I don’t want to overstate things, but were it not for my wife, Linda, I would have died years ago. Why? Because that woman eats healthy food. And, since we live in the same house, my “bad” food opportunities are severely limited.
Red meat? You won’t find any in our refrigerator.
Soda? Only the kind that goes in a gin and tonic.
Sugary cereals? White bread? Slim Jims?
No, no and you must be joking.
But it’s not just that we avoid the bad stuff. We also eat a lot of the good stuff. Towards that end, we have recently purchased a NutriBullet.
Despite what you might assume, a NutriBullet is not some kind of benign crowd control device. Rather, it’s a super-duper blender, one that is capable of grinding pretty much any food substance – nuts, seeds, frozen fruit, etc. – into a nutritious and tasty glop. My favorite combination consists of frozen strawberries, frozen bananas, almonds, spinach, chia seeds, protein powder, honey and water.
Last week, though, I had an idea.
While assembling my morning glop, I noticed a bag of coffee beans sitting on the counter. I thought, “Hmmm… maybe a bit of coffee flavor would be an interesting addition.” So I grabbed a small handful of beans – about half of what I would normally use to brew a cup of coffee – and tossed them in.
The result? A slushy concoction of undrinkable bitterness. And while this may be an all too accurate description of your relationship with your in-laws, it is in no way something you want to drink.
I quickly realized what the problem was…
When you make a cup of coffee, you are pouring the water through the beans. When you throw the beans into a NutriBullet, you are eating the beans themselves. Same coffee beans. But by using them in different ways, I ended up with different results.
Content is Contextual
As with coffee beans, there are no absolute rules for delivering effective content (except for maybe that one).
The effectiveness of your approach – defined, in this case, as your ability to attract and win over the kind of clients you’d like to work with – is going to vary, depending on a number of things:
The audience. Whenever I write something for a client, whether that’s a website, a newsletter, a business summary statement, or whatever, one of my first questions is, “Who is this for?”
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all content – at least not content that is any good.
The degree of formality, the acronyms assumed or explained, the level of detail, even the length of your delivery, will vary, based on who you are talking to.
(Note: If you are talking to high school English teachers, you probably should have used “whom” in the previous sentence.)
The venue. Where you are speaking/interacting will influence how best to communicate.
Is this a PowerPoint crowd? Do people expect to participate? Will you be standing on a stage with a microphone in front of hundreds of people or sitting at a conference table with just a handful?
Even the way you dress – too formal or too informal – can cause you to lose the audience before you ever say a word.
Here as well, anytime I am invited to speak, I make sure to quiz the program director on the specifics of the location and attendees.
The tools. I don’t pay much attention to which communication tools are in vogue.
Instead, I care about two things: Which tools does my intended audience use and which tools am I reasonably proficient at?
I like writing and my target audience is addicted to email. So newsletters are a good fit for me. But maybe you are a great interviewer, so podcasts might be better for you. Or, maybe you are trying to reach 20-year-olds, in which case a lively Instagram presence is a near requirement.
Whatever the fit for your strengths and your audience, the point is, you want a fit for your strengths and your audience (my audience, apparently, likes redundancy).
Bottom line. When it comes to content, there’s a lot written about “the best.” Best way to write, best tools to use, best length of articles, etc.
It’s generally true, but it ignores the fact that what works in one context can be a complete miss in another. Situation-appropriate content will always yield better results.
Give my regards to your in-laws.
Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service providers talk about their work in a way that is clear and compelling. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here.
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