March 2012.

As an Indianapolis advertising agency, we are constantly challenging ourselves and our clients to be better communicators. Whether that means honing value propositions and brand positions, crafting key messaging or message platforms, testing different language and call-to-actions in direct mail and digital marketing, writing plans, briefs and emails, expressing ideas and point-of-views, or providing tighter strategic and creative direction.

Many times the way we communicate to each other gets convoluted and complicated. Like most customers, clients and prospects, we don’t want to get caught up in a dissertation or documentary. What we want and what we have time for is the skinny.

As specialists in communications, the skinny is one of our most powerful tools. It allows us to use the fewest number of words to get to the point. The skinny is a string of words, spoken or written, that offers the essence of what we need to know without extraneous information or content. No digression. No running around the barn. No diving into rabbit holes.

But be careful not to confuse skinny with thin. When information and direction is thin, more communication is required to clarify and confirm what we’re dealing with before we can move forward.

Much like quality Web design, if the content is thin so is its value. The skinny is the sweet spot. It is the perfect place between random thoughts and a brain dump, or between bread crumbs and a water hose.

Perfecting the art of communication requires the ability to express the skinny, mentoring colleagues on how to deliver the skinny and deploying the skinny in all forms of communications – interpersonal, internal and external communication via digital and mobile marketing, social media, advertising, Webinars or email newsletters.

As a communications professional, never be shy about asking colleagues and associates to give you the skinny. If executed correctly, it increases response and reduces frustration as well as saves time and money.

The bridge to nowhere

In this presidential election year, the negative political advertising continues to be pathetic yet surprising prophetic.

Take the ‘bridge to nowhere!’; This one example has become the ‘poster child’ for spending money without a benefit or return. How many CEOs and CFOs in organizations and enterprises in Indianapolis and Indiana find their CMOs, marketing directors, brand consultants, advertising agencies, PR firms or web design companies guilty of doing the same? Building bridges to nowhere with their marketing dollars. You might be surprised.

Arguable, that’s why many executives view marketing as an expense, instead of an investment. If you can’t show a direct correlation between marketing, sales and revenue, why should they believe any different.

So, what can you do to close that loop?

Accountability and transparency is good place to start. Oh great, more political promises and sound bites! Only don’t just talk about it, put two tangible steps in place.

1. Build measurement into your plans.

Whether you are working on a marketing plan, a campaign or a one-off tactic, like an e-newsletter or direct mail letter, make sure you have a written objective that is measurable and quantifiable, in term of dollars and sense, not anecdotal feel good metrics. Resist the easy road and settle on awareness, coverage, Web traffic or lead generation. Do whatever you can to track a lion share of your marketing initiatives back to revenue, or donations if you’re marketing non profit organizations.

2. Build measurement into your reports.

Don’t just report on what you did, but what it did for you. Too many reports or executive summaries only document the ‘what’ and completely miss the ‘why.’ Look at each report as a mini case study. Write them so anyone who reads the information would be able to easily craft and publish a compelling case study in the Harvard Business Review. That way you’ll know if these investments delivered a dividend and so will the CEO. This makes it much easier to ask for a budget increase and a raise next year.

3. Build a results-driven culture.

If done correctly, demanding this level of reporting and measured marketing will become ingrained – in your work habits and the organization’s culture. Over time, the barriers to tracking and gathering this data from other departments and functions will be greatly diminished. At that point, you will be able to use this intelligence to better track results, test performance and trend the data more effectively and in shorter timeframes.

Otherwise planning and strategy will continue to be short changed and ‘bridges to nowhere’; will continue to consume valuable financial resources and, in most cases, finite assets. Bottom line, this 3-step program makes for a smarter use of money and resources. Now, if we could only get our Federal Government on the same program.