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November 29, 2010


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Well, that first excerpt, though stern, looked pretty reasonable to me. When do we get to the exciting stuff?

Footnote: In a previous job I helped produce material about progress against goals. It was exactly the stuff Bill is calling for above. Most readers thought it was boring, and it WAS boring.

There's a dual challenge here: first to get management to let you write about the strategic stuff, and second to make it interesting.

Well, now we should begin a conversation about why on earth articles about the strategy of an organization be naturally "boring" to readers whose livelihoods depend on the success of that strategy.

Strategy stuff is boring because of the abstract language we couch it in and, because we don't write about it in enough detail.

Tune in to tomorrow's discussion of what REAL strategy talk should look like.

Bill Sweetland's previous rants have been so vitriolic and mean-spirited that I have a hard time getting past that to read anything he has to say, valuable as it might be. Maybe he himself still has a lot to learn about effective communication.

Robert, try.

Robert is of course entitled to his opinion, but for myself, I can't find a single thing to disagree with in the above critique of the publication in question, and I see nothing in this evaluation that could be described as either vitriolic, or mean-spirited. What I see here is a well-conducted review of a publication being submitted for consideration for an award in a company which advocates "strategic business communications" and so the review Bill's offered is, in my opinion fair.

While I can see how some might see Bill's critiques as mean, having spent my entire 15-year career working in a variety [almost 10 at this point] of corporate organizations, which spanned different industries, business structures, and employee demographics,I am here to tell you almost ALL the critiques I've read from Bill, and the issues he identifies in the communications he reviews are completely valid. There are a LOT of stupid, ineffectual communications being served up in a LOT of companies throughout the U.S. and Canada too!

What's more, Bill has probably, in the job he has, been forced to read more bad communications than anyone else on the planet, so if he's a bit perturbed by yet another C.R.A.P. award deserving piece of junk, I say he's entitled.

Here's the thing - if you choose to work for a company who either won't let you do effective communications, or you don't want to do the work that would make them better, that is absolutely your choice. But if you make that choice and then you CHOOSE [because almost everything Ragan looks at was submitted BY THE ORGANIZATION itself] to send your comms to Ragan, then, hey, you deserve what you get.

I don't believe that a company should expect or deserve a pat on the head for doing crappy communications.

I've also seen Bill give a glowing review to really good stuff, so if you let Bill look at your communications, just make sure they do what they're supposed to do, and there's no issue.

Looking back on my education and my career, the feedback that was most valuable to me was from the teachers and mentors who gave it to me straight on with no holds barred about what was good and what wasn't. The feedback may have stung a little, but it sure lit a fire under my ass to make it not just better, but great. So I say: Keep it coming Bill! Our industry needs honesty like yours if we're to get to the strategic place we need to be.

Kristen, well said. I once wrote a critique of a hospital publication: From the headlines to the paper stock it was printed on, the worst publication in the history bad publications.

I spent three days and much blood trying to make my critique softer and more palatable.

When I finally e-mailed it to the client, the communication director dressed me down, remarking that she didn't want something so critical "in the e-mail system."

I have a mind to create a communication critique service that says right up front: "THESE CRITIQUES ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU MUCH BETTER. If that's not what you want to become, go elsewhere."

Do you think I'd have any customers?

Not enough to live on, no. The corporate environment, granted with some notable exceptions, seems to built on a foundation of obfuscation, massaged messages and artificially gentrified language that fools nobody . . . except perhaps those who insist on it, whatever rung of the hierarchy they may be perched upon.

This "emperor's new clothes" approach is why those notable exceptions - SouthWest et al - are SO beloved and so frequently held up to the world as paragons of virtue.

I'm not opposed to either giving or receiving honest critique. My point is that in the past, Bill has gone overboard in his delivery, which I suspect is at least partly an effort to "grab ratings," as we might say if he were in the TV or radio business.

Meh. Still not a fan.

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