Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brief Encounters

A creative brief is central to any truly smart communication. To put and keep everyone on the right page. Yet it’s often overlooked or underpowered.

As the road map, resource, prime fuel source for the messaging platform, writing and design, it deserves fierce attention. As does the quality and clarity of the briefing input -- and analysis.

How to gather the vital input? Go higher, deeper, farther.

Make the briefing as long as necessary to flesh out the story, to set the stage; especially the fine points.

Pose astute and thought provoking questions. Among other things, make sure you...

>look at the company and project from different levels & layers: from 40,000 feet up, and below the surface: from guiding vision to fundamental values

>define goals, practical and emotional angles, and desired opening & closing impressions

> cover all the bases; connect all the dots, including

  • greatest strengths & weaknesses

  • key challenges & opportunities

  • seeing what candid outside input would be valuable to bring in, such as informally interviewing a cross-section of constituents

> establish the crux of the communication

  • the single most important idea or sense to convey, and what will make it authentic, relevant, believable -- and compelling

  • the ultimate promise to the audience

> fully profile the audience and their m.o., including their

  • shared needs & expectations

  • inflection points of interest & resistance

  • urgent or underlying issues or concerns

Just as crucial to the process is how strategically, not just creatively, the resulting input is analyzed…and alchemized.

So why not take the time and opportunity to focus more sharply on the front end of your story. And transform lightweight or lackluster briefs (and the communications they’re piloting) into blockbuster ones.

strategic content development

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Art of Selling

The art of selling…is not selling.

Whether it’s a service, a product or an image.

The old ways of selling aren’t working. Especially when trust in companies’ mantras and motives has worn thin, and more individuals want to be in control - not be convinced.

The real art is enabling people to…

make and validate their own decision to “buy” what a company is offering, instead of being sold, or skewed into one way of thinking;
see and feel the true value or virtue in it;
easily weigh against competing choices and voices in the marketplace

Strategically written and designed communications achieve this. Where to begin?

Change your perspective. When you look 180-degrees, and take the audience’s point of view, the right (and wrong) messages reveal themselves.

Furnish useful facts, without the frills. Give the audience decisive input; without bias and without wasting valuable time or space. Focus on what will inform their overall understanding and/or decision-making.

Talk a straight line. Being direct and objective earns big appreciation in this extra-sensitive marketplace. Anything less leads to uncertainty.

By moving to a more enlightened model of marketing and messaging, companies can bolster their reputations and set themselves apart from the crowd of same old-same old sellers.

strategic content development

Friday, December 12, 2008

Inspire Confidence

Business is on the line. In some cases business survival. Inspiring confidence has become critical. To

preserve what's there today
regain what's lost or wavering
build more of it among the people the company is counting on for its daily bread…and tomorrow’s butter

Too many messages in this anxious environment are meaningless, or, worse, counterproductive. Why? Because they appear out of touch with the burning issues clients, partners and prospects are most concerned about. Because they offer no candid or constructive point-of-view.

So, how to inspire confidence, in and through every written communication?

Get real. Understand what the audience urgently needs to know. Then give them the straight story. Lay out the central challenges the business is confronting; how it's meeting them; how it plans to survive -- and prosper.

Hot air is history. There’s no point, never was, in using hot air or hype. In this Epic Crunch, people have lost all patience for it. Companies that blow smoke rings risk their credibility and revenues receding. Only what really matters really matters out there right now.

Dialogue trumps monologue. Make every communication part of an ongoing "conversation," especially on the web and in the annual report. Audiences are motivated when they feel the company is responding to their most essential concerns; providing insights, and keeping them in the loop instead of in the dark.

Cheap talk is expensive…because it's a liability. Even the biggest companies can be gone or bypassed tomorrow in a flash of no confidence when what they say lacks substance. Money may be tight, but it’s shortsighted to skimp on messaging with merit. Done well its worth its weight many times over in goodwill and good business.

Getting the writing right takes a strategic approach. To platform messages effectively, unite style and substance, and spread the word in ways that inspire that most precious commodity, confidence.

strategic content development

Empowering Presentations

Companies of all kinds are up against the same essential challenge, now more than ever: how to present their stories, especially their new business pitches, in ways that connect meaningfully and powerfully with each audience, and are

easily followed and immediately understood
competitively differentiating
to the point

Make a real connection. Most presentations are static, generic and impersonal, when they could sound and feel more dynamic, tailored and conversational; with an authentic vs. synthetic personality.

Get on the edge. Many otherwise smart presentations miss a big mark: not establishing their key competitive edge fully, or early on. They could benefit by having a “curtain-raiser” message that sets a promising stage; that creates a sense of curiosity and opportunity, and ties into a true solution.

Less is more. Information overload is rampant: far too much information, too many ideas and points to digest in one sitting. It’s self-defeating, especially with Powerpoints. The most successful stories (a minority) are shaped in a streamlined way; with presentations used as “talking sticks,” to

convey key thoughts succinctly
keep audiences listening instead of reading
maintain all-important momentum

Revisit, rethink, revise. Highly effective presentations can mean the difference between make and break in this environment. Weak ones risk leaving a lasting losing impression. Companies should be taking every opportunity to intensively edit and empower them.

Done right, i.e. strategically, stories and messages can be clear, relevant and compelling to everyone on the receiving end. And help get the company closer to its goals.

strategic content development