Get to the Point

For a little over two years, I’ve been a “professional” writer.

For about a year, I’ve actually been good at it.

I’m always curious what other people are doing, because it gives me an opportunity to learn. As I’ve been learning to do my job better, one thing has become shockingly clear:

Marketers have a hard time getting to the point.

Think about this. Pick a corporation. Pick a charity. Pick a person. Read a couple pages of their websites.

Have they said anything at all? If they have, do you understand it?

Last week, Seth Godin made a great point on his blog about this very issue. He writes, “Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?”

His advice to marketers is simple: “Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.”

It’s good advice.

Brevity isn’t merely important, it’s essential.

If we can’t get to the point, and can’t do so in a way that everyone will quickly understand, then we’re doing a terrible job in our marketing.

So how do we uncomplicate things? How do we get to the point?

Probably the best advice on this I’ve read is found in Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath. This is what they refer to as the SUCCESs model, particularly the principle of simplicity. They write:

Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about prioritizing. (Southwest will be THE low-fare airline.) What’s the core of your message? Can you communicate it with an analogy or high-concept pitch?

We need to, in whatever field we work, get to the core of our message. To figure out what’s most important and talk about that in a way that makes sense.

For those of us in the church, it means maybe we need to take a look at our published mission statements.

What’s our purpose?

Why do we exist?

Do they make sense to anyone except the person who wrote it?

Do they make us sound more like a life-coaching organizations rather than messengers of the gospel of Christ?

Are we getting to the point?

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  • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

    Hills Bible Church mission statement.

    To see that believers –

    KNOW God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15)

    LIVE by God’s Word (1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3)

    COMMIT to God’s work (Romans 12:1-2)

    IMPACT God’s world (Matthew 28:18-20)

    Short enough?

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Love it! Perfectly understandable.

      At Harvest, we’ve got a couple of positioning statements that are surprisingly clear, but my favorite is:

      Walk, worship & work for Christ

  • tsquare21

    - A PRAYER FROM JESUS -

    This prayer is from Jesus that we may here from Him, that He may meet our needs. It only consist of three simple steps.

    1) We need to read one scripture. This will focus us in the word that brings everlasting life.

    2) Since this prayer is from Jesus we need to direct our prayer to Him personally. To often Christian focus they’re prayer’s to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer.

    3) The simplest part of this Prayer is to ask Jesus one question. Please, all that is required for this question is to make it simple. Let Jesus Himself finish the question when He gives you that understanding through prayer.

    The PRAYER

    The scripture that is the focus of this prayer is “ACTS 2:38″. It’s not necessary to do any study into this scripture. Jesus Himself willl bestow the understanding that will resonate in your heart.

    The most important part of this prayer is that we need to direct our prayer directly to Jesus. If you normally would say Father in your prayer, change your focus from the Father to Christ Jesus by lifting Jesus name up every time you would normally use Father in your prayer.

    Maybe the hardest part of this prayer is the question that we need to ask Jesus. For man as we are, always try to understand the question and may add many additional quires. The simplest question is all that is required.

    Simply ask Jesus ‘WHY, Jesus why’

    • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

      I suppose this is supposed to be funny – irony or something.

      But it shouldn’t be left without the comment expanding on Dave Cameron’s response. tsquare21, you are wrong. The Bible never suggests that Jesus should be prayed to directly; nor, for that matter, the Holy Spirit.

      In fact, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray “he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…” Known as the Lord’s prayer, but perhaps better called the Disciples Prayer, Jesus specifically told his disciples (that includes all believers) to address their prayers to Father God. He taught us that we have direct access to God in heaven.

      Elsewhere, in John 14:13–14 Jesus teaches us to ‘ask in His name”.

      Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify God.

      Saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer is not a magic formula. If what we ask for or say in prayer is not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying “in Jesus’ name” is meaningless. Genuinely praying in Jesus’ name and for His glory is what is important, not attaching certain words to the end of a prayer. It is not the words in the prayer that matter, but the purpose behind the prayer. Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name.

      Oops! Too wordy?

      • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

        Just wordy enough. Sadly, I think tsquare21 is quite serious; this is the second time I’ve had this comment come up today.

      • tsquare21

        Tell me someone, what is the Fathers name “Father, hallowed be your name…” Jesus said “in my Fathers name I have come, and you here me not,” As Far as I know Jesus only used one name the name of the Father” Yashua God is salvation
        If you prefer the English translation

        JE- Jehovah
        S-saves
        US- us

        As Jesus said “no one comes to the Father (in prayer) except by Me”.
        “whatsoever you do in word or dead do ALL in the name of Jesus”. Etc.

        Just curious has any one actually prayed the prayer. it is scriptural based simple and supposing from Jesus. since it is scriptural and even if you don’t believe me from whom this prayer was inspired By. It won’t hurt in proving to yourself if Jesus will answer this prayer, as I claim he would.

        please whatever you do not pray exclusively using “in Jesus name” but lift up Jesus Himself throughout this -prayer from Jesus- Just follow the prayer, its simple enough without interpretation.

  • Dave Cameron

    @tsquare21 – your comment was perhaps the most antonymous post imaginable, given the context. If you were attempting irony, well done. Otherwise, ‘nough said. Good thoughts Aaron.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Dave! Great word choice with “antonymous.” Well said.

  • Keystone

    Paul Harvey told great stories and then take a commercial break.
    He came back on the air and then proclaimed “The Rest of the Story”…….his actual, well known radio title.

    Communication takes many forms. It is incumbant on the AUTHOR to choose the best words, sentences, and paragraphs to make the point they wish to convey to folks, especially when the folks are strangers and not acquainted to the peculiarity of the writer/author/preacher/communicator/commentor.

    Seth Godin is 100% wrong in his analysis. Indeed, to suggest that writing NOTHING is a preference to writing wordy or even convoluted, leads the reader to a blank page. This would be the result of a blank mind.
    I have disputed Seth Godin’s book called “All Marketer’s Are Liars”. Why?

    My career was marketing and I did not need to lie to make a living.
    Indeed, my success came by telling the truth. My customers found it refreshing, had a real “ring” to the truth…..just like a bell, and created trust.
    I did not appreciate Godin’s diminishing my calling.

    But sometimes, a man is willing to admit his mistake. Humility is a strong quality to view.
    It is powerful enough to make an anti-Godin person reassess their position and continue to LISTEN to what he writes…..carefully now, based on prior experience.
    However, for Godin to suggest a preference to “write nothing” is absurd.

    The man writes wordy books himself.
    But he has made a critical change in one case.
    The book “All Marketer’s Are Liars” has a new title on the same guts. This was wise to remove the antagonizing lie of the word “Liars”.
    Jesus Christ proclaimed “I Am the Way, the Light, the Truth”.
    He was also a marketer of salvation and in no way a liar as Godin proclaimed earlier.

    You can find many examples in the Bible where Christ marketed His thoughts in fewer words than the blog, “22 WORDS”. Other times, Christ came perilously close to the maximum dictate of Twitter…..140 characters.
    But chiefly, He used stories and parables, and some of them were hardly brief, while NONE of them were a “blank page”.

    For whatever reason, Godin recognised his error and repented with a new title to calling all marketers liars.
    I suspect Jesus Christ approved of the change.

    Godin’s new title is here:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/all_marketers_are_liars/2009/11/a-new-cover-a-new-foreword-but-the-same-book.html

    It is best when communicating to NOT begin by creating offense. Indeed, John Bevere makes a case that offense is “The Bait of Satan” in his book of the same title. Godin should have read Bevere before insulting readers with his original title.
    Christ marketed TRUTH, ….himself!
    Perhaps He nudged Godin to get his act together. Maybe He will nudge again with the brevity nonsense espoused in the above post [by Godin, but sadly confirmed by Armstrong].

    But communication is a two way affair. Authors have readers. Sometimes readers “get it” and sometimes they do not. In the best scenario, the reader not only “gets it”, but responds in a comment and adds to, influences, or challenges the author’s stance. It is a rewarding process for all parties when this occurs with civility.

    Both Don, in Comment 1, and Aaron in reply (comment 2) concur that Godin is correct, though the two “briefs” they espouse vary, and neither version of mission statement is likely to make folks visit a website or a church. Sorry bout that….just an opinion.

    tsquare21 is an interesting read for me.
    Don correctly followed up with a challenge to tsqaure21, using the truth of the Bible.
    Aaron allows that the tsquare seems to reappear more than once.

    Both men are correct.
    But a more careful reading of tsquare21 is required by this audience.
    It is the Jewish faith that is in such great awe of our God, that even His name is not written in full, as man is unworthy to call Him by name (per them). Note that tsquare21 uses the Jewish expression here:

    ” To often Christian focus they’re prayer’s to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer. ”
    ~~~tsquare21

    Given the use of G_D, I suspect that tsquare21 is Jewish. Given his assessment on what Scripture proclaims, he is not Christian, and Don has clarified that accordingly.

    But Don did NOT challenge other pertinent views of tsquare21 that show him to be a disciple of Seth Godin’s original title to his book.
    1) Why quote the refernce to Acts 2:38 and then be so far off the mark to what Acts 2:38 says?

    “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    ~~~”Acts 2:38 (New International Version)

    It appears to me that we have a member of the Jewish faith misquoting, or at least mis-applying Christian scripture.

    2) The entire comment is nothing more than SPAM.
    Christians do not plagiarize, or it would be antonymous, as they say here.
    But this comment appears elsewhere on the internet ad nauseum.

    And why did Aaron hear it so much? Perhaps because it is on Beliefnet that very day, word-for-word.
    tsquare21 on Blogging Theologically, is “Tom”, in Comment 3 on Beliefnet that day:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/06/jesus-the-benefactor.html

    Oh, did I mention the post “Tuesdays With Tozer—Wounds” on the Blog “Out Of Ur”?
    This was writen a couple of weeks ago and once again, Comment 8 there, is tsquare21 here, and “Tom” mentioned elsewhere.

    Apparently, this writter is limited to ONE erroneous belief and spams it across the internet at will.

    The post to which the comment is written is irrelevant to the comment-maker.

    I hope that with all the information I have provided in my comment, it becomes clear that “brevity” as an ideal, is a lie.

    “Telling Stories” is now an acceptable method of communication per Seth Godin, who is finally catching up with Jesus Christ and HIS method of communication.

    The Internet is loaded with pranksters. A “blank page” response ala Godin would allow lies to spread.
    Don is to be commended for filling-in-the-blanks of TRUTH, in response to a misguided person.

    Last, the unscriptural comment to this post I have read closely and shredded, needs tied to the actual post on brevity. To that end, SPAM is not only true here, but briefer than antonymous :) though I too, love that word.

    OH, and a sidebar to tsquare21, Tom, and all your personalities.
    If you want to Market as a Liar, you may want to believe in Seth G_Din.

  • Keystone

    Aaron,
    The repeat comment on “Out of Ur”, as well, was not linked by me.
    Sorry.
    http://www.outofur.com/archives/2010/05/tuesdays_with_t_5.html

    tsquare21 is everywhere……with only one, and the same, comment.