I was delighted to see that Professor Joseph Kimble has updated his book Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please. Professor Kimble has spent years making the case that business, legal, medical and government professionals should replace "forbidding, verbose, unclear writing with plain language." File this under - easier said than done.
In hundreds of media coaching sessions through the years, I've had many top executives nod impatiently when reminded that they need to keep their story simple and impactful. Then, as soon as they're asked a few questions, they launch into long answers littered with cliches, acronyms and jargon. As if that isn't frustrating enough, they're subsequently surprised to find that the reporter left their empty answers out of the published piece.
As Professor Kimble has written, "Using plain language pays off for everyone in fewer mistakes, faster compliance, better decisions and less frustration."
The best communicators know there is no shame in telling a simple, powerful story. Lincoln used fewer than 270 words in the Gettysburg Address and he rocked the world. Business professionals should take heed. Audiences (reporters, analysts, investors, customers, prospects, etc.) listen to those who speak clearly - and they come back for more.
Posted by John Moran on June 27, 2012 at 9:50 AM
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Amid all the coverage of this week's Surface tablet launch, it struck me that Microsoft didn't appear to give much thought to addressing an important question - what will MSFT's traditional hardware partners think of this move?
A Reuters story indicates that partners were kept in the dark about Redmond's plans. For a variety of reasons, that makes sense. But not having a standard reply ready for the launch is odd, to say the least.
One item that really stuck out was a New York Times report that Windows head Steven Sinofsky, when asked if Surface would damage ties with partners, "gently pushed a reporter in the direction of a stand of Surface tablets and said, 'Go learn something.'" Hopefully this incident was taken out of context. It had to be, right?! It's hard to believe that this issue wasn't anticipated during the enormous planning process leading to the launch.
Regardless of a company's size, one of the cardinal rules of messaging is to anticipate difficult questions. Think of it as a chess match - what challening questions might reporters, analysts, employees, customers, channel partners and prospects ask? And how will you respond to these moves? Consider your options and take the time to craft thoughtful and credible responses.
The answer doesn't have to be long and full of details. In fact, often the best answers are quick, confident and matter-of-fact. But for goodness sakes, be prepared!
Posted by John Moran on June 20, 2012 at 4:37 PM
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