Brevity is true genius.
This simple and powerful concept was introduced to me by advertising vet Lynette Xanders of Wild Alchemy during a recent webinar.
Inspired to improve my own work, I reached out to Lynette to ask her a bit more about the importance of brevity in marketing communications. Here’s what she had to say:
“I have always held the belief that brevity is genius,” said Xanders. “There is an adage I heard years ago from Mark Twain about a time he wrote to a friend and said, ‘I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.’ This demonstrates that it takes much more effort to be brief—but the payoff is far greater clarity and impact.”
The requirement to be brief is not always easy, but it is imperative. We live in a busy culture where everyone is strapped for time with attention spans for only tweet-sized bites of information.
Here are a few reflections on how brevity can generate better work for communicators:
1. The press release. Press releases are often considered a dying breed. That’s because reporters are strapped for time and need to cover more beats as a result of shrinking newsrooms.
However, these tools are still valuable for SEO purposes. Keep the release under 400 words (if your company or clients will allow it). To help sell it, explain that you will save some money if you are distributing on the wire, where longer releases cost more.
2. The pitch. You don’t have to include paragraphs of information in your media pitch. Instead, think about how to capture attention.
That could be through a softer approach where you ask about what your contact is working on, or think how you can quickly add intrigue to your topic. If you can get to why the reporter should care in two sentences or less, you are much more likely to succeed.
3. The media alert. If you are creating an alert to drive attendance to an event, keep it to one page, spelling out the who, what, when, why and where. Don’t put a year’s worth of your client or company’s accomplishments in the footer. That’s for the press release, if you decide to do one for SEO.
4. Presentations. Consider the purpose of the decks you are creating, and think carefully about the amount of text you include. Any slides you share should not risk losing your audience. If there is something long to read, the room will be distracted.
Communicate no more than three topics per slide and always remember that you can follow up with more detail post-presentation to ensure your audience has all necessary information.
If you are presenting your slides virtually, create more slides and cover fewer items per slide.
5. Sentence structure. Having a hard time getting your point across? Flesh out your full sentence, and then aim to cut words. Pro tip (thanks to my boss): Stay focused on precisely nailing the subject and verb and avoid adding too many superlatives.
Brevity takes time to master. It is not a destination, but rather a journey. It takes patience, willingness to pause and think about what you are trying to say, and time. The outcome will pay off in the long run.
If you’re looking for more advice on brevity, connect with Lynette Xanders here.
Beth Thompson is a vice president and group account director with Gatesman.