Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Are You Talking to Me?

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time touring the world in support of my ideas and thoughts on the direction of new PR, branding, service, and marketing communications.  My reward and inspiration to continue is sourced from each person I meet and the experiences and challenges they share. I’ve learned that our greatest hindrance to evolve is not our unwillingness to do so, our indoctrination in new media and communications is truly obstructed by the executives to whom we report and serve.

I see it in the eyes of those communications professionals so willing and anxious to learn. The future of marketing, communications, and media indeed lies in their ambition and dedication to originating and practicing more ethical and meaningful strategy and engagement. Our journey is often diverted by the mistakes of those individuals who have yet to realize that their beliefs and methodologies are archaic, ineffective and inevitably ruinous.

Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

Realizing that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to relevance is the second step.

That “power” in this case is the recognition of “who” we serve and attempt to help.

The fundamental flaw with almost every marketing initiative is in its conception. Who it serves and seeks to appease is habitually off target.

The top-down routine that holds many business and marketing executives captive is the reality of the infrastructure, rules, and reward parameters we define.  And, while they may lead to profitability, their effects can also lead to the degradation of perception, value, and worth associated with “marketers” and “PR” as industries.





There is no one formula for driving profitability.

A changing of the guard is due and it starts with the cognizance of to whom we serve and report. While technically, we answer to our business leaders and the board that governs their activity and performance, when we embrace anything with an outward focus, we must recognize and acknowledge our customers, peers, and prospects – in their voice, words, and sentiments. Doing so, changes everything.

Case in point…

Good friend, Robin Wauters over at TechCrunch recently wrote a poignant and revealing post that chronicled the latest in a seemingly endless history of frustrations with press releases and the hyperbole and incoherency rife throughout many.

His post served as a clever plea to strike unecessary and overused words from press releases including, but not limited to:

1. Leading, Leader

2. Best, Most, Fastest, Largest, Biggest

3. Innovative, Innovation

4. Revolutionary

5. Award-Winning

6. Disruptive, Disruption, (added: Market Disruptor)

7. Cutting, Bleeding Edge

8. Next-Generation

9. Strategic Partnership

10. Synergy

And of course, David Meerman Scott has also published The Gobbledygook Manifesto. At the very least, this clever and helpful guide should serve as required reading for anyone in marketing and communications. Copies should also appear anonymously on the desks of those executives to whom either intentionally or unconsciously inpire and sign off on these useless documents.

Honestly, who speaks this way? Remember, before we’re marketers, we’re human beings and consumers. We don’t communicate with our friends, peers, and family in this language. Yet, we reinforce these stereotypes with every piece of marketing collateral and press release we write and distribute.

Expectations funnel both ways.

Command in one way.

While press releases are only one of the tools we use to communicate our story, they processes and methodologies that regulate their creation and distribution are shared throughout organizations in almost every outbound marketing program.

Everything starts by answering one question, “Who am I trying to reach?”

The second and third questions create a domino effect and places us on a path to relevance, “What’s important to them and how can we help?”

The third and fourth are related to social science as it helps us embody empathy and create meaningful stories that resonate, “What are their pains/challenges and how and where do they seek resolution?”

It may seem commonsensical, but perhaps recognizing that common sense is uncommon in communications is half the battle. Transforming the infrastructure to support effectual, sincere, and consequential outward communication and engagement is the first stop in social relevance and market stature.

Your job is to make me care…

Please also read “Reviving Traditional Press Releases” and “The Evolution of Press Releases.”

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47 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Are You Talking to Me?”

  1. andreashansen says:

    Very well spoken. So simple – and so true. Include B2B on that list as a term that must go in the PR-lingo. Businesses never speak to each other. They are dead structures. We need to focus on the human – not the institution.

  2. startabuzz says:

    Brian: you've hit on a subject that has frustrated me for more time than I can tell you. The fact that each and every press release, not to mention “ideas” that are regurgitated throughout antique media, sounds exactly the same, no matter what it's attempting to promote, drives me positively batty. Be interesting. Say something NEW. Talk to me as if I'm a human being. Isn't that what our “new” media — being the driving force on the axis of the so-called social graph — is all about? Tell me something that will make me care. Don't throw buzz speak at me. My day is filled with plenty of work each day; I don't want to be forced to clean the muck out of my BS filter again and again.

  3. pattygregory says:

    Ok, this is the post that finally propelled me to Amazon to buy your book. I've been meaning to do it for a while, so thanks for the nudge in that first hyperlink.

  4. lizwainger says:

    Thanks for this post. Before I went into PR, I was a journalist and hated getting press releases touting a company as “the leading provider” of whatever. If you have to say you are the best, then you probably aren't. Now as a PR consultant, I understand why those things happen. We have to push back to our clients, constantly asking who they are trying to reach and what they are trying to achieve and why should their company, organization, cause, product, etc. matter? I think sometimes internal PR folks and agencies are too timid. The folks in Missouri have it right –Show me.

  5. susang says:

    Hello Brian.
    Enjoy your very authoritative blog! I'm reading your new book now. Something you said grabbed my attention…You said in the future marketing departments will be led by people who understand new media. It may make for an interesting way for p.r. people to vault to the top of their organizations. I've been in p.r. for 20 years, am a published journalist too, and I'm am paddling like hell to stay with the current of new media. Still got some things to learn, though. So I'm wondering…what skills do you need to do that vault in the new world? Would it require an MBA? A sociology masters? A masters in research and market measurement? A new media degree? What about degrees in film and digital storytelling? Wondering what your take is on that…

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