Public relations agencies, marketing communications firms, and ghostwriting consultants are caught between 2 cultures. And, if they can't figure out how to serve each differently, they will fail to deliver results for clients.
At one time, the world of business communications was a monolith. The language of business was indirect. The tone was formal. There was an excess of documentation for presenting a point of view.
That was then.
Currently, there are 2 major schools of rhetoric.
There is the 1, heavily influenced by social media, for consumer products companies.
The language is very direct - that of youth. The tone is highly conversational. Backing for a point can be anything, such as feelings. And it is generally brief. For long form, such as the 1,500-word article which Google gives high rankings to, the stylistics mirror those of Vice and Buzzfeed. That's what most constituencies, including investors, expect.
The other is the model for professional services organizations, ranging from management consulting to law. The tone is user-friendly but professional. "Evidence" is presented with sources, including in white papers, with footnotes or end notes. There is no erring in being too brief. Long form is made more readable through benefit-oriented subheads, visuals such as charts, and use of second person, that is, the "you." But, the stylistics are not cool. Constituencies don't welcome that.
Of course, there are the supremely confident who attempt to create hybrids. Yes, some models have succeeded. The most iconic is the annual report produced by Warren Buffett.
But, in general, the fusion strategy falls apart in implementation.
Recently, for a client in the recruitment industry, the middleman directed me to adopt a humorous, sarcastic tone. I indicated my reservations. Maybe because his background was journalism, not public relations, he just smirked. No surprise, the client tossed the draft.
This matter of the 2 cultures seeps down to the micro level of the law student applying for a position in BigLaw. From the get-go, that job applicant should research the standard templates for cover letters, resumes, and interview give-and-take. It could be career suicide for that mid-20-something to present loosey goosey stylistics.
Business blogging tends to straddle the worlds of social media and buttoned-down corporate mindsets. During the past several months, my experience has been to be more traditional in everything. Results have improved significantly in both:
- Developing new business for my ghostwriting/scriptwriting boutique
- Attracting new prospects for my fee-for-service influencer niche.
Takeaway: Be discerning in strategy and content to get, hold, and grow attention.
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