Without blinking I explained that he wasn’t bonding with the audience. They were graduating school and looking forward to summer. Talk about something they would be interested in. Talk about when you graduated from school.
It seemed so simple to me and yet, only when I put the information on paper and sent it to him, did he realize that yes indeed, these were speeches that would work. And when he called me to reveal, happily that his presentations were taking twice as long because the kids were laughing so much, I smiled. But I admit, I was puzzled. I mean to me it was common sense – know your audience. That’s the philosophy on what communications has been built.
It never ceases to astound me how the audience is always forgotten. I work with many public organizations and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in committee meetings where hours will be spent on crafting creative key messages that sound oh so wonderful and make all senior leaders very happy. But I sit silently as they are approved and I know that none of these crafty, PR spin messages will ever be picked up.
The reason is so simple. They’re written for the senior leaders at the organization, when they should be written for media. Because media are clever – they write for their audience or the papers just won’t sell.
Now a really good editor or producer doesn’t need a well written press release to get a story. Most of them can read between the lines of PR spin and find the story. But really, in an ideal world, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the message you wrote, was actually used by the reporter?
Ok, so many of you are saying this would never happen. I can assure you that yes, it has. On the rare occasion that one of the senior leaders look into the eyes of this youthful appearing consultant, and say ok, we’ll take your advice, the message appears, as written, to their amazement.
It’s rare of course. Reporters want to write their own stuff, and they should. But when I train my clients in the art of media relations, I always tell them to remember one thing – the reporter will write a quote that the audience will relate to. And PR spin that makes your organization look good, will never make it. Be simple and be clear. It works.
Don’t be afraid to let go of the academic jargon and ignore your dictionary for a bit. Simple, clear language that’s straight to the point and light-hearted really works.