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Big Thinkers

Hear what other Big Thinkers had to say in previous interviews:

 

Learn What the Innovators Are Saying

According to communications training and executive development expert, Whitney Greer, blogging is changing the way executives talk about their companies and products. We asked Whitney to expand on this thought.

Whitney Greer: The immediacy and pervasiveness of blogging forces executives to be in conversation with their customers not talking at them. Think of the 30 second elevator speech. Now there’s a download. The conversational nature of blogging sets the expectation for real people speaking real language, not marketing or corporate speak. People who hide behind messaging or a company Q&A will find themselves battling bad buzz.

Big Sky: How would you define marketing or corporate speak?

Whitney Greer:  It’s the use of high-level or buzzword language – words like ubiquitous or paradigm-shift – and the absence of description. The rule of thumb is: if I wouldn’t use a word in a conversation with a friend, I shouldn’t use it at all. What resonates most is language that brings a reader up close and personal. The same rules of writing apply to blogging and speaking; use active, informal language and make sure to apply detail and description that help us see what’s being described.

For example, child safety advocate Nancy Willard recently visited the headquarters of MySpace.com, and posted the following on her blog: “On Monday, I had a personal visit to MySpace headquarters. They invited me for a meeting to seek my guidance on responding to Internet safety and responsible use issues. I want to report to you on what I saw and what I think.” The first person perspective and conversational tone are buttoned-down, but keep the reader engaged.

Contrast this posting to one on the same topic from AgapePress, billed as reliable news from a Christian Source. “A well-known Internet safety expert says staggering numbers of young people are involved in the dangerous world of cyber-sex, but most parents are not even aware it’s an issue affecting their children.” Vague and distant, this posting reads like a press release and while it might catch my attention, it doesn’t connect me with the subject. Without connection, moving people into action – whether through a blog, presentation or article – is much slower.

Big Sky: Why should someone care about a blogger’s opinion? 

Whitney Greer: It’s not one person’s opinion, but who listens and responds. That’s not new. Where I see danger is when a company responds to a blog in a formal, too-practiced way. Responses that begin with “we” without evidence of who’s involved smell of spin. Having someone respond with an individualized voice and personalized comments demonstrates a willingness to be on the line for a belief and greater commitment.

Big Sky: Can you give us an example of a company that demonstrates the conversational voice you’re referring to?

Whitney Greer: I wish I could and I’d love people to send me some big company voices they’ve heard that they feel are genuine. Something happens to companies when they become big; the people in the company lose their voices, becoming a safe amalgamation of bland language edited by lawyers. A strong leader who decisively states what he or she thinks and allows others in the company to do the same can be viewed as having at-risk behavior. Perhaps so, but blandness also kills; it just takes a little longer.

Big Sky: What would your advice be to companies that need to find or rediscover their voice?

Whitney Greer: Skip the three key messages. Find out what’s terrific about you and your company and then write it down. Say the words you’ve written aloud. If there’s no way you’d say them to another person without sounding like you’re channeling a CNN reporter, ask yourself, “How would I say the same thing to XX?” Keep asking “for example” to find the description that can make the information real to someone else.

Big Sky: Can you give us an example of a company that demonstrates the conversational voice you’re referring to?

Whitney Greer: Something happens to companies when they become big; the people in the company lose their voices, becoming a safe amalgamation of bland language edited by lawyers. Blogs.Adobe.com does a nice job of blending a number of individual voices, expertise and humor. Yes there’s the occasional corporate note, but overall it stays conversational and readable.

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Whitney Greer believes that like a thumbprint, no two professionals are identical. Her forte is tapping into the qualities and strengths that make professionals and companies stand out. Since 1998, Whitney has helped executives and teams at companies such as AT&T, Delta Airlines, Bass Hotels, IBM, Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting and The Weather Channel with story development, positioning and delivery skills.
 

“The immediacy and pervasiveness of blogging forces executives to be in conversation with their customers not talking at them.”

Whitney Greer