’t objectively evaluate whether or not they’re competent.
Authors do it, by challenging editors without real reason. Subject matter experts do it, by insisting on something being a particular way because… well, because it’s always been that way. It happens in tech teams designing digital assets, when they persistently fail to add content requirements to the project.
And your business’s publishing approvals guy does it when he insists on marking up everything you write in red pen, turning engaging copy into industry jargon.
You can all read, and you can all write, so therefore anybody can do this stuff.
If that were the case, I wouldn’t be in business.
And you wouldn’t reading this wondering what is the point of this article. The point is that you must prepare for the times when your team members, or your boss, or even someone sitting next to you, interrupts your brilliance and forces it back to their level.
They don’t do it to piss you off. They genuinely believe that they are right. And they only do it because they can’t see their own lack of competence. It’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Your job becomes mitigating their response, by being creative about how you manage the process.
If you recognise that you’re not the professional writer that your brand publishing requires, there’s a really easy way to fix that. You can pay for it (by going to https://brutalpixie.com/thought-leadership-writing-service). Or you can get it for free, by getting my daily emails: