clear the assumptions

Am I Right to Assume …

We are living in the day of information abundance. There’s hardly a single subject we can’t Google in seconds. This easy access to information can lull us into a sense of know-it-all-ness. Though, speaking from my own personal experience, I’ll argue it’s more of a know-enough-to-be-dangerous-ness.

Conversely, we also live in a time of snap-judgement and pigeonholing. It’s like our brain’s “sorting gear” being thrown into overdrive. None of us are immune to it. It seems an almost expected outcome given the pressures we face in today’s fast-paced society to economize our time, make decisions quickly and “move the ball forward” at a record pace.

Our brains are indeed supercomputers, rapidly taking in information, categorizing it, relying on historic, impressed patterns and spitting out current perceptions, so we can move on to the next thing.

But here’s the problem. When know-enough-to-be-dangerous and pigeonholing collide, the result often takes the form of assumptions. This happens every day in personal and professional situations alike. We’ve all experienced times when assuming one thing turned out to be the very opposite of reality.

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When Saying Nothing Says Something

Do we have any JT fans out there? (That’s Justin Timberlake for rest of you.) His latest release, Man of the Woods, includes an excellent soul-pop-blues duet with Chris Stapleton titled “Say Something.” The song culminates with this catchy hook: “Sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.” (I highly recommend a listen.)

I suspect we’ve all heard or used the old “pause for effect” effect. Sometimes punctuating your words with silence has just as much of a communication impact as a bold statement. In her brief speech at the recent “March for Our Lives” event, Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez included a 4 minute 26 second window of silence to acknowledge the time it took an active shooter to act out a horrific attack on his classmates and teachers. Politics aside (please), this was a powerful pause for effect. And few could argue that Gonzalez certainly managed to say something by saying nothing at all.

Four and a half minutes in our go-go-go, can’t stop/won’t stop, busy-ness-filled days usually seems like a camera flash or a puff of smoke. But when we are unexpectedly presented with four minutes of raw, inescapable silence, it seems like an eternity. It can feel surprising, awkward, uncomfortable, disturbing, anxious, curious, calming or a combination of all the above. The point is, we notice.

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Being Present

An ad on Instagram caught my eye the other day. The image showed an array of simple though trendy looking bracelets comprised of a metal circle and thin, colored rope. It was for company called My Intent. And the tagline was just as simple but extremely direct—“What’s your word?”

Intrigued, I clicked on. Upon further investigation, I learned My Intent has received national news coverage in recent months—spurred on by creator and entrepreneur Chris Pan’s chance meeting of entertainment icon Jay-Z and subsequent buzz around the celebrity circuit. Though as their website clearly states, it’s not a jewelry company but a service project—on a mission to be “a catalyst for meaningful conversations and positive action.”

Talk about a lofty goal, right? Especially in today’s climate of cynicism and division, how does one even begin to deliver on that mission? And how could someone be so bold as to think a simple metal bracelet could change something as complex and stubborn as our human psyche?

The power of words

It starts with believing in the power of words and embracing their meaning and impact. In the same way that #factsmatter, so do words. As we see play out daily in the news cycle, key words put on repeat, eventually seeping into the psyche of us all. Good words and bad words. Words that rally and motivate us and words that sting and outrage us. We decide which reaction those words provoke. But when it’s our turn to speak, we also decide if and how we will respond responsibly.

The old saying “Choose your words wisely” has never been truer. Each day in both professional communications and personal interactions, we have an important choice to make. Do we respond with words that meet the person on the other end where they are? Or do we immediately jump toward trying to lead them where we want them to be?

What is true right now

Persuasion is indeed an art. But so is being present with your audience and communicating first with the goal of connection–whether delivering a speech to employees, creating a piece of marketing content, penning a blog post or engaging with a friend on Facebook or (gasp!) face-to-face. When we focus on a preconceived future instead of on what’s true right now, we miss the opportunity to build the trust that becomes the foundation for dialogue and, eventually, shared—or at least understood—perspective.

If we allow it, being present in itself can be “a catalyst for meaningful conversations and positive action.” And I think we can all agree that’s a very good thing.

Own Your Words

I’ve always liked the saying “use your words.” We most often use it when speaking to children (or adults) who may be struggling with or avoiding verbalizing what it is they want or need. Because I believe wholeheartedly in the power of words and how we use them, I regularly preach the importance of making every word we say or write count. That includes not just word choices but also the delivery. So for the sake of this post, I’d like to amend use your words to own your words.  And here’s why …

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Your First 100 Days. How’d You Do?

Back in January, I published a post called The January Effect. The gist of it being that each new year brings bright, shiny plans and budgets for marketers and their target customers alike.

Both make big proclamations about what they’ll accomplish in those first 100 days.

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Brand Balls

Yes, I said it. Is it catchy? Sure. Is it on brand? Maybe not. Let’s take it through the KP Brand 3-Step Headline Test:

  1. Is it provocative for provocation’s sake? Or does it have relevance to my message?
  2. Check the brand mirror … is this me? It’s like trying on a new shirt. In other words, is this style supportive of the KP Brand brand?
  3. Will it connect with my intended audience? Am I going to appeal to my target market and be okay with missing the mark with some outliers?
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Pitching a No-hitter? Rethink Your Delivery.

The elusive elevator pitch. Everybody wants one; everybody needs one. Or so everyone thinks.

It’s often one of the first things a client asks me about during a brand messaging initiative. And while the premise behind an elevator pitch still has merit, the reality of cornering your sales and marketing prey with one nice and tidy 25-word punch that lands a direct hit every time is well, unrealistic. 

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Is Your Message Half Empty or Half Full?

How you answer this question can determine the tone, creative execution and success of your marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to social content strategy. Is it more effective to squeeze lemon juice on the wound or paint a reassuring picture of what’s possible?

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Winning Over the Cynics

That’ll never do what it says.

This problem is too hard to solve.

That can’t be true.

Yeah, right!

It seems we’ve all become bilingual overnight, and that new language is cynicism.

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