Whatever happened to communicating to an audience of one? It's one of the first concepts that every writer learns....
It goes like this: Write as if you are telling a story to a single person. Imagine that person sitting and enjoying the words jumping off the page and coming to life in their minds. It's what CK often says and what everyone who ever took a writing class learned as "show don't tell."
The way it works is, if you can imagine your audience of one, you can write to them in ways that make sense to them; you can share your story in their words not yours; you can create images that they have seen before and so they know what they look like; you can create a picture in their mind's eye.
So whatever happened to this concept? Fiction writers still seem to write this way, simply and concise and in metaphors and images that work. Some nonfiction writers do, as well. But in the business world, this kind of writing seems a lost art. I don't mean to be crude, but so many of us write like we have a stick up our butt. The writing is formal, stiff, complex, boring and written to and for ourselves, not to and for our audience. Here's what I mean:
"Although traditional value-added marketing processes will continue to play a role in the evolution of the marketing function, marketers need to focus their attention on new processes and capabilities. Enterprises must find time to develop and master more-advanced marketing processes by improving the efficiency of the marketing function, and by shifting resources to be better aligned and to produce greater value. By 2007, marketers that devote at least 50 percent of their time to advanced, customer-centric marketing processes and capabilities will achieve marketing return on investment that is at least 30 percent greater than that of their peers, who lack such emphasis (0.8 probability)."
Man, I couldn't finish this graph, let alone read the whole piece. Who talks this way? And this is nowhere near the worst example of how marketers write. Try this from a great company's (as defined by age and valuation) web site:
"Imagination Breakthroughs are the way GE grows. They are market-driven, customer-focused innovations that deliver solutions for our customers and organic growth for our shareowners."
You're kidding me right? What the hell are "Imagination Breakthroughs" that "are market-driven, customer-focused innovations..." blah, blah, blah.
Who is the audience for this drivel and what image is created? The image I get is that stick up a person's...
We have got to do better. We have to find the words that create images in our audience's mind's eye. We have to show not tell. And by the way, going back to the GE example, we have to be honest.
GE didn't grow "organically." Far from it, They grew through mergers and acquisitions during the Welch era. Instead of building solid floors from the foundation up, they loaded whole buildings onto giant 16 wheelers and attached them by string to a disconnected bunch of crumbling foundations.
Now, I am not here to discuss or to criticize how one grows a business. But can't we find better words and ways to communicate these things in interesting and credible ways?
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