What makes compelling communication?
Compelling communication? Not really!
Late in the 60’s, the laconic Irish actor, Richard Harris, who played King Arthur in the film Camelot made a hit, McCarthur Park. He had to employ an army of sopranos to sing the closing chorus because there was no way he was going to meet the notes. Ever. The lyrics are crazy.
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll neeeeeeeever have that recipe again. Oh nooooooooo.
It is a beautiful, melodic, and completely nonsensical song described in Wikipedia thus: ‘Although it was a commercially successful song multiple times after it was released, MacArthur Park used flowery lyrics and metaphors (most famously, lost love being likened to a cake left out in the rain) that were considered by media such as the Los Angeles Times to be ‘polarizing’ and ‘loopy.’
The composer, Jimmy Webb, said about writing the song, ‘back then I was kind of like an emotional machine. Whatever was going on inside me would bubble out from the piano onto paper’.
Just bubbling out
It’s a fitting analogy for much that passes as ‘compelling’ communication in business content today. It just sort of bubbles out. Like the cake, it’s stodgy, and a mess.
I’m hearing a lot about quite large businesses dissatisfied with their content marketing. They believe they need great writers and excellent social media people to write and disseminate it as the solution.
The problem runs much deeper.
Typically, there is no articulated purpose and there are no identified principles from which to form a rock solid foundation for their key messages. Without that, it’s virtually impossible for an organisation to source and tell meaningful and contextualised stories, so they miss out on the most powerful tool in their communication arsenal.
Why do purpose and principles matter in compelling communication?
A lived purpose breathes coherence into the culture of an organisation and sets the direction.
Principles are the marshals, ensuring there is no deviation, no hapless wandering, no lost way.
Principles are the operating framework and all the key positioning statements originate from them.
When an organisation has this solid foundation, then they are easily able to unearth contextual stories to support their key messages.
Contextual because when an organisation does the work to articulate their purpose and identify their principles, they know why they’re telling the stories, to whom, for what intention, and because the stories demonstrate their value as a service.
Because every pain point of each stakeholder is identified in the lack of these principles.
Which means you can write, talk, and tell stories with authenticity and empathy about the problems they have, and the mistakes they’re likely making.
As an example, a principle in everything I do in coaching and communication training is clarity — of purpose, principles, people, product and positioning.
MPD & MOS
Without clarity many suffer from Multiple Possibility Disorder (MPD). I can write, talk and tell endless stories about this condition and why when they are travelling in concentric circles, it impacts on their ability to move forward.
Suffering from MPD or MOS (Multiple Offer Syndrome) is debilitating. It is an affliction that creates turmoil and unrest. The cure is clarity.
The opposite of sweet green icing flowing down, bubbling-out communication.
Although, many will continue to communicate from this randomness, because clarity is confronting and hard.
With purpose and principles in place, every action and every communication builds toward achieving the purpose, from product development to partnering, speaking to telling contextualised stories.
This is a compelling communication eco-system and it results in far richer opportunity, well aligned to your business and its purpose. And far fewer soggy cakes.
* With thanks to Richard Harris and Jimmy Webb, for years of girlhood spent mooning over these lyrics to make them fit to with whatever teenage angst I was experiencing at the time. And apologies to my readers for continuing to contrive a meaning from them here. It just bubbled out!
If you want to work with me to develop compelling communication, let’s talk.