Archive for the ‘Audience’ Category
What if our propensity for over-sharing helped us get healthy?
Writing for Fast Company, Jennifer Miller reported on a study that showed the amazing stickiness of Facebook status feeds over other literature. Miller queued up the notion as “mind-ready content,” which is a pithy way of getting at the heart of the study. It seems the immediacy and poor spelling and bad grammar we expect in status updates all have a way of indicating spontaneity. And one of the study experiments suggested:
…the remarkable memory for microblogs is also not due to their completeness or simply their topic, but may be a more general phenomenon of their being the largely spontaneous and natural emanations of the human mind. (Major memory for microblogs abstract: Mickes L, Darby RS, Hwe V, et al.)
We’ve been witnessing the rise of social media to help people lose weight, get exercise, eat right, among a sea of many other activities. It is the telling and the reading—all on a fairly spontaneous level—that has great persuasive powers. Not to belabor this point, but it is not just reading about others’ success that can motivate behavior change. It is when we ourselves record our progress (and lack thereof) (in public and not) that also motivates change. If you’ve ever recorded the calories you eat in a day or the money you spent in a day, you know how awareness jumps to high alert.
Can these facts about human motivation and memory be harnessed by physicians? Should healthcare have a social component…generally? Privacy on the web—always a moving target—would seem to have hit the immovable object of what the US considers protected health information: those rules the medical community follows to ensure medical records stay private. But encouraging patients to share what they are comfortable sharing, is there a possible positive health outcome in that? Maybe. Maybe not. Who is itching to read about their friend’s infection (sorry: bad word choice)? I have no desire to read colonoscopy stories. But on the other side, will we start to see spontaneous-ish declarations from our friend the corporate doctor/robot that encourage us toward healthful habits—based on our Facebook feeds?
Life’s not about poetry. Or is it?
I’ve been posting in response to a query from an English student who wondered about finding fulfillment as a professional writer. How can we compare writing poems and short stories and novels to writing for companies or ad agencies or other firms or organizations seeking help to communicate? She asks a good question which we all struggle to answer all our lives. See a few responses here: Shop Talk: The Collision of Craft, Faith and Service
When I teach professional writing classes at Northwestern College, I like to invite Rich Bosshardt, who writes for a well-known local manufacturer, to talk with the class. Like many of us, Rich’s route to writing was circuitous: from mover of boxes to telemarketer to carpenter to chemical compounder to university research lab technician—plus about ten other jobs. Along the way he earned a Master’s in New Testament, so his thoughts about work and writing have a theological bent, which I appreciate. In response to my request, Rich rattled off ten things about writing for a living and offered to explicate one more:
- We could learn a lesson on career fulfillment from Joseph, the son of Jacob and the great administrator in Genesis.
- How do you work through when the honeymoon of being hired is over and passion for the work is long gone, but the bills keep coming?
- My career has been an unintentional path; I didn’t enjoy writing and knew nothing about technical writing until I was over 30 years old.
- Why shouldn’t we be passionate about what we do for a living? Whom would you rather hire—the passionate worker or the dispassionate one? You can raise the competence of a mediocre worker who is passionate about the work and therefore wants to improve, but the dispassionate worker? Let him or her go; you’re doing both of you a favor.
- Luther had great insights about one’s vocation, raising the legitimacy and importance of “common” work and sparking the Protestant work ethic.
- There is joy in doing work of the best quality that you can and in a manner that marks you as a person who has character, thereby earning the respect and admiration (stated or unstated) by others. Good (both competent and ethical) workers do eventually get noticed by those who work with them, and these good workers will find themselves happily employed.
- I thank God for the “little things” at work, e. g., that I’m working inside in a temperature-controlled environment on a frigid winter day or a hot, humid summer day.
- Relationships can make all the difference; being part of a caring and talented team can turn drudgery into joy because you enjoy the relationship regardless of the circumstances.
- There is a psychology to technical writing; good writers should think about at least two things: (1) how people will use the product that they are writing about; and (2) how people will interact with the instructions and illustrations that you create.
- “And God saw that it was very good.” There is a satisfaction (and fulfillment) in a job well done, no matter what job it is, great or small.
I like Rich’s list and think it gets at the tensions of creating versus making a living versus making meaning every day. Rich’s vocational path also reminds me of Parker Palmer’s wonderful “Let Your Life Speak,” which is all about taking the time to notice what you enjoy. Palmer’s book is one to own and read annually.
I’d like to hear more from Rich on Number 9: the psychology of technical writing.
What would you like to hear more about? What would you add or subtract?
Image credit: 2headedsnake
Just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about
What’s that? You think a consultant should not give direction to a client? You could not be more wrong. That’s exactly what a good consultant does. It’s just that a consultant’s direction doesn’t look like orders or demands. A consultant’s direction looks like alternatives to the usual and invisible way of doing things.
Sometimes we need help seeing what is right before us. We are soaked in teams that are steeped in detail that is loaded with the talk that just circulates between people in the know. This adds up to a set of increasingly narrow word choices that are interesting only to the team. Those words sound like gibberish to anyone on the outside.
My client continued to talk in the insider terms only they understood. And they would not be dissuaded. In the end, they approved copy that ensured no one outside their little circle would understand.
Which feels like failure to me.
This doesn’t happen often, but it’s a bummer when it does. And it makes me think again about how complicated communication is, and why it is so important to start talking earlier rather than later. And why it is critically important that we pull our head out of the huddle from time to time.
We’re Walking Catalysts
There’s a point at the end of The Sixth Sense where everything suddenly shifted. One piece of information—one realization—and all the characters and their relationships went topsy-turvy. Then the story begged to be retold in this new light and the second time through I was on high alert, noting all the clues I missed the first time.
Our best interactions with our audiences can have this quality: holding attention until the reveal makes perfect sense, so much so that our audience says, “Duh. Of course. How did I miss that?” This is a great way to teach, but also very difficult to achieve. This kind of clever communication front-loads with just the right context and then delivers the missing key ingredient.
Our favorite products fit our lives in this way: how did we ever survive without the iPod or cell phone? Or the car? They make perfect sense in daily use. Well, now they make perfect sense. They didn’t always, that’s because a context grew up around the product that reinforced its use. We saw other people using it. And we found our ways changing in anticipation.
Products and ideas that demand something different of us don’t just happen. In fact, we resist them. Some kind of context must arise to reinforce the use of the product or adoption of the idea. That context is different for everyone, but usually starts with reason and proof points, but it doesn’t end there. Even the physician who claims to only be swayed by medical journals still has a soft spot for using the product her peers consider cutting edge. Emotion and relationship are big parts of why we use products and adopt ideas.
All this is to say that we constantly influence each other. Our words and our actions serve as catalysts—that missing ingredient that changes everything—often in ways that we never know. Most people don’t come back and say, “When you chose the salad instead of the chicken-fried steak, you changed my eating habits and my life.”
We don’t even realize how little observations add to big change.
How about a few less quotes from old dead white guys?
Post-election, let’s have a little less constitution-driven stuff. I need to sound hip and with-it (You kids still say that?). Sprinkle a few Malcolm X quotes in there (Yes?) and maybe—I don’t know— Nietzsche (why not?). Our business partners and potential clients need to see we’re deep and edgy. But trustworthy—so, ok—maybe a few quotes from Jefferson, but way less than three a week.
Jenny: Put the business books and blogs down: Covey and Collins are sounding stale. Give me more of that pithy stuff like Seth G. puts out. In fact—give Godin’s people a call and tap into that well they are pulling from. I want to sound more like Godin. And Spike Lee.
Jerrold: Give me more comments on human interest stuff. I need to sound warm and supportive. Potential clients need to see the entire organization as approachable—so that starts with me. And do the same with Ivan in the St. Petersburg office. He needs to sound a lot less like Putin, that grandstanding old propagandist. Ivan needs to sound like New Russia—starting now.
Jamison: you gotta tune my Twitter feed. Post-election, work with Jenny on the Godin and Spike Lee stuff—get me solid tweets that pull in about a thousand more young managers. Skew young!
All of you—people tell me I should read beyond history books. Make me current! Wired. Salon. The New Yorker (within reason). Whatever.
Jenny–What’s that? Godin writes his own stuff? Which of his people said that?
Your Company’s Outside Voice Must Be Personal & Remarkable
I’ve been helping a few clients think about their outside voice. Blogging has its own peculiar set of requirements that set it apart from the tone of a brochure, say. Or from a corporate press release. That recurring blog voice is related to the messaging identity your company has established. That voice is also related to the design and tone of your corporate website, true, but it is not a one-to-one correspondence.
One primary difference: your blog voice must be personal.
A blog is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It must not deteriorate into a selling monologue. And it is not constantly pointing to benefits and features (which quickly gets tiresome). It’s a different animal—a personal voice. It’s got to be a conversation that takes wide and narrow routes on the way to discussing what is remarkable. The best blogs are smart and timely and pull readers in by offering this personal perspective on things of mutual interest.
Just a bit of practice using the public voice helps clients see why their outside voice must be personal and have a personality behind it (not as redundant as it sounds). It doesn’t take many sample posts to show that customers and potential customers are intrigued by an inside track into the mind of that top voice. And that top voice can pull peripheral topics to the center of discussion to show how they relate, for instance. Or to show how certain a practice will move the industry forward.
Interestingly, outside voice has a way of trimming and freeing and impacting a company’s inside voice. Outside voice and inside voice are related—how could it be otherwise? What is remarkable (and thus worth blogging about) must also be remarkable on the inside of the company. The top voice blogging about what is remarkable in the industry must also pass the believability test for those inside the company. Because folks inside a company tune their BS meters to High the moment they walk in the door. Remaining personal and true is essential.
So…blogging the top voice is not an easy path. But that has always been the way of relationship-building with peers, employees, clients, customers and potential customers and even congregants. And relationship-building is worth the time and effort.
Future church isn’t like present church: connect four dots
We’re relating differently these days. I’m not talking just about Facebook and Twitter and/or any other rising social media. We’re relating differently because our expectations are changing—partly due to our experience of being heard (which does relate to social media). This post is aimed at the church, but much of it could apply to any organization. Some parts are unique to the church.
Here are four points to consider as you think about how organizations may connect in the future. Apply yourself to three bits of reading and one bit of listening. It’s all interesting/amusing/amazing. Then tell me: how do you see the church changing?
Dot 1: Jeff Jarvis & the Death of Content
Jeff Jarvis was invited to speak to a group of professional speakers. He spoke about how content is dead and how the speakers should really be hearing from the audience and piecing together brand new things.
I suggested — and demonstrated — that speakers would do well to have conversations with the people in the room and not just lecture them. I said I’ve learned as a speaker that there is an opportunity to become both a catalyst and a platform for sharing.
His talk did not go over well with the professional speakers and there was plenty of harrumphing. Read his article here. But the take-away was the opportunity for speakers (and leaders) to be both “catalyst and platform for sharing” versus pouring content from a podium.
Dot 2: Jonathan Martin & the Decline of the Church Industry
Over at Big Picture Leadership there is a lengthy quote from Jonathan Martin who has suddenly seen that he is not at the center of things. He laments that the Spirit has passed him and Piper and Driscoll and CT and all the other usual suspects in favor of the rush of new Jesus-followers in developing nations. Read the excerpt here. Read the whole thing here.
I like this guy’s approach. I think he nailed it. But I disagree that the Spirit has moved on to other countries and peoples. I think the Spirit is alive and well and deeply embedded in God’s people—wherever they are—just where the Spirit will always be as long as people profess faith in Jesus the Christ. But what Mr. Martin observed is simply the decline of church as an industry in the U.S.
To that I would add: and not a moment too soon.
It was never sustainable, anyway: all the inward-focused authority generated by books and CDs and conferences and leadership gurus and models and formulas. Why did we think that God worked through all that? Oh. That’s right. Because the authors and conference leaders told us so. Here’s my favorite take-away from Mr. Martin:
We enjoyed our time in the mainstream well enough to forget that the move of God always comes from the margins . . .
But what if Mr. Martin is even more accurate than he knew or believed? What if the locus of authority is shifting from controlling authorities to the people in the pew who refuse to spectate? What if people really started taking seriously the notion that they should bring their gifts and voices directly into the ritual gatherings and far beyond—sort of like that inveterate scribbler Paul wrote?
Dot 3: Apophenia and Participatory Culture
At Apophenia they are asking questions (fitting!) in preparation for a book on participatory culture. What is participatory culture? I’m new to the phrase too, but danah boyd cites several characteristics of such a culture:
- With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
- With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
- With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
- Where members believe that their contributions matter
- Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created)
I very much like this notion and phrase because that is the culture I most want to belong to. I spend my days thinking about communication in industry. I think the church holds the key to the most invigorating participatory culture possible. I believe the future of the church will be a participatory culture speaking directly to all culture rather than focusing inward to build a religion industry.
Dot 4: Reggie Watts: Sing the Milieu
Watch this guy produce his own content (sounds)—even as he grabs content (sounds and ideas) from the environment—to make something new. It reminds of Jeff Jarvis’ note that content is not king, and how he challenged a group of professional speakers to listen to their audience. It also hints at a jazz-like participation with the audience and the larger environment.
Perhaps one way to connect the dots is to say that the top-down approach to relevance is dead or dying. The top-down approach has long been a battle cry of the church-industry: let’s give the people what they ask for, but we’ll mix in the stuff we think they need, like giving a pill to a dog by mixing it in her food. Maybe what we’re seeing now is a new mix: content relevant from the bottom up because people are listening in a new way. More precisely, they are listening for the good stuff planted there by the Spirit of God.
And please hear: this is not either-or. It is both-and.
The church can lead the way in this. Not the church as an industry, but the church made of people. But will leaders have courage to listen to individuals? Or will leaders circle the wagons?
How do you connect the dots?
A pastor friend once wondered why the congregation didn’t know this certain fact he had mentioned in a sermon. My friend was under the notion that people listen closely to every word of a sermon. I am convinced people do listen—just not to every word.
I know this because I have taught college students and mistakenly thought that the wide-open eyes and direct eye contact meant they were listening. It took me until my first test to realize how mistaken I was. Direct eye contact is as much an act as appearing to type notes while facebooking friends. Students and all of us easily adopt the outward behaviors that allow us to escape miles away to play on the beach while the person in front persists in boring monologue.
But a conversation is a different environment than a lecture or sermon. Don’t let your conversation partner bore you with abstractions. Challenge them. Question. Ask. This is the very nature of conversation and it fits with how we understand anything: we need to try an idea on for size to sort out whether it fits us or the situation.
Trying an idea on for size looks like talking.
We must turn something over verbally to begin to understand it. It’s just how the will is connected to the brain—through the voicebox. Not exclusively, sometimes we get it without saying it or asking. And sometimes writing a note helps in understanding (that’s often how it works for me). But make peace that people need to respond in one way or another to truly begin to understand something.
This is part of the reason lectures can be so ineffective.
Speaking for Someone Else is Always a Collaboration
Speaking in someone else’s voice is not really possible, though copywriters are often called on to do just this. The process—when done well—is more like hearing the client’s messages and collaborating to expand and deepen those messages. If the goal was just getting the words right and getting the message out clearly, strong editing would suffice. But the strategic copywriter often contributes substantive content. Helping the original ideas along by serving as a conversation partner to the client, to help them process through the message and its ramifications. The resulting content can prove stronger than the original content, though the danger is that it can sound like a committee wrote it. But a strong copywriter owns the process and follows through with a singular voice.
A singular, compelling voice.
These old Miller High Life commercials help make that point. These were filmed in the 90’s, directed by Errol Morris through Wieden+Kennedy. The retro male voice is just over the edge to make you laugh, but there is a bit of truth in the way the Americana is presented. The voice-over is perfect—and a perfect throw-back to 1950s and 1960s. That’s where Miller wanted the target audience to dwell for 30 seconds—with that slight whiff of what a man once was. Or at least what the Miller/Wieden+Kennedy collaboration thought might produce spending behaviors. And they succeeded: throughout the set there is the slightest hint of something you sorta remember—something your dad’s friends said. Or maybe your grandfather’s friends.
You’ll find a bunch of Errol Morris-directed Miller commercials here, but “Broken Window” (below) does a good job of capturing our grown up fear of the Other.