Guest Post by Narciso Tovar
[Ed: I’m on vacation. Here’s the third of a week’s worth of guest posts.]
One of the biggest gripes I have with people (myself included) is that we aren’t the best at … well, expressing ourselves clearly. We’re pretty good at things like naming what TV shows we like, what kind of foods we prefer and what movie may have seen over the weekend.
But when it comes to telling our own story (especially in business), quite often what comes out could have been said by Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Just a lot of gibberish
that only makes sense to those who are used to the internal shorthand of the team. With friends, this kind of thing can pass; we all have our peccadilloes and nicknames that only make sense to our individual tribes.
However, in the business of communications, how can we let this happen? There are lots of websites, presskits, etc. out there that are about as useful as a floppy disk for an iMac G3 (internal dialogue: “NERD”).
Like Peppermint Patty, did we fall asleep in the midst of translating the “kwaah-kwaah-kwaah”(Charlie Brown Teacher speak) for the masses?
I believe we take for granted that outside audiences will “get it” when they read our materials – be they website, company fact sheet, bio, whatever. But unless your external audience is comprised of people from your boardroom, it is safe to say that no one will get it.
Here are three tips to keep in mind to make sure your audience gets it:
Take a Quick Look
Take a look at what you have drafted (be it copy for your client’s website, a press kit, etc.) and take a quick snapshot of one piece. Does this one piece look like something that would make sense to your target audience? Or is it filled with jargon or industry-speak that can only be understood by 10% of your audience?
Take a Breather
It’s easy to get so entrenched in your own work that the fuzzy bits start looking clear. It’s kind of like working at a chicken farm or at a cattle ranch – pretty soon you forget about “the smell” until some “city folk” come in to remind you of the stench.
Give yourself a break to get some outside air and perspective.
Bring In An Outsider
Be it someone from your team who’s not involved with the drafting of the “working documents,” a colleague familiar with your particular industry or a family member, let someone else have a look-see. Having a fresh point of view on what you already have working almost always leads to improvement.
Communicators: what do you think? What other things have you done to help bring some clarity to your client’s materials? What have you done to help people on the outside “get it” for your clients?
With more than 15 years of communications experience, Narciso Tovar is principal of Big Noise Communications – a communications consultancy that runs on Method + Moxie. He lives in Dallas with his wife, Rhonda, and has a strong track record in media communications, both “old” and “new,” with organizations such as Vonage and the Wall Street Journal Online.