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Cut the Bull: Writing that Turns Heads, Changes Minds and Gets Decisions
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Cut the Bull: Writing that Turns Heads, Changes Minds and Gets Decisions

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Perhaps nothing makes a faster and more profound impact on clients, prospective clients, the media, employees and other audiences than that of the written word. In fact, research shows that nearly 90% …

Perhaps nothing makes a faster and more profound impact on clients, prospective clients, the media, employees and other audiences than that of the written word. In fact, research shows that nearly 90% of what you create is not seen as different or relevant enough to create much impact. Many A/E/C firms have technical teams weigh in on proposals, presentations and marketing materials. Even marketers find their strengths lie more in strategy and planning, rather than articulating expertise in an engaging, compelling and lasting manner. While accuracy is important, firms often lose out in the early stages of proposals because they don’t understand how to craft messages or get dropped later during consideration.

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  • 1. Hosted by: Cut the Bull: Writing that Turns Heads, Changes Minds and Gets Decisions Carla Johnson Principal Type A Communications @CarlaJohnson
  • 2. 90% OF MARKETING CONTENT ISN’T SEEN AS DIFFERENT OR RELEVANT ENOUGH TO CREATE MUCH IMPACT.
  • 3. We all sound the same
  • 4. Too Many Firms Sound Like This… COMPANY is one of the leading providers of transportation engineering services in the State of STATE. Since its inception in 1976, COMPANY’S signature has been its responsiveness to clients and its delivery of a superior product. Our commitment to excellence, combined with our responsiveness, has gained us an outstanding reputation in the transportation industry and more importantly, the trust and confidence of our clients. Today, we are one of the largest minority owned civil engineering firms in STATE and among the top in consulting engineering firms specializing in civil and transportation related projects. Our corporate headquarters are located in Miami with regional offices located in CITY 1, CITY 2, CITY 3, CITY 4, CITY 5, CITY 6.
  • 5. COMPANY is an 8(a), HUB Zone contractor specializing in General Contracting Services. Committed to quality and excellence, COMPANY has been in the SBA 8(a) program since 2008. COMPANY, as an emerging small business, has enjoyed a successful beginning and continue to grow based on quality, service, and knowledge. The Principal, NAME has over 15 years in the construction industry. COMPANY is equipped to meet our client’s demands. Office and field personnel work together organizing and facilitating all phases of our contracting services. And This…
  • 6. What We Do Differently… • Quality • Trust • Experience • People • Values • Attitude • NOTHING! I gotta be me! But just like everyone else…
  • 7. 5000MESSAGES A DAY
  • 8. The more I can fill the consumer’s emotional well with brand stories, the less I have to trade on it. -Jonathan Mildenhall Coca-Cola 2020 Project
  • 9. Research Tells Us - When surveyed, 70% of executives ranked commoditization or competitive differentiation as #1 threat to growth – outside the economy There are more capable competitors than ever before Clients are overwhelmed by the amount and complexity of information
  • 10. Research Tells Us - Your challenge – avoid commoditization and set yourself apart from the competition. Your message is your most strategic competitive asset when everything else appears to be the same.
  • 11. 65% OF SR. LEVEL BUSINESS DECISION MAKERS WANT TO WORK WITH SOMEONE WHO SETS THE VISION Source: Forrester Research
  • 12. 95%OF CONTENT IS DESIGNED AROUND WHY ME AND NOTHING ELSE. THEY’RE MISSING STORIES, MESSAGING AND WHY CHANGE.Source: Corporate Visions
  • 13. WHY?
  • 14. COMPANY is an 8(a), HUB Zone contractor specializing in General Contracting Services. Committed to quality and excellence, COMPANY has been in the SBA 8(a) program since 2008. COMPANY, as an emerging small business, has enjoyed a successful beginning and continue to grow based on quality, service, and knowledge. The Principal, NAME has over 15 years in the construction industry. COMPANY is equipped to meet our client’s demands. Office and field personnel work together organizing and facilitating all phases of our contracting services.
  • 15. Tell a story that matters in their world.
  • 16. Stories are Interesting
  • 17. Stories are Concise
  • 18. Stories are Shareable
  • 19. How to Create Your Story • Revisit your past • What are the biggest initiatives your firm has undertaken? • Compare successes and failures • Start asking “why” • What inspires people about your firm? • What’s the difference you’re trying to make? • If your firm went away tomorrow, what would be missed?
  • 20. Owners Execs Clients Partners Fans Employees
  • 21. US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District • Est 1934 • Focus on Missouri River Basin • Civil works, military projects, environmental • Innovative thinking to solve problems never before addressed • Believed in looking for better ways to do things
  • 22. US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Keeping People Safe at Home and Abroad.
  • 23. Why What How Start With WHY by Simon Sinek
  • 24. y Why Story Essence What What You Do What How How How You Do It How You Do It How How
  • 25. Essence of Your Story Is not • A mission statement • A vision statement • Tagline It should be – • Simple • Focused • Inspirational
  • 26. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
  • 27. Composite of characteristics of a group of people Understand their perspective, fears, drivers and content needs Types of content: o What drives them o What information matters to them…and when o How they access it, when and where PERSONAS
  • 28. Mike Kennedy, Hospital Administrator “I need a partner who understands how our immediate needs can fit into a longer-term strategy. We can’t afford to waste money on fixes and patches now that won’t have a long-term payoff.” Frustrations/Pressures/Concerns: BOD and revenue pressure, recruiting and retaining top medical staff, ensuring a future-forward healthcare environment for patients and families. Needs/Drivers: Strategic insights to thwart competition and attract and retain patients throughout their healthcare life cycle. What we want him to think: This firm can help set the vision for our healthcare system and show pitfalls to avoid. Content Needs: Vision for integrated services, phases planning and construction Content Types: • Research reports • Case Studies • Articles • Blogs • In-Person Peer Events
  • 29. Karen Olson, Chief of Staff “I need a firm who understands the demands of how a healthcare environment and our medical staff need to work to take care of patients. I want a facility that’s functional and beautiful. We can’t have great design at the sacrifice of quality patient care.” Frustrations/Pressures/Concerns: Efficient operations, patient safety, proximity of staff to patients and ability to respond during emergencies. Needs/Drivers: Highest quality patient care, high impact staff, a physical environment that facilitates patient recovery and staff energy. What we want her to think: This firm understands the collision clinical needs, physical structure and technology demands. I trust their recommendations. Content Needs: Trends, best practices Content Types: • Research Reports • Books • Articles • In-person Peer Events • Research Reports
  • 30. Glenn Anderson, Facilities Director “I constantly have to battle for budget just for maintenance. I can’t afford to have a firm come in and not know what they’re doing, because it will prove disastrous to my long-term capital budget. Whatever we spend money on has to work.” Frustrations/Pressures/Concerns: Budgets, constant facility upkeep, balance between long-term planning and short-term demands. Needs/Drivers: Ability to prove my value and having a voice in long- term facility planning. What we want him to think: This firm knows that whatever they design and build, I have to make it work daily. Content Needs: Hands-on facilities management and efficiency. Content Types: • Articles • Reference Books • Case Studies • How-to Videos (repairs)
  • 31. Tell a story THEY want to hear… …not what YOU want to say.
  • 32. WHAT’s your business objective? WHO are you talking to? (Personas) WHEN in their decision-making process? WHERE/HOW are they connecting with you? WHAT do they want to know? WHY do you matter to them? (Story) Cutting the Bull -
  • 33. Tell them Something They Didn’t Know, About a Problem They Didn’t Know They Had.
  • 34. US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District WHY Keeping people home safe at home and abroad WHAT Civil works, military, environmental HOW Military: - Missile silos - NORAD - Military housing - BRAC Act - Strategic Air - Overseas Infrastructure Command
  • 35. US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District To respond to the aggressive Schedule of the Base Realignment and Construction Act, the Omaha District revised its design/bid/construction process. The result was a MILCON transformation policy that enables crews to build facilities cheaper, faster and more green yet at the same level of quality as the past. The immediate impact was tremendous – construction costs fell by 15% and timelines moved 30% faster.
  • 36. Multiple Platforms
  • 37. Has a purpose for your audience Has a specific audience Tells the same story differently Supports all other platforms Helps move people through the decision- making process Each Platform -
  • 38. General Materials Why, touch on what and how RFQ Overview of why, heavy what, touch on how Proposals Lead with why, tell how that drives what and how Web Why (top pages), what and how Platforms
  • 39. Social Media Why, touch on what and how Newsletters Overview of why and what, focus on how. Special Projects/Reports Lead with why, tell how that drives what with heavy focus on how. Provide insights. Thought Leadership Heavily on why and where you see that driving your clients’ industries. Platforms
  • 40. • Use your story as a filter for content decisions. Does this help tell it? – Yes – continue – No – stop • Everything you write should follow the why, what, how structure • Weight of each depends on purpose of the piece • Your WHY opens new doors to tell your story Lean Writing Machine
  • 41. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
  • 42. Cut the Bull. Speak Human.
  • 43. Carla Johnson, Principal Type A Communications (720) 344-0987 carla@goTypeA.com www.goTypeA.com Type A Communications @carlajohnson Carla Johnson Carla Johnson