Monday, April 07, 2008

Reading and Writing

I'm split into two zones - Sometimes I'm zoned into writing and other times I'm zoned into reading. Lately, I've had a reading phase - and I mean LOTS of reading. I always read Gerry - simple but straight to the point. He's the one that really turned me on to looking at the Web as a Comms tool. Here's his last newsletter brief - it makes sense [you can sign up to Gerry's newsletter here]


The Web offers one of the most significant opportunities to
communicators in modern history, but requires a total
redefinition of what communications is.

Traditional communications is one-way, passive and past-tense.
It is all about telling people what you have done, what you are
doing, or what you are about to do. There is a core belief among
certain traditional communicators that people need to be

Traditional communications is not all that different from
traditional journalism. There is a saying in traditional
journalism: "The reader is not as stupid as you think they are.
They're more stupid."

There might have been some truth in such a view forty years ago,
but we are now in a different age. It is not the digital age. It
is not the information age. It is the informed age. The very
success of the Web is based on a questioning society. We are a
society that searches because we want to find out.

The Web is where we go to know, to be informed. Those societies
that want to control what people know, who fear independent
thought and action, will always fear the Web. Those societies
who think it is exclusively the job of the elite to inform the
masses will always fear the Web.

But the people love the Web. They love the Web because they can
find out for themselves, from people like them. They love the
Web because the Web is many messages, and the Web gives people
the chance to compare, rate, question, talk back, and-most

The essence of the Web is action. We go to the Web because we
have a task; there is something we need to do; there is a
problem we need to solve. What helps us do? What helps us act?
Written words. The oxygen of the Web is written words. There is
no life on the Web without written words.

Written words are the tools of the communicator. But these
written words have a very different function on the Web. I
analyze a lot of government websites. Unfortunately, too many
overflow with vanity, pomposity and waffle. Some of them are
little more than campaign websites full of puff pictures of
preening peacock politicians.

Many web teams still struggle to convince their PR and
communications colleagues that on the Web you communicate by
doing. A friend of mine was worried about his wife, who had just
given birth. She was not well and he believed that the doctor
has misdiagnosed her.

He went to the Web, and on his journey to find out, ended up on
some government websites, where he was faced with puff PR about
how much the government was investing, and what the Minister for
Health had for breakfast. He didn't want to know how much was
being invested. He wanted help; he wanted to read content that
could help him find out what exactly was wrong with his wife.

He found answers, and he was right-she had been misdiagnosed.
This is the power and potential of the Web, and this is the
challenge and opportunity for the communicator. Show by doing.
Inform with active verbs. Make your words work for your


Anonymous theodore m. said...

Questioning, maybe, but do you seriously think people are so smart today? Nobody has a basic classical, liberal education and nobody reads. In fact, the very type of literature that used to be society's driving force, short fiction and poetry, itself is basically extinct, even writers admit they can't support themselves by doing it. We have tech news, gossip, editorials and tid bits, but where on the Web can we find literature? (On a large commercial site that's read by "real people," I mean.)

3:00 PM, April 07, 2008  

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