Snap. Crackle. Pop.
Silicon Valley and other mass communicators are enamored when it comes to threes.
CNBC’s investment guru Jim Cramer talks about the three moving forces in technology: Social, Mobile and Cloud.
Threes are easy to remember, fours or fives, not so much.
At LSI Logic, we were fond of talking about our three C’s: Communications, Computer and Consumer.
These were our three strategic markets. The three C’s were easy for customers, employees and owners (e.g., investors) or the acronym, C.E.O., (another three) to remember.
In this spirit, let’s talk about the Almost DailyBrett Communication Big Three.
These are an absolutely essential trio of communications skills, most in demand in the marketplace, and which need to be taught by our colleges and universities.
Drum roll: Persuasive Writing; Financial Communications; and Social Media.
Think of it this way: The first two are analog in nature and the latter is digital.
Compelling Writing Skills
Writing goes back to the first publicity campaign on behalf of the all-powerful Pharaoh, the Rosetta Stone. He was awesome, and if you need proof just check out the hieroglyphics on the smoothed surface.
Johannes Gutenberg speeded up the process with his Mainz, Germany printing press in the 14th Century, and now the acceleration is at warp speed with wireless communication devices.
Despite the unprecedented ability to communicate in nanoseconds to virtually any spot on the globe at any time, the old-fashioned skills of developing compelling, credible and accurate copy under deadline pressure has never been greater. For some, writing is a natural gift that comes easy. For others, it is a laborious process that can be perfected with practice.
Starting this fall, your Almost DailyBrett author is teaching Introduction to Public Relations Writing at Central Washington University. My 20 students are going to be asked to produce the following:
- Curriculum Vitae or resume, emphasizing the student’s professional and academic accomplishments with quantifiable measurements
- Twitter-style cover letter applying for an entry-level public relations position and emphasizing the student’s personal ROI or Return on Investment
- Complete LinkedIn profile including the same elements of the resume, plus a professional mug shot, three references and at least 30 connections
- News advisory targeting legacy and/or digital native media informing and/or inviting them to attend and cover an upcoming event
- News release providing information about a breaking news story, employing the inverted pyramid and using the five W’s – What, When, Where, Who, Why – and the one H – How
- Pitch to a selected reporter, editor, correspondent, blogger or news aggregator about a newsworthy story and offering assistance
- Copy for a 30-second radio or television PSA or Public Service Announcement on behalf of a non-profit agency
- Chief executive officer strategy letter to investors, analysts and employees outlining your selected company’s business strategy and future prospects
- CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility letter to company employees about efforts your chosen corporation is making to safeguard employees, protect the environment and serve the communities in which the company does business
- Crisis communications news release – written under deadline pressure – announcing steps a company has taken to address the crisis and pointing to the future
- Four personal blog posts, emphasizing public relations skills and commenting on breaking news events
- Two-page executive memo with bullets and subheads introducing a subject, examining the factors, and recommending a course of action
The philosophy behind these assignments is the only way to really become effective at persuasive writing is to Just Do It!
Many right-brain types, the very people who opt for Journalism school, avoid figures at all costs. And yet, the numbers will find them.
We now live in a world of “big data,” particularly those companies that are publicly traded. Chairman Mao is probably rolling over in his grave as PRC-based Alibaba takes its predominate Mainland China digital retail play public this Friday with shares expected to be initially priced between $66 and $68.
Right-brain students need to figure out how to make peace with numbers. UNC Professor Chris Roush (Show Me The Money) states ex-cathedra: “Behind every number is a story.”
Hmmm … that means there are stories to be told about these numbers. In addition, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) requires these stories to be told to all investors, if they are “material.” Translated: If a company has “material” information that would prompt an investor to buy, sell or hold company stock, then the company is mandated to disclose under Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure).
What this means is that each and every of the more than 5,000 publicly traded companies (NYSE or NASDAQ) in this country must issue news releases. The writers are not expected to produce the figures (there are oodles of accountants, auditors, controllers …), but they instead must tell the story behind these numbers.
That means that college and university communications graduates should know the difference between the income statement top line (revenues), the bottom line (net income or net loss) and everything in between (e.g., COGS, Gross Margin, SG&A, R&D, Operating Income, Taxes, Amortized Expenses …).
Sure wish someone had been kind enough to teach me these skills, including how to read a balance sheet, back in college.
The world has already shifted from Web 1.0 (accessing websites) to Web 2.0 (wired and wireless devices talking to each other) and soon Web 3.0 (semantic web).
The Economist reported this week that nearly one-quarter ($120 billion) of the world’s $500 billion advertising business is coming from digital ads, increasingly being delivered to mobile devices. Yes there is no doubt that digital media is being monetized through search engine optimization (SEO) and other techniques, and that Genie is not going back in the bottle.
Facebook (friends), Twitter (140-character tweets), LinkedIn (connections), YouTube (videos), Flickr (photos), Pinterest (online scrapbooks), WordPress (Almost DailyBrett) all enjoy first-mover advantages in their respective social media spaces. There are challengers now and more competitors to come. The bottom line is that digital publishing through binary code is here to stay.
Companies and international public relations agencies are expecting that digital natives instinctively understand social media. This all circles back to the ability to write clear, concise, credible and compelling copy for an audience that is increasingly overwhelmed by information.
And much of this data comes in the way of numbers, the ones with a story behind them. And increasingly, these stories no longer involve a gate-keeper but are transmitted though “owned” media (e.g., websites, blogs, social media sites).
Stating that compelling writing, financial communications and social media are the Big Three of Communications may entice the crisis communications, marketing, branding, reputation management, employee communications, public affairs and other dedicated professionals to take umbrage.
Fret not. Almost DailyBrett loves you too, and says to each of you that you need (or soon will need) graduates who can tell the story, and tell it well, through effective writing, numerical literacy and of course, proficiency with digital tools.