Signs of a Project-Apocalypse: When to Re-Write the Strategy

Michael Purdy


January 7, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)


Knowing when to pronounce an idea or strategy ‘dead’ is much harder than Zarathustra made it seem. Many times there’s a fuzzy line between what’s working and what’s leaving the audience nonplussed. How can a content manager or client distinguish the line of necrotic strategies between those that are still functioning well?

Before a client or content wizard can know which projects to end, which to scale back, and which ones deserve more merit, thorough investigation of recorded data must be conducted. Here are a few tips and tricks for the professionals who want to cut to the chase.

Signs & Symptoms

Here are a few clear indicators that a content strategy or one-off project is not going well:

  1. Teams are dysfunctional, causing delays and uncoordinated efforts
  2. Content is frequently late or incomplete
  3. Content lacks the answer to the question, “So what?”
  4. The client is unhappy (for any reason)
  5. Content fails to meet projected social buzz
  6. Promoted content fails to gain its own traction and gain popularity organically

Problems 1-2 are often the result of disorganization or people problems. For issues 3-6, the problem can be writer-related, organizational, or a matter of timing. Problems 5-6 are most frequently the cause of a major overhaul or review, because they’re symptomatic of several simultaneous issues.


When it’s determined that a review should be conducted, make sure that a team is assembled of content people as well as a representative of the client. Discuss the specific issues, general discontent, and any communication errors. Try to record all specific incidents, as these can be used to track-backwards to root problems.

Pull all numbers pertaining to successes and failures, linking writer names, editors, and project coordinators from both the client and content team to each project. Try to find links between the particular assemblages of people. Does the content always flop when a specific writer handles it? Is content late whenever two adversarial project managers coordinate it? Review any possibility, and then earmark it for revision or rejection.


Via Women of HR

If you’re undecided about a project, as to whether it should be rejected or revised, then it probably has both good and bad aspects. This is a great example of a project that should be revised. Another example of content strategies or projects that can be revised are those that have failed and succeeded in turn: inconsistency is almost always a sign that you have many factors working well.

The issue with revisions is discerning what’s working from what’s not. Try to consider each project individually, re-working the aspects that could improve. If people are unclear about which aspects aren’t working, then you can systematically switch-out one factor at a time (such as the writer, editor, manager, promotion team, etc.).


Via Women’s Happiness

When a project continually fails every time, even if it inspires passion and exhilaration in the team (from its theoretical success), it’s time to call it quits. Sometimes ideas simply can’t be phrased into a working system. By scrapping projects that are a continual drain on resources, the team will have more energy for the projects that require revision.

Here are a few times when the team should definitely call it quits on a strategy or project:

  1. A strategy has been re-vamped more than once and still isn’t working
  2. A project has never shown any positive results (in more than a month)
  3. A team has become so dysfunctional that communication is impossible
  4. The ROI is just not high enough to justify the project

Stop, Drop, & Roll

 Via Marc Cortez

Before you pull the plug on the project, take a moment to make sure you’ve identified the true source of failure. Sometimes political in-fighting can read like disorganization or a talent mismatch, when it’s really a matter of separating departmental tasking. Other times, people might blame content promotion problems on content quality when the real issue is the promotional campaign.

Take a deep breath and clear your head, then review the issue from a fresh perspective. If you find the same source of content chaos, then it is truly appropriate to call the time-of-death on the project or strategy.


Determining when to call it quits with a long-time strategy is harder than dumping a boyfriend, because it’s entirely driven by logic and review rather than emotion. Content managers and clients who want to review their projects and strategies should make sure they do a complete, comprehensive investigation to mitigate the possibility of canning good, working aspects of projects.


Author Image - Michael Purdy
Michael Purdy

CopyPress writer

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