Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s twice-monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Send us your questions!

Help! Content and Design Are Feuding!

Dear Content Therapist: I’m a content marketer team lead for a B2B brand who’s in the middle of a significant conflict with my peer who heads the design team. Our collaboration has always been challenging, but it’s escalated lately, causing tension and delays in our projects. The issue stems from our differing visions for how our content should look and feel. Namely, we disagree as to whether his design concepts accurately and clearly display the intended brand messaging. This clash of perspectives has resulted in numerous revisions, missed deadlines, and frustration on both sides.

I’ve tried to address the issue with open and honest conversations, explaining my concerns and the impact it has on our work. We’ve attempted to find a middle ground, but so far, no luck. I want to find a solution that allows us to work collaboratively and produce content that meets both our objectives. How can I navigate this conflict and find a way to work harmoniously with my colleague? — CREATIVE DIFFERENCES

Paul Chaney: I understand the frustration of differing visions that lead to tension and delays. Your situation is troubling for all concerned — you, your peer, and, importantly, the brand. 

(For the record, what you shared is a “felt” need — the presenting problem — which I will address. However, the “real” need, beyond this column’s scope, is to learn how to work together more collaboratively.)

From what you said, it sounds like you have done all you can to resolve the conflict. (Of course, not hearing the other person’s side means I don’t know the whole story.) If that’s the case, I recommend setting up a meeting with a mediator to resolve the conflict.

Two questions come to mind: 

  • How do you get your peer to agree to such a meeting? 
  • And who should you choose to serve as a mediator? 

Choose the Right Time

Find a suitable time to approach your peer about the idea of a mediated meeting. Choose a moment when both of you are relatively calm and open to discussion. Avoid bringing up the topic during a heated or tense situation.

Express Your Concerns

Clearly and calmly explain your concerns about the ongoing conflict and its impact on your work and the brand. Emphasize that you value their perspective and want to find a resolution that benefits both of you — and the outcomes of projects.

Highlight the Benefits of Mediation

Explain the potential benefits of involving a neutral mediator. Stress that a mediator can provide an unbiased perspective, facilitate effective communication and help find a mutually agreeable solution. Assure your peer that the goal of mediation isn’t to take sides but to foster a more productive and harmonious working relationship.

Recommend a Mediator

Propose a few potential mediators who could facilitate the meeting. Ideally, choose someone both parties respect who has conflict resolution experience — a senior manager, a member of the HR team or even an external professional mediator. Highlight the mediator’s qualifications and ability to guide the conversation toward a positive outcome.

Regardless of who you choose, you want a neutral party who can provide an unbiased perspective and help facilitate a constructive conversation between you and the design team lead.

Involving your manager as the mediator is a viable option, especially if they have the necessary skills and experience in conflict resolution. However, consider a few factors before deciding on your manager as the mediator:

  • Neutrality: The manager should be able to approach the mediation process with neutrality and impartiality. If there is any concern that the manager may be biased toward one party or unable to remain neutral, consider an alternative.
  • Expertise: The mediator should understand the content and design aspects and the brand-messaging goals. If the manager possesses this expertise, they can effectively guide the discussion and help find a resolution that aligns with the messaging objectives.

Be Open to Peer Input

Give your peer an opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns about mediation. Listen actively and show that you value their perspective. Address any reservations, and assure them that the process will be fair and impartial. Let them recommend mediator options if that will encourage buy-in.

If you still can’t come to terms, someone other than you and the design team lead (i.e., your manager or an executive team member) may have to lower the gavel and decide the way forward. However, I’m sure you agree that it won’t speak well of you or your peer and could harm your professional reputation or impede your career. It’s best to settle the matter between you — with or without a mediator.

I Don’t Need to Be an Influencer, But I Need to Figure Out LinkedIn

Dear Content Therapist: I was laid off from my content marketing job at the end of 2023, and while that was stressful, I used the severance to unplug, spend time with family, and think about what I wanted to do next. Now that I’m back looking for a content marketing role, I’m realizing that I’ve neglected my LinkedIn presence in recent years. It feels like many people I know got their jobs through LinkedIn, whether that was job postings, connections or even from attracting attention for what they posted. I don’t want to bother people on LinkedIn or post every thought that comes into my brain, but I realize I need to network more. How should a jobseeker like me use LinkedIn to rebuild my presence and, hopefully, find a new job? — JOB-HUNTING ANEW

Paul Chaney: If you have been out of the LinkedIn loop for a while, it will likely take time to regain the ground you lost. These tips can help: 

Start by Updating Your Profile 

When it comes to LinkedIn, optimizing your profile is your No. 1 priority. Your profile is the “node” or point of contact through which others will build relationships with you and you with them. 

On social media, people prefer to do business with other people than with “brands,” and more especially with people they know and trust. Your user profile is the first step toward building that bridge.

Here are some ways to improve your profile: 

  • Don’t put your job title in your headline. Use this space to focus on the business value you provide. Instead of saying, “Content Marketing Executive,” say, “Transforming Businesses with Data-Driven Content Marketing Strategies.”
  • Use the spot for “featured” posts to send profile visitors to a writing sample, article, website, etc. to highlight your expertise. 
  • Establish thought leadership on LinkedIn by posting regularly. Consistency is key. On-again, off-again posts will get you nowhere. Additionally, consider writing LinkedIn articles (these stay on your profile; you can also link to them).
  • Think SEO. Recruiters and potential clients often search for keywords relevant to their needs. 
  • Showcase your achievements. Have you won an award? Transformed a business? Include anything measurable (e.g., “Copywriter Turned Million-Dollar Revenue Driver”).
  • Don’t be afraid to play buzzword bingo. Include the language of your profession to attract folks in the know. 
  • If you’re older, consider excluding jobs from over 10 years ago. Remove the year you graduated from college. 

Warning: Many people make the mistake of joining a social network and sending messages to fellow members without completing their profile. That’s a faux pas guaranteed to ruin your credibility. Optimizing your profile only takes a few minutes but provides ample returns. 

Once you update your bio, start networking using these principles.

Come Dressed for the Occasion

In most cases, you wouldn’t attend a “real world” networking event dressed in a T-shirt and shorts but rather a business suit or business casual. The same is true with LinkedIn. Use a professional photo and create an attractive cover image. (If you lack graphic design skills like me, use Canva or Adobe Express.)

Work the Room

An effective networker at face-to-face events learns to “work the room,” shaking hands, introducing herself, listening and participating in conversations, and handing out business cards. 

Things are not so different in the online world. Participation is the expected price of entry. Like, share, and comment on others’ posts, especially those with whom you want to build a relationship. (LinkedIn’s algorithm puts particular emphasis on comments.) Join relevant LinkedIn groups and offer ‌value-added, thought leadership content. Make yourself a visible and vital member of the community.

The one thing you don’t want to do is “pitch,” at least not until people get to know you. Hype and social media don’t bode well together. In fact, pitching may be unnecessary. Just your presence there may be enough. Your profile serves as your pitch and business card; if people are interested in learning more about you and what you do, that’s where they’ll look.

Ask for a Business Card

Just as it is conventional wisdom to exchange business cards at traditional networking events, an invitation to connect serves the same purpose in the online world. The other person will typically return the courtesy — and the courtship can begin.

Follow Dale Carnegie’s Advice

Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a book about building winning relationships, both business and personal. As an example, his advice about how to make people like you states:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile. (i.e., Have a sense of humor)
  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.

This beneficent attitude truly puts the “social” in social media and should be a standard to which you adhere. The trouble is that many of us (me included) focus primarily on ourselves and our interests rather than others. That’s a strategy for social media failure if ever there was one.

Let me leave you with a few more tips from a colleague, a tech company sales director who uses LinkedIn routinely for business development. He provides straightforward, common-sense advice: 

  • Drop all of the bogus “I’m pimping me and my company” baloney.
  • Be yourself. Honest, sincere, authentic (assuming that’s you). But, whoever you are, you will likely attract individuals like yourself to your network.
  • It’s cliche, but “seek first to understand, then be understood.” 

When seeking to expand his network and connect with people, this sales director always learns about them from their profiles and asks how he can help them. “I’ve found that when I continually ask others how I can help with recommendations, referrals, and introductions, they usually want to reciprocate,” he says. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.