I missed you at work today
Originally published on LinkedIn as "The Lost Feeling of People" on June 4, 2019So much talk, so much worry, in this and lots of other places, about the financial and professional precariousness of the “gig” economy. About the shakiness, the shifting of ground and hopes under the feet of a generation. About something once taken for granted — an actual, flesh-and-blood (and that seemingly tired descriptor is actually intentional, stay tuned) job — something chipped away at over time, weakened, then finally crumbling into dust.
We’ve gone from calling people on the carpet to pulling it out from under their feet. But getting called on the carpet, at least, was in person.
As I sat at home the other day, the place I work from now, trying to connect over the growing bandwith with people who increasingly seem to have less of it, another aspect of this struck me, one that makes a lot fewer headlines than the employment story but might be a bigger one: the people.
As in, where -- and how -- are they?
What is being so alone, so much of the time, so reliant on yourself, maybe more than ever in history, doing to people? And not just the people who are alone?
This is not the first or eleven millionth time you’ve read that we work for more than money. But money can’t buy you a “good morning.” Or a private moment with someone in the staff kitchen. Or a chance to compliment someone else on their birthday-cake-making skills, and see the pride sweep over their cheeks. Or replace the feeling of holding the same wheel, steering the same ship, sometimes in different directions, yes, but mostly as one. You feel those other tugs and grips, you really do, and they feel good.
Even the word gig is self-contained. It’s a tiny palindrome, three unremarkable letters turned in on themselves, facing only each other — two cubicle walls of G surrounding the I, the same I as in me, myself and I.
I think that what I felt the other day was less of a feeling than the absence of a feeling, of a way of being that I and many people once knew but haven’t for a while — and that millions more never will. And because of the way I work now, this is how I share it with you, in this digital break room of ours. Not over the wall of your cubicle, or in our staff kitchen, as I wipe clean the counter we all use because it feels good to make it nice for everyone.
And I bet I’m not alone (except, well, literally). The people gigging feel it, but the people inside companies, the ones with jobs, they feel it, too. Having a bunch of people around is healthier, healthier is happier, happier is more product…
I’ll stop here. You’re smart, you get it. I can feel it, even if I can’t see it. But it sure would be nice to.
The Freelancer's Christmas
Published on December 13, 2018
As a bit of holiday cheer, I offer this riff on the creative industry's holiday scramble -- and the role us freelancers are delighted to play in unscrambling it.
’Twas the night before deadline, when all through the shop,
The creatives they toiled, until surely they’d drop.
The issue it threatened their very survival:
A page full of copy, quite dead on arrival.
The headlines were snoozers, they flopped and they punned,
One after another, emphatically shunned.
It got to the point where the client shot back,
“My son’s got a blog — how ‘bout he take a crack?”
When out in reception, a voice rose in fear:
“Can you please all come quickly, there’s somebody here.”
He said he’s a writer, he knows we’re quite stressed,
And his clothes, well, they look like they’ve never been pressed.
But despite having neither a beard or tattoos,
We gave him a shot — we had nothing to lose.
Put him way in the back, near the cart full of booze,
Just past the old table where once we did fooz.
And as his old ass settled into the chair,
A lot more than dust sparkled into the air.
Similes! Metaphors! Mad turns of phrase!
It looked as if he had been writing for days!
At no time he moved from his creative nook
To pee, or to open an old award book.
He typed as on fire, great volumes producing,
And never did he use the word, “Introducing..”
Only once he cried out, like a hawk in the winter,
“Can anyone help me connect to the printer?”
And as the great tome upon paper unspooled,
We sighed in relief -- for we hadn’t been fooled.
The options were many! The subjects did vary,
There was even one all about Meghan and Harry!
(Yes it’s unusable, fun nonetheless,
And the lawsuit it would be a terrible mess.)
The joy it was huge, as at every computer
The creatives each cancelled their search for “recruiter.”
The CD, she even said into an ear:
“I think there might actually be something here…”
Yet when they all turned, to thank the old hack,
They saw but a flash and the sight of his back
As he flew out the door — then turned once to say:
“Just one little question: how fast do you pay?”
10 catchy taglines no one has ever used, ever.
We've all been there: You unveil a tagline to a client that instantly silences the room. The president sits up in her seat. Your client secretly wonders if you're single. Even birds stop singing. (What birds are doing in the room is another matter entirely). You nailed it. Unfortunately, as you discover a day or so later, so did someone else. Oops. To help you avoid this career-threatening miscue, I've put together an assortment of completely original taglines that not only sell and sell hard, but pass that most stringent of originality tests: the Google check.
"When the best is simply not an option."
"From the trunk of our car to your table."
"Celebrating __ years of never being successfully sued."
"We only do one thing. And not out of laziness or lack of drive, either."
"Just Doo Itte."
"No cute animals were used in this product."
"Deliciously Refreshing. Refreshingly Delicious. Defreshingly Relicious."
(The next line is modifiable, as you can see.)
"We live, breathe, and eat _______
"We live, breathe, and eat pets."
"We live, breathe, and eat rectal thermometers."
"We live, breathe, and eat wart removal."
"We live, breathe, and eat Polymers and Polymer Composites."
"We live, breathe, and eat rectal thermometers."
"We live, breathe, and eat wart removal."
"We live, breathe, and eat Polymers and Polymer Composites."
"If it sounds too good to be true, we probably said it."
"Where service and reliability meet, and fuck."
Five reasons you should use a copywriter
The other day, a designer friend mentioned that she always tries to get her clients to use a copywriter on her projects, but at a time when everyone's a writer (and, thanks to Photoshop, an everything else as well), it's not an easy sell. I thought I could share a little perspective on what clients might be missing out on when they choose to add writing to their endless list of responsibilities. And while there are a lot more reasons, in the interest of being effective and concise (another reason itself), I think these five say it all.
1. Every potential opportunity will be maximized. Like a great recipe, every word of copy (and element of design) should be there for only one reason: to advance your strategy and goals. Beyond just organizing and writing, a good writer will analyze every place where's there copy, identify places where some would make a difference, and make sure every piece of it moves your overall strategy forward.
2. Design is a dance and it should lead. When a website, print piece or any other communication appears uniformly composed, with all elements exactly how the designer envisioned them, it's not only more readable and has more impact, but reflects a brand that's equally thoughtful and professional. A good writer can and should write to exactly fit the design. This approach actually makes the writing stronger, because the extra shaping and editing makes you ponder and rethink every choice.
3. You'll get a lot more than what you asked for. Good copywriters are strategic, emphasizing and even clarifying your positioning as they write. And as they're developing the copy, they will invariably come up with ideas and ways of expressing things that can live on as taglines, elevator speeches, positioning statements, quotes, graphics, and other key branding elements.
4. Writers are outsiders, they're nosy, and they're detectives. And from their vantage point, they'll both spot and uncover ideas and angles you probably might have overlooked or take for granted. One of my greatest joys as a writer is sitting with an organization's people, chatting, exploring, diving deep. We always end up discovering, together, not just branding and messaging jewels, but revelations and insights about the company and its mission that may seem obvious or even old news to clients, but could be compelling to their targets.
5. Maximum time + maximum expertise = maximum results. A little obvious, maybe. But when you're putting something out into the world, you need to ask yourself, is this as good as it can be? Because if it's not your priority, it needs to be someone's. Ideally, someone who lives and breathes it, and who'll make it the only thing on their plate, not the 29th.
6. And because a good copywriter should give you more than promised, one more: Unlike your co-worker or staffer who wrote the copy for you, a copywriter (probably) won't seethe at you across the staff kitchen for rewriting their words, or leaving out their favourite Gandhi quote. That, alone, should be worth it.
Would LinkedIn's 41,256 Visionaries, Dreamers and Evangelists
please cut the bull%$#@
please cut the bull%$#@
I'm a writer. I write copy, articles, books, pitches, strategies, even plays. But on LinkedIn, compared to many other writers and LinkedInners in general, I'm not a writer. I'm "just" a writer.
This became depressingly clear to me a few days ago, when I checked out the profile of a LinkedIn connection who'd emailed me for an introduction. She was looking for a digital project management gig, but her title promised much more. She was a "Marketer" and a "Brand Builder." Wow. She builds brands. BRANDS, PEOPLE. And since brands build companies, and companies build economies, she is also an ECONOMY BUILDER. Jesus. That's way more impressive than being a writer, I thought. I don't build anything.
This got me thinking: was I underselling myself? But then I thought, who am I to be thinking -- when there are at least 5,699 professionals on LinkedIn whose actual job title is Thinker. Even more impressive are those special, 2.4% of all Thinkers -- just 141 people worldwide -- who carry the rare Head Thinker title. And then there's the clearly superior Lead Thinkers (41), who I assume manage the Head Thinkers. But if after hiring a Thinker you realize that what you really need is an Understander (13), they're out there, too. Now, many organizations might confuse a Knower (41) with a Know It All (484), and finding out can be painful. Fortunately, you can hire a Finder (4,295) or even a Chief Finder to actually do the finding out. There are only 12 Chief Finders, which makes a Finder/Chief Finder ratio of 358 to 1: is this the standard Finding industry ratio? And if your thinking needs are a little deeper, even more "classic," you can hire one of the 2,723 Philosophers on LinkedIn. (There are also 32 Freelance Philosophers available, if your budget is tight.)
This, of course, is nothing less than a paradigm shift -- which you can confirm by asking one of the six Paradigm Shifters for hire. (And if you're not crazy about your existing paradigm, there's a Paradigm Collapser who can collapse it professionally and safely, instead of you doing it yourself.) Indeed, the level of talent out there is truly mind-blowing -- but I'd have to ask one of the seven official Mind Blowers to be sure. And there's never been more options. Say you just need stuff done, but are tired of relying on a Stuff Doer (79). From Go Getters (521) to Make-It-Happeners (22) to Doers (18,479), you're in luck. Unfortunately, there is only one active Undoer on LinkedIn, so you may need to bring in a Solver (6,804) in case there's a problem. However, there are also 5,288 Problem Solvers -- so what, exactly, are those other Solvers solving?
Need something explained? One of 44 Head Explainers will be happy to put one of their 2,189 Explainers on the job. And if all this explaining and solving somehow leads to a stressed-out workplace, you can always bring in a Passionator to fire people up. However, since there's only six of them they're probably pricey, so you may want to opt for the more common Chief Happiness Officer (422). (Job alert: there's only one Assistant Happiness Officer listed on LinkedIn, so there's clearly plenty of entry-level opportunity in this field.) Those Happiness Officers probably work well with Cheerleaders (3,208).
But sometimes, you just need to listen to your people: that's where 2,241 Listeners come in. (I'm also a little worried that there's only one Attentive Listener and she's in BC, so she may not be that accessible to everyone.) I'm also not sure if Listeners are only good at listening or can also get people to talk, so you may want to hire a Conversation Starter (67). Be warned, though: there are no Conversation Enders, so you may need to bring in a Terminator (496) if things go too long.
While this may be a little confusing (and I'm no expert on this, unlike the 11 certified Confusers who are), there are many benefits. One of the most surprising is, no surprises. Wondering if you're aboutto hire a Liar (255), Cheater (105) or even an Embezzler (10)? It's right there in their title. Afraid they might be a Brown Noser (18), Shit Disturber (13) or even a Hell Raiser (45)? You'll know. Nappers (64), Procrastinators (261) and even Quitters (20) have never been easier to spot. And if something bad actually happens on the job, but you can't find out who did it or started it, chances are it was one of those 1,074 damn Instigators.
There's one very troubling development I should point out: because LinkedIn lists 1,367 Devil's Advocates at work all over the world, how many actual devils are they advocating for, and is one in your own workplace? They're clearly in hiding, as there's only one actual Devil listed on LinkedIn, and since he also works in advertising he's beyond advocating for. (If you do suspect someone of being an actual demonic overlord, there's a Devil Remover in South Africa as well as some 127 Exorcists all over, but you probably don't want them coming into the office for morale reasons. A cheaper route may be to hire an Evangelist, since they're good at getting all religious and sweaty and such, and with 29,016 to choose from they're everywhere. You could also try to get an especially peppy Cheerleader to drive him or her crazy enough to leave.)
A big concern with all this, of course, is when you need specific, practical tasks done. Say you or your business needs actual change: coins, bills, that kind of change. But while there are 680 Change Makers out there, something tells me that not one of them will be able to help with this. Even worse, there's only one official Change Counter: what happens if she gets sick or takes a holiday? Or this: you've got a bunch of dirty bottles that need washing, so you call up one of LinkedIn's 9,835 Bottle Washers, or if it's a particularly big job their 1,892 Chief Bottle Washer bosses. Well, I've scanned some their profiles, and I haven't seen any kitchen or washing experience anywhere.
Are you a farmer struggling with a drought? That's a serious problem, and I'd love to connect you with one of 1,218 Rain Makers but I think you'll be wasting your time. (Maybe an actual Connector might do a better job connecting you to the right people; there are 85,259 of them, so you're in luck.) Need cats herded? I called a couple of the listing's 345 so-called Cat Herders, and they were less than helpful with my request. Now, all this confusion and misdirection might lead one to think that these titles are, well, bullshit. I'll contact a Bullshitter to be sure; there are 109, so it shouldn't take too long. I'll then reach out to one of four Human Lie Detectors to make sure I'm not actually being bullshitted by the Bullshitters.
All this has me quite concerned about my plain, relatively unimpressive title. My time is fully- booked and then some, and I apparently have a strong reputation as a writer. But what if a client wakes up one day and wants more than a writer? What if they say, "What we really need is a Craftsman (25,786), a Wordsmith (8,662), a Story Teller (10,078)... or even a Copy Artist (14)!" I'm good, but I'm no Copy Whisperer, that rare title bestowed upon just two people worldwide (art directors, it's even worse for you: there is but one Layout Whisperer working today). And while I craft and craft my writing until I'm blind, am I a Copy Crafter? That title belongs to just one man, and from his profile he doesn't look like he's going anywhere.
What if my clients don't just want good or even great -- they want Genius? There are 18,385 official Geniuses on the database and 619 Creative Geniuses: that's over 19,000 people to call before me. Even today's hot, in-demand Storytellers should be worried: there's a couple of "Story Weavers" and one "Story Spinner" out there who may be onto something new. And don't get me started on Visionaries. Frankly, with 8,791 Visionaries hard at work every day, led by 1,240 Chief and 15 Head Visionaries, I'm surprised the economy isn't going through the roof. It might take a Mind Reader to figure it out, but with only 33 of them, they're probably booked.
What to make of all this? (I'll try, but you can always ask a Maker to be sure, as there are 184,320 of them. Who says we don't make things anymore?) Yes, people should be allowed to call themselves whatever they want, and if an aspirational title helps you feel like you're more than a Worker Ant (which is good enough for 76 people), all the better. But the whole reason for this exploration was to try and answer something that my connection herself brought up, as to whether or not her profile might be a tad more effective, searchable, meaningful, clear and relevant- -- all those minor, old- fashioned qualities -- if it said something like, "Digital Project Manager."
If it's feeling to you like we've got more Dreamers than Doers in the workplace these days, it's because we do. 1,195 more, actually. The good thing is, if you want to be known for what you actually do, it's easily fixable, by yourself no less. (My apologies to the 9,042 Fixers who might say otherwise.) Just click, change, then get out there and start kicking some ass. (Your only competition are the 200-plus Ass Kickers who apparently do it for a living, but I'm sure they'd be open to sharing how they price jobs, if they do the ass kicking on site or from home, etc.) As for me, I've got some copy that badly needs whispering.
The three things (or one really huge thing) your website
must establish immediately and very, very well
must establish immediately and very, very well
Charity Village 2016
They are two words that have influenced online activity - and the art and science of triggering it - more even than "click here" and "sign in."
"Skip Ad" was introduced in YouTube videos in 2010, as a way to placate impatient viewers. And while Adweek reports that some 90% of skippable ads are in fact skipped most of the time, the function has actually been immensely helpful to advertisers - and anyone looking to get anyone else's attention - by reminding them of the online public's intolerance with the ordinary, the irrelevant and the unwanted.
Not only are we in the age of hyper-rapid page scanning, where key information and desired actions have to be in-your-face instantly, but it's also an age when a distinctive and compelling digital presence is possible for virtually every nonprofit or charity.
But are you set up to be distinctive and compelling online? Or are you turning people away because your website and other platforms don't have, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, any "there" there. No immediate, clear, engaging answers to the one question people want answered the second they show up, if not before:Who are you?
Who are you means, in order of importance:
What's distinctive about you compared to others?
What do you actually do - in a way that I could explain to my mother?
What's your story?
Now, I'll admit that the title of this article promised you three things, yet this sounds like just one. But isn't who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique - your story - everything? Especially to people you want to like you, support you, even wave your flag?
So here are the three most important things you need to get right, right away, if you want people to stick around and engage. I also need to mention that I've paraphrased some of the example copy, so as to make it less identifiable to specific groups and more universally relevant. But I believe that the re-phrasings still carry the same tone, messaging and intent as the originals.
Who are you #1: Tell me what makes you different and adds value
This is even more important than what you do. If what sets you apart is intriguing enough, it'll make people want to know more. Establishing a point of difference isn't just a good idea for a nonprofit, but an essential one: the market is bursting with good causes led by earnest organizations who appear indistinguishable from each other.
Figuring out and expressing what makes you unique and valuable is necessary not just for your site, but for your organization's strategic self-understanding. It means crystallizing your approach, the benefits of your work and your reasons for being, in a concise way that will colour everything else your visitors will encounter. You can convey it in an elevator speech (a short articulation of why you're valuable and different), an intro video, a manifesto - something that gives you a little more time and room to present it than, say, a tagline.
Here are a couple of examples from the nonprofit world that attempt to this. I chose examples from the same category and I'm not going to set them up: I want you to see them like new visitors see them, as if they're introducing themselves for the first time.
This is how one group introduces themselves on their homepage:
Since 1995, (name here) has pioneered solutions for sanitation and safe water that give communities a future, women hope and children health. Join us.
Here's how another water organization does it:
We’re a nonprofit on a mission to bring clean drinking water to every person on the planet. And with the support of people like you, we’ve funded 19,819 water projects in 24 countries so far.
The second example is the slam-dunk. It talks like a person ("bring clean drinking water to every person") not a report. Its unique yet simple mission is simple and clear, and doesn't get tangled up in copywriting ("give communities a future.") It makes it clear what it wants -- support -- instead of being "joined." (Some may argue that joining is more inclusive, but we all know that they both want support.) And its results are right there and understandable: 19,819 projects is a lot easier to picture than something less direct like "giving communities a future", or some multi-million-esque number that just goes over peoples' heads. (Like my next example.)
The good news is, a lot of organizations, maybe even yours, are actually saying very exciting things about themselves. They're just not saying them where it matters most.
I looked at another water charity, and their opener was a wall of stats. The sheer scale of them, the inability to easily picture these numbers in your mind as individual people, makes them hard to relate to:
Over 2.4 billion people worldwide don't have adequate sanitation. 1.8 billion lack access to safe water...water-related diseases claim more than 840,000 lives every year. We exist to change this. We want to help communities break free from the cycle of poverty, and instead of walking for water and fighting off illness, spend their days learning, thriving and growing.
It's hard to get a sense from this what exactly they do, or do different, who they are, and - hugely important in today's relationship-based web - what they're like. But then I dug a bit more, and found this gem on a job listing deep in the bowels of their site:
We are a group of experienced field workers who are fed up with the complacency and tired rhetoric that characterizes this sector.
There it is. They're fighters and they're passionate. That's a line in the sand, and it's going to attract some people and not others, which is exactly what a strong positioning needs to do: take a definitive position. I think that they should focus on developing a community of water rebels, people who are tired of the same old same old.
Who are you #2: Tell me what you do - really
As I've tried to show, the best introductions combine mission clarity with mission distinctiveness. But the clarity piece is often overlooked. We often assume that people can fill in the details. But why would you want them to do that?
Take this amazing volunteer organization. Here's how they describe themselves:
We help improve the ability of developing nation emergency service agencies to provide a greater level of emergency services to the communities they serve.
Something tells me that's not how they'd describe themselves over a coffee. Especially since what they actually do is so inspiring. These are firefighters who give free equipment - and we're not talking helmets, we're talking fire trucks, ambulances, complete fire halls full of equipment - to their brothers in arms in foreign countries, then stay there for weeks training them. And it's all 100% volunteer.
The way I see it, their ladders, hoses and hearts are extending across the ocean and saving lives. So if they were to actually express what they really do, the result would be "Really? Wow, tell me more."
Here's another example of someone else who does something commendable, but hasn't mentioned the one thing that makes it most commendable of all. See if you can guess what it is:
We deliver yoga classes and programs, in a trauma-sensitive way, to people being challenged by poverty, trauma, violence, mental health, imprisonment and addiction.
They provide this tailor-made, healing therapy to people who'd never have it otherwise...free. You may have assumed that but it should be mentioned, because it frames all they do and makes giving to them that much more crucial. That's an important word to leave out.
In any kind of elevator speech or articulation of your What and Why, the things that make you unique and special should be there. Including, also overlooked in that last example, the benefit of your work. If this group can express the (probably very impressive) benefits that clients get from their yoga programs, their reason for being will be that much more compelling. So the benefit of what you do belongs in the elevator speech or intro, but it can also come across in a stirring client quote or in a video; somewhere it'll be both seen and felt.
Who are you #3: Tell me your story
A small boy was begging in the streets of India.
“What do you want most in the world?” I asked him.
“A pencil,” he replied.
I reached into my backpack, handed him my pencil, and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.
This is how founder Adam Braun describes the spark that led to Pencils of Promise, a well-known developing-world school builder. I chose this example because it's a people story, and because what they do now, building schools and improving education on a global scale, isn't much different from that initial interaction. But people stories aren't new: many of us know the story of Bill and Bob, the first "buddies" of AA.
The point is, people want to know your story more than ever because they want to know you more than ever. The digital world has evolved to where sharing rich, moving stories is more possible technologically, and at the end of the day people just like hearing about people.
But stand-out stories can be many things. I came across a nonprofit that describes itself as change-makers dedicated to transforming society. They focus on community-building and dialogue. Yes, they're not alone in saying this. And building community and other forms of understanding is very current. But here's the differentiator: they've been doing this for over 80 years. They're genuine pioneers. But it's all hidden away in a little drawer at the bottom of the site, in a link to a "short history." And while longevity isn't an automatic brownie point, longevity in a newly-relevant area absolutely is, especially for nonprofits.
Think of people you've met who've intrigued you. Their origins, the genesis of their work or vocation are a huge part of their appeal. They saw something wrong, or spotted an opportunity no one had ever seen before. Their action was triggered by an event, a meeting, a decision, an insight. Then this happened, that happened...a story happened. Whatever it is, people want to know it, because they want to know you.
But wait, there's more!
Of course there is. And it all matters more than ever, because people scan and take in more than ever. So here's two bonus thoughts:
Make your social media feeds or icons prominent and quickly apparent, not hidden or tiny like afterthoughts. You want people to feel like you're active and modern. So why hide them at the bottom like legal fine print? Sure, they look nice and organized there, but they're not logos -- they're packed with more, current content about you.
Tell me in clear language where my money goes. No BS, no hemming and hawing, no suddenly sounding like auditors, no long preambles. But here's the thing: if you've answered the "Who are you" questions above, then you've shown me that you have value and credibility, and that you're genuine people with a great story. You're trustworthy and decent. And that's who the money's going to these days.
Who you are is incredibly hard to figure out for anyone, let alone organizations. But it's never been more important for organizations who want a successful online life to figure out, and then make prominent and memorable. People are affiliating themselves online with others who share their values and are saying and doing things that are relevant and compelling. It could be a person, an artist, or a nonprofit. But one thing's for sure: you've got to say it well, say it clear, and say it right away.
The 7 habits of highly effective creative
If rules are meant to be broken, then rules for doing creative are not just meant to be broken, but then taken out to a large field and blown up. Every day, new approaches, media and technologies are revising the possibilities of how we can communicate to each other in creative ways.
What follows, then, aren’t so much rules for effective creative as characteristics of it. I call them the 7 habits of highly effective creative. They’re a checklist of best practices that can help both the creation and evaluation of effective work.
1. Tell a truth. Most effective creative is built on an insight about human nature, a surprising fact about our world, a truism that gets heads nodding or opens someone’s eyes. At my former agency, we introduced a program supporting children in sports by reminding people how exciting it was to get your first uniform. We also got national attention by telling Canadians that a strategy for combating cancer had been sitting on a shelf in Ottawa for years while people were unnecessarily dying.
2. Trust your gut. People evaluating creative will often second-guess a sudden, positive visceral response, because they think they need to be level-headed and evaluate it more “strategically.” They do, but if doesn’t move you it doesn’t matter. And if it moves you, it’ll move others. Unfortunately, when it comes to creative, we tend to trust our negative instincts more than our positive ones. (Sigh.)
3. Right vs. Good. In the golden age of Hollywood, an expression was invariably heard whenever a film was well-made but didn’t register on an intellectual or emotional level: “They filmed the script.” “They filmed the brief” describes creative work that, while possessing all the required content and even a touch of persuasiveness, lacks an intriguing insight or unusual creative touch that makes it good.
4. Take the subway. This title comes from an insight I had one day while taking the subway in Toronto, and realizing that I was probably the only passenger in my car who was born in Canada. If you’re trying to communicate to a wide group of Canadians, are your ideas dependent on cultural references, turns of phrase or other “inside” notions that a lot of people simply won’t understand?
5. Donʼt wimp out. Nobody wakes up in the morning looking for your ad, says ad legend Geoff Roche. You’ve got to stop people in their tracks with boldness, something surprising, a human truth. It’s not about being provocative: it’s about not being ignored. This applies far beyond advertising, from how you write a letter to how you make a presentation.
6. One sentence. This is a test that I apply to all creative ideas: if you can’t describe the idea in one simple sentence, it isn’t a simple idea, so it probably isn’t a very good one. Even the best complex pieces of communication, such as speeches or presentations, are rooted in one central idea.
7. Tell me something I donʼt know. This is one of the best ways for your communications to make friends quickly: give audiences something that makes them go, “Really?” That’s usually followed by, “Tell me more.” A surprising piece of information, such as a little-known fact or product attribute, establishes you as an expert, as well as someone with a real concern about the subject.