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Communications craft

Truncation is a funny business

By | Communications craft, Funny, Thought leadership, Uncategorized, What's out there now | No Comments

One of the problems mobiles responsive sizing gives us is that we’re never sure exactly what is going to appear as the final result. Pictures have to be created so that the subject of the picture is in the centre. That limits things considerably. And there’s even more trouble when you start putting type messages in respsonsive situations.

You want the message to appear as Acme is proud to sponsor World Aid . But what you actually see in certain screens is different.

Acme is proud to ponsor id. The truncation is worse than meaningless. It makes the brain work hard to guess something that probably wasn’t very interesting in the first place. The Two Ronnies nailed the experience with this classic sketch.

Until Linkedin produces responsive banners the advice has to be don’t put type in the banner head.

Write the driving test report

By | Communications craft, content, Report

All you have to do is pick one of these Mr Men characters and imagine you’re going to take him on a test in one of the vehicles.

Your role is the chief driving examiner and also licensing authority for whatever vehicle they’re getting tested in. Decide what they do on their test, and report what happened, so their suitability can be assessed.

Tom picked Mr Fussy and the Ice Cream van, but you’re free to pick any combination at all. All that we ask is that you produce something clear simple and well structured. You can use the following template if it helps.

Context

What has prompted this report?

Problem

What is the question or problem your report needs to address?

Observations

What actually did you notice on this test? (see observations)

Exposure

What are the possible consequences of these observations?

Insight

When you ask why the observations occurred, what answers come to light? The result probing the root cause of something usually generates an insight.

Recommendations

What do you recommend the licensing authority and does or withholds from the individual?

Starting with a story

By | Communication theory, Communications craft, content, Funny, Thought leadership, Uncategorized, What's out there now


Masters of story don’t start with a simple fact or assertion, they weave a story that does the same thing.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks could have begun his speech by simply saying something like “all faiths have similarities, but they also have interesting differences.”
That would have been a perfectly coherent way to start a speech at an interfaith dinner. But by starting with a story that demonstrates the same thing, he does so much more than assert a first beat.
He demonstrates mastery of the story form, establishes his own character as a player at Government level, and also brings some laughs to the room. But the story is always in the service of demonstrating the first beat of the rest of his speech.

The Apple five P’s

By | B2B, Communications craft, content, Link, Mission statement, Tone

steve-jobsApple comes up so often in brand conversations, it’s easy to forget how many different elements work so coherently in its brand mix. So here then are the five P’s outlined.
Purpose and philosophy, personality and positioning, proposition, product and price point.
Okay, there are more than 5, but there’s plenty of overlap. The purpose and philosophy for Apple is the aim to be creatively disruptive.
Steve Jobs gave us many clues about this. From his early experience with calligraphy, in the days when typography and computing simply didn’t go together, one of his major creative disruptions to the industry was to make sure that they did. More disruptive messaging was to follow; When the computing world seemed to be at peak IBM architecture, he launched an explicitly disruptive message in the famous Apple Super Bowl ad for 1984. Here, a dystopian superpower, an embodiment of the IBM Gates axis, has their screen smashed by the newcomer.
The personality and mac-pc-colour4-tonewheeljobs-gatespositioning are creative and they sit very happily in the creator slot of the archetypes chart.
The strap line think different underscores this. The embodiment of creativity happens, of course, in many ways but one of the strongest was by contrasting the uncool of pc jacket and tie man against the more chilled guy with his shirt hanging out.
And this was certainly living the brand because Job’s own sartorial style had made it to the TV ads and the employee dress code at the Genius bar.
There is a dark side of a creative personality that sometimes comes up and you can see this present in the Apple brand estate too.
The Lemmings ad was what happens when a creative guru shows too much disdain for their clients and their lack of cool. Effectively insulting their IBM audience, accusing them of blind moronic stupidity, the ad bombed, killing sales and Apple had to close three of its six plants. Steve Jobs left the company in the mid-eighties after this debacle. So much for the dark side of creative positioning.
But the rest of the brand estate has been an impeccable demonstration of how to position as creative.
The product and price point are premium. And the strap lines emphasise the personality not the product. It’s think different, not think premium. slide051984_big_brother
When you talk about strong branding, ultimately the strength is a reflection of the coherence of the P’s. It seems so easy when its done well.

The bigger picture

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, content, Thought leadership, Uncategorized, What's out there now

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-21-55-26article-2332079-1a092eab000005dc-128_634x417 screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-21-20-07 How do you tell a longer story in just a few web frames when there’s so much to say and so few words to say it in?
Do you squeeze everything in to your first sentence in a general way and hope people will telepathically understand the message? Or do you try something completely different?
How about the big picture route?
Obviously, you need to say something that speaks to what’s interesting topical and important for your audience. (That might take a little creative thought). There are no limits to what it could be, but it has to sit credibly close to the main purpose of your brand or product.
Then, by giving snapshots of that central thought and related ideas, you can build a much more powerful idea up. This is the bigger picture route and it’s the way you build classic campaigns. It enables you to interest people in what you’ve got to say rather than bludgeon them with standard issue clichés.
If what we’re saying here sounds a little abstract, think of the bigger picture and the sub message working like these pictures of the queen. Both work on the fact that the human brain is always trying to distil meaning out of anything it sees hears or feels. You just have to have one eye on what that meaning could be. Try it, and you’ll find it amazingly liberating, because you’re working with your audience’s brains not against them.
individual snapsots

Allenby said it in a sentence.

By | Communications craft, Mission statement, Tone, Uncategorized

In front of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem stands another equally historic building, the YMCA, where if you look closely, you’ll find an inscription. It amounts to the mission statement of the building, put there by Lord General Allenby in 1933.img_1827
Eighty years later, the same building and related organisation still has a mission statement, which nestles next to the reception desk.
But this version is much longer, difficult to understand in many places, and completely wooly in others. Was it Allenby’s military discipline or the fact he lived in a less committee-based world than meant his single sentence conveys so much more that the committee speak of the later version?img_1835 img_1825img_1831 img_1828img_1835

From imagination to reality

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, content, Creativity, Strategy, Uncategorized

creative-process3 Research is a topic that raises a lot of hostile feelings in creative people. Numerous campaigns have fallen at this point only to do really well in real life. Maureen Lipman in BT’s 1980’s Jewish Mother TVC campaign was a perfect example. But I think testing material is really useful, if only because it’s a great way to find out more about your target audience. Above is the general process and it can be iterative.
Although it’s really useful for creatives to go to the focus groups and watch behind the glass window, it’s not as common for this to happen as you might think. For one thing creatives see it like going to the dentist, an exam they’ll find painful and would rather avoid. Another reason is that an agency can be making more money from the creative when they’re chained to their desks rather than watching housewives in Surbiton.
One insight I remember getting from a focus group on women’s hair products was that this particular 40 something lady wanted to look great at times I’d never really considered. Not for her husband, not for the cocktail party nor the hen do, but when she was wearing jeans and a T shirt and the builder was coming round.
Obvious when you think about it, but only when you’ve heard from your actual audience. strategy5
Just for completeness here’s the bigger process that the creative sits inside. Many organisations short cut this, but this essentially is the ideal.
 

Moving a tone on

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, Strategy, Tone, Uncategorized

tonewheel6leapcleantonewheel6 before
One of charts that really helps when you’re discussing verbal, or indeed any type of brand identity is the one above. Based on Jungian archetypes and developed by Mark and Pearson, it forms a neat representation of different brand flavours.
The question you start with is the usual consultancy one: where are we now? The next question is where would we like to get to?
If an organisation product or service is say in the ruler section, maybe they want to transform and become a mate?
If they are a ruler, what sort of ruler are they? Bossy and aloof in a not good way or alternatively, aspirational in the way British Airways was, when it was at its best?
Or maybe the content is such a mish-mash it doesn’t really have any distinct tone you can speak of. Maybe it’s just a big pic’n mix nothing.
These are the issues that form the basis of an audit, and obviously you need to do this in some form, even if only in a very cursory way.
In the old days it was all about the branding agency auditing, presenting and ultimately delivering a verbal identity, but my view is that doesn’t really wash nowadays.
Most organisations have scores of content marketing and corporate writers and there’s no reason to leave them outside the process.
This means that repositioning a company needs to be done with them in a collaborative training and exploratory way, rather than brought down from on high and ‘rolled out’.
Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘rolling something out’, it just doesn’t make any allowance for the way organisations usually work.
You usually find that it’s one thing for a verbal branding agency to blithely specify a few choice phrases, that amount to general good writing practice, but it’s quite another to work through the daily diet of communications the team actually have to put out.
It’s for this reason that training, facilitation, content and verbal brand repositioning are a great combination. And you can’t really substitute them for a few standard bromides about copywriting.
 
 
Jaguar tone book
Asthma UK
Anglian Water

Are you really getting your client's world?

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, Strategy, Thought leadership, What's out there now


Chris Voss, an ex FBI negotiator is used to dealing with murderers, rapists and terrorists. Here he shares his biggest insights into communications.
Chris explains that being able to play back, almost verbatim, the exact argument of the other side, is more important than expounding the rationality of your own case.
When you repeat exactly what the other side has just said, and they reply, “That’s right“, you’ve achieved the first and most important part of a negotiation: Demonstrating that you actually get where they’re coming from.
Probably the most striking moment of the interview is when Chris describes how one of his team was called up by a hostage taker they had negotiated with a short while back.
“A bad guy called Sabaya. Head-choppin’ terrorist, rapist, real bad, bad guy. Sabaya calls us up two weeks after the negotiation and says: ‘ Did you get a promotion?'”
“‘You should have. I don’t know what you said to me on the phone but I was going to kill Jeffrey. You kept me from doin’ it. They should promote you.’ Then hangs up.”
And so it is with customers, stakeholders and prospects. Getting their worlds as they see it, not as you do, or your CEO does, is the first step to doing business with them. Most of the time we’re not talking to head-chopping murderers and rapists, just people who don’t share your corporate view on how effective your services are.
But like head-chopping murderers and rapists they have an alternative narrative on the way things are.
And the needle only starts moving when you’ve proved you’ve heard what they’re trying to say.