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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Getting it Right

Bob James, aka
The Mighty Copywriter, writes an informative and stimulating blog, Copy Points exploring issues around marketing, communications and the art of effective writing. I've read a number of his pieces with interest, and his latest touched a nerve. Entitled "Is it Real or is it Sominex" he talks about how advances in technology are enabling the budget-challenged corporation to produce "business casual video." In other words, a do-it-yourself approach to producing corporate video.

But the typical amateur, as Bob blogs, creates amateurish work:
"That's because technologyin the hands of amateurscannot compensate for amateurism. Cheap technology, moreover, only encourages amateurism to spread,like a plague."

Well, of course I agree. But there's another part of the story I'd like to talk about. Because, for me, the issue is not just about advances in technology reducing the professional's "advantage". Amateur work is usually amateurish for a reason. Because a professional in our business has the ability to understand where the audience is coming from. How they think and what they value. And professionals enjoy a creative expertise honed by years of crafting messages.

Too often, corporate communication from an insider's point of view is just that: written from the "insider" point of view. They don't see the company as others do, who live outside their corporate silo. Again, that's what the professional has to offer. We understand how to shape a message so it reaches people "where they live." And what I learned from all those years doing political media is this: how you frame the issue and ideas defines how people respond and understand what you are trying to say.

The essence of amateurism misses all of this. It is high on enthusiasm and energy, which is great and really connects, up to a point. And that, to be fair, is some of its appeal; as insider corporate communications are so often deadly and boring.

But that's usually where it ends. Amateurs lack the professional's dispassion and insight. They go for the obvious, lack subtlety, and rarely employ the power of well-chosen images and evocative music. And they are not phrase makers. I've watched one nationally-recognized political consultant routinely spend hours trying out different variations of a phrase until he found the most potent combination for his client. And I've seen how the media picks up that concept as their own and runs with it. Because he spends all that time and creative power to get it right. And that's the bottom line, really. Getting it right.
As they say, you can have it quick, cheap or good. Pick any two.

1 comment:

Bob James said...

Dan, you've dug deeper than I have, identifying the reasons why "amateurism" doesn't serve communicators who tolerate it. Sure, these pieces look and sound low end (unintentionally). But, more importantly, they typically reflect little else than the myopia of the (often junior) insiders who create them. What comes across in these home-grown videos, as you note, is either a kind of "cheerleading" or a worldview that's not shared by customers. Both are fatal to success.