The secret to success: Clarity in business communications.
Clarity is the key to many things… Marriage, international relations, politics and parenting would all benefit from more clarity. But let’s stick to the subject at hand; Clarity in business communications.
Business owners and marketing people face an ongoing war of clarity vs. confusion. Simplification vs. complication. Persuasion vs. nonsense. Straight talk vs. bullshit.
Doesn’t matter what form of business communications we’re talking about — from a quick tweet or a simple email to an in-depth webinar or long-term TV campaign — you need to be clear and succinct about what you’re trying to say.
It takes discipline and creativity to maintain clarity in business communications.
It’s easy to confuse people. Eighty percent of my professional life has been spent helping clients clarify things. The message they have in mind is always clear in their own heads — and maybe to a few insiders — but it’s seldom clear to the outside world.
A lot gets lost in translation, and you have to find many different ways to say the same thing. Clearly.
The fact is, words matter. Images matter. Tone matters. A single misused word, photo or graphic can derail entire campaigns and leave your most important audience scratching their heads. You don’t want people saying “huh? or “wait, what?”
Want to avoid low morale and high turnover? Be clear with your people.
A Gallup Poll on the State of the American Workplace showed that there’s very little clarity in business communications. In fact, fully 50% of all workers are unclear about what’s expected of them. And that lack of clarity causes enormous frustration.
When confusion runs rampant, it costs a bundle.
So don’t just whip out that email to your team. Take time to think it through. Edit it. Shorten it. Craft it until it’s perfectly clear. You’ll be amazed how many headaches you can avoid when you just slow down and make the extra effort to be painfully clear.
Want to stop wasting money on advertising? Be clear about the strategy.
Think of it this way… Effective advertising is a combination of two things: What to say, and how to say it. The “what to say” part means you need to articulate your strategy very clearly. The “how to say it” part is the job of the creative team. You need to be clear on both fronts.
The copywriter and the art director can’t create great advertising if they’re not clear on the strategy. Unfortunately, most business owners are quite wishy-washy on the subject of advertising strategy. And, unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers can’t spell out the difference between strategy and tactics.
So before you start writing ads, speeches or web copy, be clear about the strategy for that particular assignment. Clear strategy leads to clear copywriting and clear communications.
Want to build a brand? Be clear about what it stands for.
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock did a great documentary about product placement in the movie industry called “Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” There’s a scene where he’s pitching his movie idea to a team of top executives of a well-known natural food company, and they’re concerned that his spoof is not really right for their brand.
“So what are the words you’d use to describe your brand.” Spurlock asks. “Uhhhhhhhh. That’s a great question…”
No reply. Nothing but a bunch of blank stares and squirming in their seats.
Finally, after several awkward minutes, one guy throws out a wild-ass guess that sounded like complete corporate mumbo-jumbo. They were in the spotlight, on national TV, and they had no business clarity whatsoever.
One thing you can do to encourage clarity in business communications is to write and produce a brand book that spells out exactly what your brand is all about. And what it isn’t!
Boil it down to a microscript your people will actually remember, rather than the usual corporate mish-mash mission statement. Then make sure that it becomes an integral part of your on-boarding procedure.
Because if your own people don’t know what your brand stands for, how will the customer know?
Want traction for your startup? Find a name that’s clear.
Start-ups are hard enough without having to constantly explain your name. Like these internet inspired misses: Eefoof. Cuil. Xlear. Ideeli. That’s just confusion waiting to happen…
“How do you spell that?” “What’s the name of your business again?” “How do you pronounce that?” “Wait, what?”
Instead, go with a great name like StubHub. It has a nice ring to it. It’s memorable. And it says what it is. Digg is another good example. In that case, the double letters actually work conceptually with the nature of the business… Search. Deeper.
Want advertising that actually drives sales? Be clear and overt about the value proposition.
Not just a description of what you do or sell, but a compelling microscript of the value experience that your target audience can expect. It’s a sharply honed combination of rational and emotional benefits that are specific to the target audience, and not lost in the execution.
Creativity is the lifeblood of the advertising industry. Don’t get me wrong… I love it, especially in categories where there’s no other differentiation.
But sometimes you have to put clarity in front of creativity.
So start with strategy. Then be very clear about the value proposition. Then a tight creative brief. And finally, lastly, ads. That’s how you can achieve clarity in business communication.
Want funding for your startup? You need overall business clarity.
When you’re talking about your amazing new business idea, be very, specifically clear about what’s in it for the consumer and how the business model will work. It all needs to be boiled down into a one minute elevator pitch that is painfully clear.
There can be no confusion.
You also need to be very clear with potential partners, employees, investors and especially yourself. If the idea’s not clear in your mind, it’ll never be clear to the outside world.
Want a powerpoint presentation that resonates? Be clear with your writing and stingy with the slides.
Powerpoint is one of the biggest enemies of clarity in business communications. The innate human desire to add more slides, more data, more words and more bullet points just sucks the wind out of your ideas and puts the audience in a stupor.
Next time you have a presentation to do, don’t do a presentation. Write a very clear speech. Memorize it and make ’em look you in the eye, rather than at the screen. If nothing else, they’ll get the message that you’re willing to do something radically daring.
Learn more about more clarity in your powerpoint presentations.
Need help clarifying your messages? Need better clarity in business communications in general? Call us. 541-815-0075