Mark Glaser wrote a very good blog entry today talking about the phenomenon of public relations approved quotes that lose their impact (or worse, their meaning) when parroted in different contexts. If your company spokespeople merely trot out an overused buzz phrase every time they speak in public, it won't take long for potential listeners to stop listening.
One of Mark's readers comments that the strategy does seem to be effective in politics and government. How many times have you heard the phrases "We must remain resolute" and "Stay the course" in the last few years?
Of course these kinds of stock phrases, especially when presented as meaningless sound bites (see above), have a real purpose. They serve as an emotional latchkey to be used as an alternative to thoughtful discourse and an examination of substantive underlying issues. They present your face to the world in a consistent manner and end up acting much like a brand tag line ("Just Do It"). I've been involved in marketing and advertising for many years. These things have their uses and I'm not going to be the one to tell you to stop.
But let's view them in the context of another presentation channel... The webcast/podcast/webinar. The SECOND you utter one of your favorite chestnuts in an informational presentation you lose a good portion of your audience (typically, the most intelligent and discerning ones, who really wanted to learn something from you).
KnowledgeStorm put out a press release yesterday summarizing results of a survey completed by more than 3,900 business and IT professionals. These people turn out to be listening to a lot of podcasts and webcasts. And they want more. Consider the following quote lifted from the press release:
The study also revealed that B2B technology buyers want research content, such as white papers and analyst reports, delivered as podcasts. Nearly 60% of respondents said that information on business or technology topics, currently delivered as white papers or analyst reports, would be more interesting as podcasts. Fifty-five percent of respondents would be more likely to consume white papers and analyst reports if they were delivered as podcasts.
That's a significant market waiting to be served, and most companies are ill prepared to produce and present the right content in the right way. The marketing departments that are used to constructing nicely vetted, corporate approved sound bites and presentations don't have the technical knowledge or background to create a presentation format version of a technical white paper. The engineering specialists with the knowledge are typically not trained in the art of spin and dynamic presentation necessary to make their content both engaging and consistent with approved corporate/product messaging. (They also tend to have neither the time nor inclination to dedicate a lot of work to polishing such a creation.)
This kind of situation has come up many times in my professional career in high tech marketing, product management, and webinar support. I learned some time ago that my enjoyment of such things is not universally shared. Maybe it's because I'm a natural ham with acting and tour guiding experience who also happens to have an engineering degree and computer development background. Try to find such a person in your organization. She or he will turn out to be a marvelous outbound communications resource for you.
A few of my clients have asked me to create customer/prospect oriented materials for them based on technical subjects. I don't usually advertise such turnkey projects as Webinar Success service offerings, but in case you are wondering how you should go about it, here are my guidelines.
First, brush up on the technical subject area. Some dedicated time with a major search engine and a list of buzz words for the industry will do wonders. Read competitors' marketing documents and white papers. Look at popular user dictionary entries in locations such as Wikipedia. Take special note of any phrases you don't immediately understand as an outsider. Every one of these has to get a definition or be eliminated in your presentation. Your technical client will tell you that "everybody knows what you are talking about when you say..." -- This is often followed by an acronym that is used for about four different and conflicting subjects. They are wrong. Somewhere in their audience is a decision influencer who needs help on the basics.
Next, look through your company's documents, marketing collateral, and officially produced white papers. Note the key boilerplate phrases that are repeated in everything you churn out. Figure out a way to paraphrase it, explain it, or highlight the importance of it. Learn the key phrase and vow never, ever, to say it in your presentation. This information is occasionally important. If constructed properly, it summarizes the company's business and differentiators (a nice goal and not usually achieved). If you are lucky enough to have this, make sure to incorporate it somewhere in your presentation. In different, conversational terms that don't sound like a marketing brochure.
Start planning your presentation. I won't go into everything needed to create a good presentation, but remember this... writing a script for this medium requires you to say it out loud as you are preparing and refining it. Things that read properly on paper don't sound right when spoken aloud.
Now practice the hell out of your script until you are using the paper as more of a memory jog than a teleprompter. Anybody can spot a person truly reading a document. Know the material as a monologue and remind yourself of the words by looking down at them. This is the difference between recitation with a script and reading a document out loud. Do the former, not the latter.
Finally, you are ready to do the recording or live webcast itself. All the usual niceties come into play about proper technology, equipment, setting, and style.
If you want some help, drop me a line. And if you want me to create a complete turnkey webcast/podcast for you based on interviews, existing presentations, and best marketing practices, don't be afraid to ask.