Recently I attended a small “summit” hosted by a social media platform where they were sharing best practices and case studies with current and potential customers. There were some good ideas and thoughts shared by representatives of the company as well as the clients they brought out to talk about their own experiences.

Two ideas were offered, though, at different times but with equal force that seemed to be counter-intuitive when placed next to each other.

Automate As Much As You Can

The first piece of advice offered was to get as much off your plate as possible when it comes to your marketing and communications efforts. Let the system place an image, let it automatically a/b test different content types…stop fretting about small decisions.

This isn’t bad advice since theoretically it frees you up to focus more on other, bigger issues, but there’s an increasingly blurry line between which decisions should be made based strictly on data and which on style.

Creativity Rules the Day

Later on, though, another presenter talked up the value of creativity and how important it was to bring the art to your communications program, going with what feels right even more than with what some arbitrary numbers will tell you to do.

I’ll admit this is more in my wheelhouse and to my way of thinking since I firmly believe there are nuances to any comms effort that rely solely on that “no, this is what my gut tells me” approach.

There’s no clear answer or solution here, nor should there really be. The best creative programs come out of the push and pull between “This feels right” and “This is what the data tells us.” What the exact ratio of those two components is will depend on what you’re trying to do. One without the other, though, is usually a setup for disappointment.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.