S01E04 – Writing Without BS

Talking About Marketing Podcast by Steve Davis and David Olney

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter

In this episode of Talking About Marketing, we discuss how to be clearer and more engaging in our communication; in short, writing without BS.

It's funny how fluffery creeps into business writing, whether that's internal messages, emails to clients, or advertising. 

Instead of being one human talking to another, some switch flicks inside us when we try to write in business settings and suddlenly we lean in to leverage the low hanging fruit as we pivot to think outside the box so we can be disruptive!

For our first segment, however, Steve taps into the story of industrial designer, Alfred Boyages, who champions what it means to run a business with a vision.

In the mailbag segment, Steve shares a question about what to do when you get emails saying someone's changes your account details.

And for a dose of perspicacity (the sharpening of our minds), David asks us whether or not Volvo's famous Crash Test Dummies campaigns would still have the same impact today?

We hope you find this helpful.

Episode show notes with timecodes

02:07  Person  This segment focusses on you, the person, because we believe business is personal.

How to stay true to a mission

In the Small Business Big Marketing podcast some weeks ago, industrial designer, Alfred Boyages shared a story about how a motorcycle accident he had turned out to be "seriously lucky".

As it turns out, with time to think in hospital, he came up with the idea of a motorcycle helmut that was smart; it would alert riders to road hazards just like the oil slick that caused his mishap, which he saw too late.

Forecite Helmuts was born and it has a cult-like following, and very healthy revenues to boot.

But Alfred doesn't think of it as a cash machine, he has a bigger mission; to make motorcycling safer.

How "top of mind" is your mission? 

In this segment, we reference this blog post Steve wrote, reflecting on Victor Frankl's "Man's Search For Meaning": A Marketer's Search For Meaning: Time To Decide What's Important.

09:53  Principles  This segment focusses principles you can apply in your business today.

Writing Without BS

Josh Bernoff has a lovely book in the business section, Writing Without Bullsh#t, and in this segment, David teases out some of the insights without the expletives.

Josh's message in Writing Without BS, is to get us all to transcend BS, write short, replace jargon, and treat your reader's time as more important than your own.

This is why Steve starts the segment with his favourite quote from French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal:

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

David discusses our reality of trying to communicate in a noisy environment, and where average news stories are lucky to get 36 seconds of our attention.

Our lesson: Unless we can change how we write, our emails, reports, and websites don’t stand a chance.

20:43  Problems  This segment answers questions we've received from clients or listeners.

Someone has updated your login details

Steve shared an email from Simon, a client based in Perth, who got this message from his website host:

Hi Simon, This is a courtesy email to advise that someone (quite possibly yourself) has updated your account details. If this was not you, we suggest that you log in to your Account immediately and update your account information and password to prevent any unauthorized access.

The good news is that these alerts are helpful. If it was you, all is good. If it wasn't, then you can spring into action.

The bad news is that this email has the link to logging into your account as a hyperlink. This is not good practice. We should NEVER trust links in such emails.

Our lesson: If we were not the ones who'd made the change, go to the company's website directly or via Google, and log in from there. Too many crooks are too good at making duplicate sites on very similar web addresses, to ever allow us to trust links in unexpected emails.

24:28  Perspicacity  This segment is designed to sharpen our thinking by reflecting on a case stude from the past.

A day in the life of a Volvo crash test dummy

In 2003, Volvo made a movie featuring its head crash test dummy. Clive Alive was designed to build on Volvo's heritage of car safety.

In this segment, David and Steve discuss whether such a campaign would still be a "safe" one in 2022.

Would it work today?

You'll have to listen to the episode to get our verdict.

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