Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's the Goal?

It's remarkably challenging to put together any documentation, collateral, update, announcement, analysis, or other material without understanding the goal. There is a "journalistic" approach that simply seeks to inform, but even jaded ol' me thinks that for most stories of any length or human interest, the goal is to go beyond "Man shot by Tiger." The goal is to dig into the plight of the urban tiger. Or to alert a number of stupid tourists out there who think they can take down zoo animals. Raising awareness. Giving voice to the voiceless. There are agendas behind them most seemingly objective pieces. (and for the record, I think that's perfectly fine  - particularly when facts are not omitted, etc.)

But, in corporate communication, there's always an agenda. You don't do a press release unless you want recognition for something, want to drive sales, hope to position yourself as a leader in the portable meat market, etc. But somehow, so many of these documents aren't embarked upon with an agenda, which makes writing them and editing them so challenging. Add 30 people who can weigh in, and you have a hot mess of wordsmithing and a meaningless work product.

So, before you start writing - document your goal. 3 things this document is meant to accomplish. Any document. For example:

a) inform the powers-that-be that Oscar Mayer is now delivering a meat-in-a-tube solution to market
b) jolt them into pushing forward our organic meat-in-a-straw product by 2 weeks to address this competition
c) focus all product positioning on the organic free-range joy of the chickens before the strawification

With that in mind, you can toss out all the meaningless additional facts you might have - like how meat-in-a-tube already has strong followers among the spam eating population (clearly not the organic market). Or how Oscar Mayer changed it's jingle to "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Tube Meat."

And, if you're editing by quorum, agree on these goals up front. It makes it easier when Bob from Accounting feels the need to interject  - "shouldn't we include a paragraph on the new Dijon bologna too?"

1 comment:

Priya said...

When we were in school we learned Essays. How to write them. Opening paragraph, 3 paragraphs, each discussing one supporting point to the hypothesis with supporting statements, closing paragraph. I wish the powerpointers would stick with that format.

This current paradigm of "stories" is good in the sense that it emphasizes user engagement of the information, but it rather hides the need to organize the information well to make the story good in the first place. It's not all flashing graphics and magenta italicized headlines which get a user engaged, after all.