But I nearly choked on the quote that was in the release. I’ve changed identifying details so as not to embarrass anyone outright, but it was essentially this:
“Consumers are increasingly looking to enjoy their entertainment while mobile and our new Very Cool Video Thing offers the ultimate on-the-go fan experience,” said Big Wig, important title with Big Recognizable Company. “We are excited to bring viewers another compelling option with which to experience our high-quality content and satisfy their curiosity in way that fits their lifestyle.”
Who talks like that??
Yes, yes. I know we were all taught the “protocols” of “proper” corporate communication. But here’s the thing.
The people you want to spread your message – bloggers, community members, “influencers” (whatever that means), regular people – don’t speak this way. We don’t use those words when we’re talking, so we’re going to feel really stupid reiterating things that way if we’re passing along the word to our friends or audience.
We don’t think of themselves as “consumers” or “viewers”. This doesn’t feel like you’re talking to us. It feels like you just want us to do your marketing for you, in your words. Not ours.
I’m actually not sure where we ever got the idea that writing “formally” was so much better than writing conversationally. But I’d really like to undo it. Clear trumps fancy any day of the week.
I know I’m not going to convert the corporate world away from marketing speak anytime soon – heaven knows many of us keep trying – but here are a few tips for and from the rest of us that might help people spread your message and information faster.
The Informational Release
If you want me to pay attention to you, I need to know right out of the gate:
- What you’re telling me about (be brief)
- What you want from me, specifically (hint: “FYI” means “For You to Ignore”)
- Why should I care? **
- Who you are
- How I can contact you for additional information, or where I can find more
Stop there. You’re busy. So am I. Do yourself a favor and give me a few facts to make a yea/nay decision on regarding my interest. Let me ask for more information if I need it, and tell me clearly how and where to get it. More flowery language does not make me more interested in what you’re offering.
If you want to provide “approved” quotes for something, fine. But provide ones that sound, well, as if a human actually said them.
Lousy: “Increasingly, our viewership needs Whizbangs in order to achieve their strategic imperatives for content sharing online. We are delighted to be able to provide forward-thinking professionals with the tools they need, in mobile and portable format, to reach a new paradigm and bring value to their community.”
Good: “We’re super excited about the launch of our new Whizbang iPhone app. Our customers told us that they love our programs, but that they wanted to be able to share them with people. So, we built a Whizbang app for the iPhone that stores video clips and makes them easy to send to friends via email, text, or Twitter.”
Seriously. Which one sounds like someone – you?- would actually say it aloud? And as a result, which one do you actually believe?
I’m saying this on the record. Formal, stilted business-speak is dead or dying. If it’s still alive in your industry, quit making excuses for “the way we’ve always done it” and learn how to communicate like a human (or lead by example). Why? Corporate speak has a thousand limitations. Just a few:
- Most people don’t speak in your jargon.
- People share thoughts that are easy to remember. Your five-dollar words aren’t in that category.
- Big vocabulary does not indicate that you are smart. In fact, we tend to think you’re hiding something behind those big words.
- Your shareholders don’t talk that way, either.
- Clarity and brevity means a much lower risk that you’ll be misquoted or misinterpreted.
- Humans skim. If I have to reread your sentence to understand it, I’m moving on.
- We want to connect with people we can relate to. If you don’t talk like we do, we’re not likely to invite you in for tea.
I can’t stress this enough. You can be professional and clear without being shackled to buzzword bingo. You don’t have to use slang or cuss or be silly. But write like you’d speak to someone out loud and in a conversation. I can nearly guarantee that you’ll get a better response to your stuff.
Don’t Take My Word For It
For the love of all things sacred, read Copyblogger. Read Bad Pitch Blog. Listen to Jason Falls and Beth Harte and Todd Defren and Brian Solis and Shannon Paul and people who GET what it means to communicate today (and how it should have always been).
There are so many resources out there that will guide you about what makes up a good pitch, how communication is changing, and why you can’t keep saying the same old crap you’ve always said.
Talk like us, and we’re much more likely to pay attention. So, sound off, troops, what would you add?
**Note: this isn’t elitist crap. It’s not that your stuff isn’t important. I know it is, to you. But remember, I don’t live in your world, and I have lots of other things I pay attention to, also. So I need to understand why this is relevant to me. Otherwise, it just feels like you’re using me as a bullhorn.