We All Listen to Only One Radio Station

You should begin with the thing your readers should take away from your post, and why it matters to them.

Technology Transformation Services (TTS Handbook), U.S. General Services Administration, Home of 18F

Exactly right. And exactly what most people don’t do when writing website copy, or really anything for public consumption, based on what I see coming from many organizations.

The quote is from this Blogging Guide, part of the TTS Handbook from a wing of the U.S. Government, and I invite you to take a look. The modification of the user story format to create a similar tool for evaluating blog posts is, well, *chef’s kiss.*

What we publish really shouldn’t be about us, most of the time. It should be about our audience, our readers, and the problems they’re facing. When we talk about the stuff we’re doing, or the solutions we offer (and, uh, do we even think of ourselves as an organization that delivers solutions to people facing problems?) — When we talk about the stuff we’re doing on our websites or our blogs or our brochures… is our first sentence about them – our reader? And what they’ll be able to do better in their world, right after spending precious time reading our stuff?

There’s an old joke I’ll sometimes tell, which harkens back to my early days in radio. The truth of the matter is — everyone only listens to one radio station: W-I-I-F-M. And like the old station call letters of yesteryear – those call letters stand for something, just like “WLS” Chicago stood for “World’s Largest Store” and “WPTF” meant “We Protect the Family.” Here, the call letters of the only radio station everyone listens to — W-I-I-F-M, stand for “What’s In It For Me.”

It’s a joke, and I don’t mean to suggest you’re selfish or that everyone is, in all things. But, there be truth in this joke, and if you write for an organization or for yourself, it’s truth to heed.

Recommendations (you might like this)

Being More Intentional About Asking – Why?

With everything going on these days (and, despite what in particular is going on right now (psst… COVID19, of course)  – aren’t most days packed full with one darn something or the other?)

SO, In that vein, I’ve pulled out my old copy of Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why,’ and have started to re-read it.

Can’t think of a better time. For me, I’ve been noodling the idea that it’s a pretty good time to clarify one’s first principles, and not always run on autopilot all the time… like, probably, most of us do.

Anyhoo – if you haven’t heard of this book before — here’s a link to Amazon.


They Always Hate the Logo

Noted in passing a few weeks back that Red Hat is engaged in an admirable act of corporate bravery.

The software company, based in downtown Raleigh, is in the midst of an “open brand project” and in October is due to roll out an all-new logo. The color red, and a hat, are likely to figure in it somehow presuming in-house designers follow the advice they’re getting from customers and employees. — Ray Gronburg, writing in the News & Observer

Perhaps on the line, according to the News & Observer, is the fate of ‘Shadowman,’ the company’s iconic fedora-wearing fashion plate, seen now for some time surveying the Raleigh skyline from his perch atop RH HQ.

Outside looking in, ya gotta admire how the company is tackling the task, taking the time to engage its community and obviously spending a lot of time on the project.

They should.  Brands are valuable, and when managed well bring a lot of value to a company or organization.   And while a logo isn’t the brand (say it again, preacher!) – truth of the matter is, logos can be the place where the brand battle is either won or lost.

Make no mistake — whatever they do, some people are gonna hate it.  Maybe a lot of people.

That’s just the price of admission for playing brand steward.  The more interesting question will be — what will they do then.

Red Hat knows open source, and from what I hear that world can get kinda turbulent.  So – it’s popcorn time.  I’ll be watching.


Just Words or Something More?

“I think values are really, really important, but I also think that too many values are just words.” — Lou Gerstner, former CEO for IBM

Gerstner’s thoughts in McKinsey Quarterly stuck a nerve when I stumbled onto them the other day. We all operate from our values, but articulating them – getting them out on paper to share and really think about them – seems like a helpful exercise… a good lens to focus behavior.

But it’s hard to discount what Lou says next.

“I think values are really, really important, but I also think that too many values are just words. When I teach at the IBM School, I use the annual reports of about ten major companies that invariably announce, on the back page or inside back page, “These are our values.” What’s striking to me is that almost all the values are the same. “We focus on our customers; we value teamwork; we respect the dignity of our workforce.”

But when you go inside those companies, you often see that the words don’t translate into practices. When I arrived at IBM, one of my first questions was, “Do we have teamwork?,” because the new strategy crucially depended on our ability to provide an integrated approach to our customers. “Oh, yes, Lou, we have teamwork,” I was told. “Look at those banners up there. Mr. Watson put them up in 1938; they’re still there. Teamwork!” “Oh, good,” I responded. “How do we pay people?” “Oh, we pay on individual performance.” The rewards system is a powerful driver of behavior and therefore culture. Teamwork is hard to cultivate in a world where employees are paid solely on their individual performance.