Skip to main content


The pursuit of perfection: can good enough ever be good enough in comms?

< Blog home

The pursuit of perfection: can good enough ever be good enough in comms?

Last year, New Scientist ran a front-page feature, entitled The Perfection Trap.

It brought to light the “hidden epidemic” of sky-high expectations and impossible demands we are placing on ourselves and others. Their study showed perfectionism has increased significantly in the last 30 years, fuelled particularly by millennials ‘living their best life’ and craving the ideal body, career or social circle.  Nowhere is the quest for faultlessness more acutely apparent than in the comms world.

Almost without exception, comms professionals are slaves to perfecting their output – whether that’s words, pictures, video, design or websites.  Rarely is good enough considered good enough. A misplaced comma, broken link or minutely out-of-sync voiceover can be enough to cause sleepless nights.  Unsurprisingly, all this is not doing us much good. We are plotting a destructive course on a mission impossible that threatens to cave in our mental health.

Last year’s Opening the Conversation report by the PRCA found nearly nine out of 10 comms professionals had struggled with mental wellbeing in the last year. So pretty much all of us. The CIPR’s State of the Profession report showed that unrealistic expectations from colleagues and clients were one of the leading factors in causing stress at work.

So, can we fight this irresistible urge to drive ourselves – and others – to distraction over seemingly small things? Here’s three mantras to try and ease the pursuit of perfection.

  1. Accept where you are and what you’ve got – the book, The Chimp Paradox, explains that a classic way in which perfectionists torture themselves is by starting from where they want to be and with what they want to have. In other words, our desire to be the best means we don’t accept our current circumstances or level of resources and so are doomed to fighting a constant losing battle. Living more in the pragmatic present, and not an unobtainable utopia, is a good start for breaking free from the perfection trap.
  2. Momentum can be more important than perfection – here at Alive, we refreshed our website last year. It was a long time in development, and we went back and forth, tweaking and editing, trying to get the perfect product. It reached a point, though, where getting it live was more important than it being perfect. And the feedback and conversations it has created has completely justified this. Does everyone want to talk to us and ask us about wrestlers? Yes. Does anyone ask about the double-space on our Contact Us page? No. Getting stuff out there and building momentum and visibility is so vital in comms. Those paralysed by perfectionism are going to get left on the blocks.
  3. There is always a next time – one of the more painful comms conflicts we face is that our output is often so high, yet so our standards. By any sane logic, these two factors are incompatible – quantity over quality rarely produces award-winning results. But what such rapid turnover also means is that the opportunity to right a wrong or improve next time is never far away. In the absurdly accelerated world of social media, this can even be within seconds. Sure, the impact of a misplaced word or meaning can have far-reaching impact, but, on the whole, each bit of our output simply provides an opportunity for learning and improving next time around.

So, is this concept of ‘settling’ for anything less than perfection leaving you feeling uncomfortable?

Can good enough ever be good enough?

Given the disturbing mental health trend in comms, we need to start by giving each other a break.

None of us are perfect, so, really should we expect everyone else to be?


We’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences on this topic. Tweet us at @alivewithideas or email us

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron — KP Snacks

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q