MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

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Archive for the ‘Comprehension’ Category

Tell Me What You Do In 100 Words Or Less

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One of my tasks at work is to manage our relationships with the various relevant industry associations. Our CMA membership was up for renewal and I was asked to provide a company description in 100 words or less for our memembership directory listing.

A standard request but one that is harder than it seems. Here’s what I ended up with:

Vortex Mobile creates mobile solutions that deliver measurable results. Our marketing services group provides full cycle project management for SMS and multi-media messaging programs, WAP site development, J2ME mobile and desktop widget development and Facebook applications leveraging mobile technology.

Our technology services group offers a suite of mobile business tools using two-way mobile messaging. The services are offered as web-based applications using proprietary programming for easy customization and integration with your existing business systems. Our solutions include platforms for managing staffing shortfalls, crisis and other stakeholder communications, and mobile coupons and ticketing

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 92 words. Fairly succinct but I’ll confess it benefits somewhat from loaded jargon-y type terminology to paint the picture.

Recently over at ProPr there was a good debate about a plain language definition for social media. There were some wonderful comments & suggestions but the one that really caught my attention came via Twitter from David Jones of PR Works who said,

Reading @thornley’s “what is social media?” post again. I’m thinking that if you can’t define it 140 characters, it’s too long.

We’re always being asked to describe what we do or define a product or service in a short but insightful way. There’s the famous elevator pitch (link is to the a good post about the elevator pitch 2.0) or when we first meet someone and they ask the inevitable ‘so tell me what you do’ question. And then there’s Twitter and Facebook status updates. Text messages and instant messaging have their own lexicon of symbols and abbreviations.

Clients and prospects, in my experience, lose interest very quickly if you offer a rambling and tangential response to a question. If you’re in PR you have milliseconds to catch a journalist’s attention so what you’re saying better be interesting and snappy.

There’s an increasing premium on a ‘what’s in it for me’/instant gratification mentality. We value connectivity & responsiveness. There are millions of people worldwide who have Blackberries surgically fused to their person. We get our information on demand and consume it how and when we want to (See RSS & PVR).

With attention spans shortening and information consumption increasing, the need for brevity and clarity in communication is tremendous. So here are 6 basic tips that I try to keep in mind:

1. Keep it in plain language. If you can’t walk up to someone on the street and have them understand what you’re talking about, go back to the drawing board.

2. Use a ‘features & benefits’ approach. People will zone out if they can’t easily digest what’s in it for them.

3. Avoid industry jargon. By its nature it’s dense, clouds meaning and hinders interpretation. It’s hard, just take a look at my corporate description. Do you know what I’m talking about? Partially? This goes for double hyperbole and meaningless terms like ‘new & improved‘.

4. Use the active voice. This is grade school grammar stuff but can’t be repeated often enough.

5. Edit, edit, edit. Your brain will inevitably spew out more information than you need. Sharpen that red pencil. Take time away from your work. A refreshed view will often lead to greater clarity.

6. Collaborate whenever possible. You’ll find that another’s perspective helps in focusing your message.

I’d love to hear other thoughts. I’m no expert. I’m sure even in this post I’ve neglected to follow some of the tips. And, well, see point # 6.


Written by Jonathan Dunn

April 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm

100 Words Every High School Student Should Know

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From American Heritage, a new book 100 Words Every High School Student Should Know.

According to the promotional copy:

"The words we suggest," says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, "are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language."

I’m pleased that I know most of them. Though I would use only a fraction in my day to day vocabulary.

Also, I think the key word in the title is SHOULD. I’m sure testing a random sampling of people on the streets of any western, English-speaking, city would be discouraging if we used this list as a benchmark.

Update: A hat-tip to the good folk over at the CommonCraft blog for the link.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

July 6, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Olympic Spirit or Spirits?

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Tip of the old hat to Seth Godin for pointing out a great (?) example of the kind of marketing jibberish that plagues the industry and makes us seem like absolute wankers to many in the general public.

Cribbing from this post, here’s a quote from Lord Coe on the subject of the just unvieled London 2012 Olympic logo:

"This is the vision at the very heart of our brand," said London 2012 organising committee chairman Seb Coe."It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world. It is an invitation to take part and be involved."

Here’s the logo that is being referred to:

The logo is to hangovers as Lord Coe’s words are to drunken slur-mons.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 6, 2007 at 10:30 pm