How I learned to love lockdown and ignore the rules
If you weren’t already a straight talker with your clients, now’s the perfect opportunity to cut through all the politeness and get your messages and content cleaned and sharpened.
I’m always impatient to do good work and get annoyed when anyone wants to slow me down. I have good ideas and want to get them out there; sure, some of them are rubbish, some of them are in fact total garbage but the few gems are worth running with I feel.
Until recently, dealing with clients, I probably bit my tongue more than I should have, in the face of brand guidelines, corporate manuals and people whose long exposure to corporate life had worn them into petty officials who liked to say No. I’m a nice guy, I’ll listen to anyone and look for a solution, rather than tell them to bog off.
What on earth was holding me back?
Remember when someone said to you, ‘they say we should,’ or ‘they say we can’t,’ or ‘they expect us to.’ But in the last three months, I have realised that there is no ‘they’ anymore, there’s just you and me. And if we can agree on a thing then the rules, real or perceived, no longer apply.
This is enabling us to get sh*t done a lot quicker and in an area of business that relies on trial and error, that’s all to the good. And the ideas are better, or if not better then we seem at least to be wasting less time or using restrictive formats to get them across.
Rules? What rules?
I still remember not being allowed to use the word get; to split infinitives, although there is in fact no rule on that, or to use gerunds -ing words. All nonsense of course. If we are failing to communicate then the readability algorithm will tell us what to do. Where so much communication is digital, it makes sense to write to get read.
You may feel your creative hackles rising at the suggestion that you should obey the machine but the machine is the collective wisdom of the readability of billions of articles. It even lets you start sentences with and or but! We’re in marketing; if you want to ignore the algorithm, go get a book published.
What is the point of this ramble?
My clients are challenging themselves and me on ideas, on style, tone and length of content, and on the right channel mix for amplification. Bring it on; I want what I have learned during lockdown to become habitual. And I think that will change my relationships with my clients for the better.
Getting cut through has never been harder and don’t just assume that high logins to your virtual webinar are a sign you are achieving it. You have to be everywhere at once, but without a compelling story and a different spin, you are wasting your time; the Internet is very good at spreading nonsense, as we know from all Donald Trump’s tweets. So make sure you have the best idea and take the time to choose the right words to communicate it.
I’m with you all the way; as Neil Young wrote in Down by the River back in 1969, “Be on my side. I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide.”