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Content Marketing

Have you ever listened to a presentation, and felt the signal-to-noise ratio could have been improved?  Or have you ever delivered a critical presentation, and felt that you could have done better… but you were not precisely sure how?

Too often we add debris into our presentations.  These are those filler words, unrelated sidebars, and administrative notes that we unwittingly slip in.  They get in the way: debris obscures your point, distracts the listener, and extends the amount of time required to deliver your message.

An earlier post illustrated this, but left the question of how to fix the problem unanswered. Here’s how:

  • Record:  The only way to truly identify debris is to record yourself delivering your presentation, and then have your presentation transcribed, word-for-word.  Print out the transcription, and then use a highlighter to identify any words (or sentences or paragraphs) that don’t play a role in achieving the presentation’s objectives.   There is no getting around this step: if you don’t have your presentation transcribed, you will never see the evidence.
  • Re-edit:   After the debris is identified, re-edit the script of your presentation so that the presentation flows.  Every word needs to audition for a spot in your script.
  • Rehearse:  If the presentation is important, it is worthwhile rehearsing.  The idea is to rehearse so much that the “script” sounds natural.  Once this happens, begin the process again: record, re-edit, and rehearse.  Each time you go through this cycle, the signal-to-noise ratio will improve – as will your impact on the audience.

This week’s action plan:  This week, roll up your sleeves and start making the sharpest point: record, re-edit, and rehearse.

Communications insight:  This technique works is just as effective for day-to-day conversations and any written work.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


In his 2003 Australian best-seller Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language, author Don Watson rails against lifeless, plastic corporate-speak.   He complains that too often, organizations hide behind their words, instead of connecting with their audiences with an authentic voice.  While he was writing about traditional communications, his point is doubly true in today’s digital age.

In the traditional top-down communications model, an official spokesperson spoke on behalf of the organization.  “Policy” guided interactions from everyone else.

Perhaps because of social media, or because of heightened global competition, or because of a demanding millennial generation, this pyramid – at least in the best organizations – is flipped upside down.  While there is still top-down leadership, there is (or at least there should be) bottom-up information flow and empowerment.  These front line touchpoints – and social media connections – generate “currency” and value within the context of the transaction. For the outside party, it influences the relationship and builds (or kills) brand equity.  For the organization, it provides valuable market intelligence and more data about the connection.

To maximize the “value” of this transaction in both directions requires an authentic relationship between two parties – and by this, I mean two people.  Yes, people are proxies for their organizations, but at the end of the day (and the beginning) it is a relationship between people.  Technology can help, but it can also get in the way.

Ironically, most tech companies use faceless, nameless “queues” when a customer has a question or requires support.  How often have you filled a webform or sent an email to info@ Amazon, Google, or you-fill-in-the-name?  When you do this, you receive an automated semi-canned response, with a request to respond “only above the dashed line and one of our operators [all named info@ by the way] will respond.”  Of course, the email conversation would go back and forth 3-5 times before being resolved – each time with a different operator.

While this modern day version of broken telephone may be frustrating for the outside customer, it is also imperfect for the organization.  Because the buck stops with no one person, there isn’t a mechanism for any market intelligence to flow upwards.

Contrast this with an interesting trend in municipal transit systems.  Go into any New York subway station, and you’ll see, framed, the name of the manager who has personal responsibility for the station or group of stations.

What does all of this have to do with language?  Everything.

  • When we post on social media, are we authentic, or are we speaking with a plastic corporate voice?
  • Are we connecting with others as individuals, or are we speaking from the policy book (or sales brochure?)
  • Are we opening the kimono and identifying ourselves as specific individuals who are responsible and accountable, or are we hiding behind info@, first names only, or even worse, a “queue”?

Don Watson’s complaints about poor communication are bang on the mark, but they are merely a symptom of something else: corporate laziness, and the fear of holding real people accountable for real results.

This week’s action plan:  If your organization does hold individuals accountable, test yourself:  what generic email addresses are listed on your website?  Do your social media posts have a personality – and an identified person – behind them?  And do your support requests go into a generic queue, or are they assigned to a specific person to follow through to resolution.  This week, go “public” with your accountability – and enjoy the dividend of improved real relationships.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


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