We're all still digesting the new President's inauguration speech - both Bert Decker and Ian Griffin did a fine job analyzing it. If you're a writer and a speaker or either one of them, you should subscribe to both blogs. I borrowed the title to this post from another writer. One who makes his home in the political arena - Frank Luntz. As he espouses in his post at the Huffington Post:
He wrote that post two full years ago - if you scroll down to the end of the post, you will see he had also written how Obama was doing well because he was offering a hopeful vision. You have to admit, he was paying attention.
This post is not about Obama's speech, nor it is about the use of questionable language, which is what Luntz got in the comments and to which he responded:
Consider yourself the words you use is excellent advice. As marketers and communicators, we should be on top of articulating our advice to other business colleagues. Yet, we come up short. Why?
Because we have developed out own lingo and do not use language in the most powerful ways - to move the business into execution mode, aligned behind serving customers' needs and attracting prospects. All because of those few words.
When we say... we mean... they hear
Let's run a couple of tests. Talk about marketing with a business strategist and they will roll their eyes and tell you that it's all fluff. Well, admittedly a lot of marketing is fluff. There is no anchor to a solid business benefit, or value to the customer, or point of differentiation... let me translate that for non marketers - it means I do see how it's relevant to me and why I should pick this one, instead of that one.
That wasn't so hard, was it? The point is that we're so used to talking with each other - or at worst in our own heads - that we forget to translate what we mean for our colleagues. So our stock is devalued right off the bat. I caught myself a couple of days ago talking about telling the story. What I meant really was communicate why this is relevant to my customer. See the problem?
Now take that into the social media lingo and you're in trouble. The purpose of the Obama campaign was not to use cool social media tools, it was to reach people where they were - at home in front of the TV or in the office in front of what is becoming our first screen - the computer.
The intent was to help connect people with the candidate and his team and especially with each other. Remember the Tupperware parties and the Avon ladies? Same principle at work to help spread the word. We talk to more people when we share in the creation of what we're saying and we hang out in the same space.
When we say social media, the business hears new channel to push messages, we mean helping make connections and develop relationships with customers and prospects by being present and remarkable. Big disconnect. The message does not carry across.
Whose line is it anyway?
It's our turn to learn how to communicate in the language of business. So that we can carry across the learnings about (1) what's happening in the marketplace, (2) how are our current customers' needs changing and (3) what is causing those changes - and also (4) where our opportunities are and (5) how the business can satisfy those opportunities.
Do we make an attempt at truly understanding how our colleagues see the business and how they talk about it? Can we say "we" more often than "I"? Can we balance "you" with "they"? Obama's speech did that. Check out the word tree of the inauguration speech [hat tip to Ian Griffin].
Less 'positioning', more building expectations and delivering on them with experience. Less 'brand' and 'message' talk, more purpose-idea and being worth talking about.
Let's use more words that work. Words matter. It's not about passing an exam or looking smart, it's about moving people to execution in the most connective and productive ways. Sometimes we just play a war of words.
What words in your lingo are you going to change in order to carry more meaning across in conversations with your business partners? How about talking with your family about all the time you spend on FriendFeed and Twitter? Any words that work there?
[for the story behind the image, go here. Yes, I wrote "story". We're among colleagues here.]