A case of great observation

By | Case history, Uncategorized | No Comments
Professionals generally don’t advertise. Instead, they tell stories of case histories which demonstrate their prowess. A case history is much like any other story, except you already know how the story ends: With the case fully solved. The only question is how it gets solved and to what extent some lesser professional screws it up first.

In his eloquent argument for the hands on physician, Verghese also gives us a masterclass in case history telling, weaving as he does, one story into the next. He also touches on the quintessential case history expert, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Enjoy.

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.

Observations and Insights

By | Communication theory, content, Contract theory, Uncategorized

What’s the difference between an observation and an insight? Insights are generally based on observations but they go further. They’re generally unexpected, and they have real value to the reader.

They often require joining some dots and give an ah ha moment to the person who discovers them or is told them for the first time. They are often the product of asking the question “why?”

People generally read text for insights but they want to be able to see that the observations are there to back those insights up.

Conversational context

By | Uncategorized

Sometimes people write stuff up for the benefit of those they’ve just had a conversation with. And what you often get is an aide memoire for both parties, and that’s perfectly fine. But if you then hand the same piece of writing to someone who wasn’t in on that conversation, and you present it as a report, the results can be quite confusing.

Think of the whole transaction as the white and the yolk. What was said is the white and what is written is the yolk. The yolk can seem like the concentrated essence of the egg, but that’s not really the case. They’re two different things. If you’re going to help people who weren’t in the room at the time of the conversation to understand what went on, you’re going to need to include some context.

 

 

 

 

Value Exchange

By | Uncategorized

When we give attention to a piece of text it’s almost always because we think we’re going to get something out of reading it. That’s a value exchange and if you’re not giving your readers any value, you won’t build any readers. The only exception to this is if you’re working in a coercive environment where you can penalise people for failing to read. Good luck with that to anyone writing outside North Korea.

Dove

By | Uncategorized

Dove took a very ordinary soap and found what was at the time a very extraordinary proposition. At the heart of this leap forward was research which told Dove what everyone already knew but had never really identified properly. Namely that women filtred out most marketing messages delivered by models because they weren’t real women.

What’s the contract

By | Contract theory, Uncategorized

This is a brass plaque that used to live where the post office was in Kentish Town, London. It remains one of the most improbable and impenetrable sentences I’ve ever read. And yet it exists and presumably makes sense in some kind of context. That context will of course be a legal one, and to some lawyer maybe from another century it makes perfect sense. The point is, this communication is best and perhaps only understood in terms of a contract that lies outside the communication itself.
One question that is very useful to ask is: What’s the contract that surrounds a piece of text? Is it a coercive context like a legal framework? Or is it a persuasive context like an advertising poster? Every piece of writing has a contract and it’s usually implicit.
A broadsheet newspaper might be: Pay to read this and we will give you thoughts ideas and information that is reasonably accurate and will make you look more informed in your social and business interactions. We will be interesting enough for you to want to read.
A parking ticket and parking signage has a very different contract: Read this carefully or not, it’s up to you. Fail to understand what we mean and we’ll tow your car away anyway.
The less well a parking signage is written the more revenue the council can collect. It’s one of the reasons signage is often so difficult to fathom.

Story change and communication

By | Communication theory, content, Story, Strategy, Uncategorized

From zero to hero. The classic log line for a Hollywood storyline. Why? because there’s lots of change implicit in zeros becoming heros. A perfect example of this would be the log-line for Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Where the filthy rich meet the dirty poor. You can almost see that there will be change for both the two main characters. Without change there can be no story and without story there’s no communication. These three things go together and if you’re going to understand any one of them you need to understand them all.

Another way of looking at this is by investigating what happens when there’s no change. And by that we also mean no change in expectation.
If you were to try to build a story around visting a vending machine: You go to the a vending machine in some big building. You select, say a Kit Kat, put your money in, and a Kit Kat duly drops onto the tray. Well, there’s no possible story that can come out of that because in no way has any expectation been thwarted or extended. However, if a Kit Kat didn’t drop down, but something much more unexpected did, say a packet of class A drugs, you have the beginnings of a storyline.