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As a speaker or writer, one of the most powerful techniques is to look for common cause with your audience.  This may mean using words or imagery that conjure up something from a shared past, or play to a shared cultural experience.

Unfortunately, this very same technique is unwittingly used to the exact opposite effect: it excludes.  And when someone feels excluded, at best the remainder of your message will never resonate. At worst, they may disqualify both you and your organization from consideration.

It is very easy to fall into the uniformity trap: just because everyone “looks” the same, we assume that we share a common background with them. This is especially true when we speak.  To a Hindu, Muslim, or Jew, Merry Christmas defines them as outsiders.  Or, to women, a term such as Chairman automatically erect a glass ceiling. Simple alternatives such as Happy Holidays and Chair are far more inclusive, and easy to incorporate. The goal is not to be politically correct, but rather, to engage your audience instead of alienating them.

When interacting with someone whose primary language isn’t English, the problem is even more basic: lack of fluency itself may be exclusionary.  If we are the ones that seek to be understood, how might we change our communication practices?

  • Enunciate each word clearly and slightly more slowly;
  • Skip complex grammatical constructions, words, idioms, and jargon.
  • Look for signs that they understand, and are actively listening
  • Summarize without appearing patronizing
  • Follow up with a written note, so they can look up words without losing face

This week’s action plan: Whether you are speaking to an audience of 1000, a group of 5, or are writing an email, blog post, or report, the goal is to effectively get buy-in to your ideas.  And to do this means including the message recipient – not excluding them.  This week, don’t assume that everyone has precisely your background: double-check your words to make sure they resonate with everyone.

Counterpoint:  Must you really avoid wishing someone Merry Christmas, instead substituting the relatively toothless “Happy Holidays?”  There is absolutely nothing wrong with wishing someone Merry Christmas, when you know that the recipient is a celebrant of Christmas.  But what if the person may not celebrate Christmas, or might even be offended by the phrase?  Or you are speaking or writing to a diverse audience?  This is where judgment comes in: it is the balance between connecting through shared experience (Christmas) vs. the downside of making others feel excluded.

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 design
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Do your readers read beyond the first sentence or two?  And do they care enough about your ideas to actually act on them?  Writing is a critical engagement skill, so a small investment in time can make your words make a bigger impact.

Here are 14 great reads that can increase your effectiveness – and your influence:

  1. Link Bait Headlines:  The right and wrong way to get the reader’s attention.
  2. Choosing your Marketing VoiceImproving resonance with the reader:  four alternatives.
  3. Remember First, Second, Third:  Improving engagement by bringing the reader along for the journey.
  4. Weasel words have no weight:  Improving trust by writing with accountability.
  5. The Sharpest Point:  Removing “debris” from our communications to focus on the important.
  6. Three Blog Archetypes: Writing for Results:  Unpacking the structure of effective blog posts.
  7. Blog Post Magic Bullet: Another take on effective blog structure.
  8. Blog Content Creation: Idea seeding:  A clever way to generate ideas efficiently.
  9. Creative Time and Place: Ideas on where (or when) to be your most creative.
  10. Marketing Fluff: Increasing your value per word:  The title says it all: here are three strategies for doing it.
  11. 11 killer copywriting techniques: Learn from the world of professional writers – a must-read for all executives and professionals.
  12. 24 Branded Content IdeasImpact can be spread across many venues: here’s the list.
  13. Stealing Ideas and Social Media: Guidelines on attribution in Social Media.
  14. Viewpoint: Expert-writers and Writer-experts:  Insights into the new rules of the game for subject matter experts and leaders.

This week’s action plan:  While writing is important, so are presentations.  As you plan your next presentation, how might the concepts within these articles apply?  Hint:  start with  Remember First, Second, Third (which really should be called “involve your audience”), and then read 11 killer copywriting techniques (which should be called “influence your audience.”)

Action plan #2:  Who else needs to read this?  (Board members, leadership, marketers, etc.)  A strong organizational voice is only possible when each “choir member” is a strong singer.  This week, share this Tipsheet (songsheet?).

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



Choosing your Marketing Voice

by Randall Craig August 21, 2015

Have you ever considered why some emails resonate, and others seem just a bit off? While the general topic of copywriting has been handled here quite well, too often emails – especially ones that for part of a marketing automation sequence – fail because of one thing: voice. Consider these four examples: 1) Passive Voice […]

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Marketing Fluff: Increasing your value per word

by Randall Craig August 14, 2015

When you write, does everything that you put down on paper deliver exceptional value? Or is there a certain amount of low-value filler that invades your communications? There are three strategies that can significantly upgrade your value in the eyes of your audience: Target: right audience – right message: What is high value to one group […]

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All the world’s a stage

by Randall Craig December 13, 2011

…and all the men and women merely players.  Shakespeare may have said this in the 1600’s, but it is more true than ever today. Politicians, celebrities and others have always known that an audience was watching and judging. Today, different paparazzi watch and judge us – we call them followers, friends, and connections. We narcissistically […]

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A New York state of mind

by Randall Craig June 28, 2011

How would you describe a typical New Yorker?  More likely than not, you wouldn’t use the same words to describe someone from Los Angeles, or from a small mid-western town. People are a product of their environment, and often will take on the mindset, attitudes, and perspectives of where they are from.  (They also take […]

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