May 5, 2005

News & Opinion: Getting real (or how to fake it)

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 7:56 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The 800-CEO-READ webmaster, Todd Sattersten, suggested I post a topic on authenticity. When he asked, I couldnt help but think of that famous line about rock n roll: Authenticity is everything. Fake that and youve got it made. (I cant remember where I heard it. If you know, please share your insight in a comment.)
Frankly, authenticity is over my head. If youre not authentically authentic, I honestly dont know how to help you. But I can help you sound more authentic in your writing:
Cut the BS
Cmon, you know what I mean. Cut out all that proactive solutionizing for bleeding-edge ROI kind of stuff. If you believe that inflated corporate rhetoric means anything to your prospects, youre only fooling yourself. If years of cubicle culture have jammed your BS detector, heres some help.
Include the shadows
Learn from the Old Masters of oil painting: The secret to creating the illusion of light is to paint the shadows -- contrast makes the bright colors, brighter.
Thats why you should be open about bad news. Tell it like it is -- dont plaster the truth with yellow smiley faces. By including the negative in your communications (disappointing returns, frustrating failures, declining sales) you acknowledge whats in your audiences minds anyway. Better yet, you build credibility. When you turn the discussion toward the positive things you and your company are doing (painting the light), your audience will now be more likely to believe you.
Share anecdotes
Once upon a time I was a ranger on Georges Island in Boston Harbor where I was obliged to give tours of historic Fort Warren. On my first tours, I practically numbed my guests with historic facts and impressive figures; 45 minutes later, they were as exhausted as I was.
Then I lightened up and told stories: The origin of John Browns Body; the Lady in Black ghost story; the disappearing gun whose blast shattered windows 20 miles away. We all had a better time -- and they became much more interested in the facts I did share.
Sure, numbers and statistics are an important way to prove a point. But before you can prove your case, you have to make your audience care. Build a virtual campfire by telling a story that puts your message into a more personal, more engaging context.
One simple, real life story is worth thousands of bare facts. A good anecdote makes an emotional connection between you and your readers. Its more memorable than cold numbers, and it makes your audience more receptive to the supporting facts that will follow.
Thank you!
Thank you for visiting, reading and/or contributing to the blog today! I also want to thank the good folk at 800-CEO-READ, Todd Sattersten and Jack Covert, for inviting me here. If youd like to continue the discussion, or ask other questions, please feel free to visit me online.