Perspective, Context and McCartney

In communications, clarity is vital. A person who reads or hears your message may have no previous awareness of what’s being discussed. That’s why we need to provide perspective and context. That’s why we need to remind readers why the message has significance. That’s why we need to remind listeners and viewers who it is we are interviewing. That’s why we who communicate must avoid being too “inside.”

I have often heard broadcasters begin a statement by saying, “As you know…” and think to myself, “No, actually, I didn’t know.” Possibly many viewers or listeners may know, but it may not be universally known by the general public that, for instance, the Giants hit the fewest home runs in the majors this season.

Even when your message is intended for a targeted audience, you need to avoid over reliance on jargon and overuse of obscure references. If you’re writing about, say, a popular book series, remember that not everyone has read the books and not everyone may have been as attentive to details as you.

This is why most newspaper articles that follow up on big stories will spend a paragraph or two retelling the basic facts of the original story.

This is why the best broadcast interviewers will tell you every few minutes the name of her/his guest and why he or she is being interviewed.

In marketing communications, including press releases and media pitches, you can’t presume that the reader knows what you’re writing about. Nor can you presume that the reader knows why you are sending this message. Tell them why your message is one they want to share with their readers, viewers or listeners. Tell them why they should care what your organization does.

Don’t presume that everyone has the same historical and cultural perspective that you have. You may be communicating with someone born decades before or decades after you. You might have heard the tale of the baby boomer who was stunned when he heard a Gen-Xer say, “Wow, check this out! Paul McCartney was in another band before Wings!”

(For those who may not be chuckling, Paul McCartney was a founding member of the Beatles, arguably the biggest rock group of all time, a band that is a baby boomer favorite. He later formed a group called Wings. There’s some clarity, I hope.)






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