‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead’.
Mark Twain would have been writing about digital practitioners had he written that today. How many times have we sat through interminable presentations with 140 slides of data, minutely dissecting every point, speculating endlessly on the causes of fluctuations in performance? For people who work in communications, we sometimes find it hard to communicate.
Why is that? Why can’t we be direct? Why can’t we get to the point? And what do we lose by not doing so?
Digital marketers love data. There’s nothing wrong with that. The abundance of data is a hallmark of our industry. Yet what we fail to understand is most people do not share this enthusiasm for spreadsheets and charts. Tell me what it means, why I should care, and what we are going to do about it. And then move on with our lives.
We need to better understand our audience and communicate with them in the way they prefer. Most of our clients and colleagues, particularly executive audiences, are time starved. Time is really their most precious commodity. By not understanding or respecting that, we immediately lose our audience and diminish ourselves in their eyes.
How can we learn to be more direct, especially when it doesn’t come naturally to many of us? The answer lies in the earlier quote by Mark Twain. The key to brevity is time. You need time to organize your thoughts. You need time to read what you’ve written, preferably a number of times. You need time to read it out loud and hear for yourself how it sounds. You need time to edit, to re-write, to condense. In other words, you need time to be direct.
In order to be direct, to align your message with your audience, and to not waste their time, you need to plan ahead. The more you leave things until the last minute, the looser, the sloppier and the longer it will be. And the less likely you are to achieve what you want.
So take the time to be brief. Plan ahead to be direct. Because there is beauty in simplicity. And there is power in brevity. As Jack Kerouac wrote, ‘One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple’.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.