Red State, Blue State

(Listen to this post, here.)

Like you, I lie about how much TV I watch.

It’s not a lot (see, I just did it again), but certainly enough that when the topic comes up I feel compelled to stress the fact that, “I don’t watch very much.”

And besides, sports doesn’t really count.

Or documentaries.

Or shows that are more or less based on true events. That’s just learning about history.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I do want to mention a comedy special that I stumbled upon last night (I was searching for C-SPAN): Colin Quinn’s “Red State Blue State.

In a word: Recommended.

What I liked most about it was the way he made fun of both sides – red and blue – in equal measure.

It was a nice reminder that the stereotypes we use to talk about the other team are oversimplified exaggerations. We have a lot more in common than not.

In terms of professional services marketing, there were two important lessons hidden within (I never stop working for you):

  1. You need to be well-rehearsed. 

    The performance was only an hour, but it was rapid-fire, with punchline after punchline, each of which had to be delivered with precise wording and timing. That’s a lot to remember. 

    At one point, during a 10-minute rant, he poked fun at all 50 states … one after the other. I don’t think I can name more than 20 off the top of my head; he remembered every one and the joke that went with it. 

    When it comes to talking with potential clients about your work, you also need to be well-rehearsed. You need clear, concise, compelling answers to the questions you know are coming:

    What’s your process? How do you charge? Why do we need whatever it is you’re selling? 

    The worst possible approach is to stumble along, changing every time and making it up as you go. 

    Even if you’re good at what you do, if you don’t sound like you’ve done this before and you know what you’re talking about, people will hesitate to hire you. 

    So come up with the top 10 questions you are likely to hear, write down the answers, and rehearse out loud. (Note: If it’s not out loud, it’s called daydreaming.)

  2. You need to be entertaining. 

    Part of what made Quinn’s show so effective was that he wrapped a steady stream of jokes around a number of serious messages. That holds the audience’s attention and makes the information more digestible. 

    Likewise, and while you don’t need to be funny, you do need to be captivating with any of the content you share. 

    That’s why I always push back when somebody suggests that a piece of content – a newsletter, a podcast, a presentation – should be shortened simply because it “seems long.” 

    If you said it was too boring, or too detailed, or too redundant, I might agree. 

    But length, in and of itself, is not the problem (somebody is reading those 800-page Harry Potter books). If it’s entertaining, people will happily stay with you. 

    Unfortunately, most of the business content sent our way is as dry as dust. It’s information with the humans deliberately removed. 

    No personal stories. No emotion. No jokes. 

    Even everyday language is swapped out for fear of sounding “unprofessional” (whatever that even means in 2019). 

    You don’t take those things out when you talk with your favorite clients (let alone your friends). Don’t take them out of your business content either. 

    Those things are the sauce on the meat that is your knowledge (or something). Without them, it may be healthy, but it sure isn’t tasty. 

    And tasty matters, if you want me to anticipate, read and share what you’ve got to say.

Here’s the bottom line. The key to professional services marketing is to position yourself as a Likeable Expert.

If you want to be seen as expert, you need to practice.

If you want to be seen as likeable, you need to do all the things you do in “real life” to capture attention and engage with other people.

As for me, I’ll be at home listening to classical music while gardening. I definitely won’t be watching TV. Much.

Extra Credit (post your answer below)

Summarize today’s issue in exactly five words

Example: Bald Man Shares Stunning Insights

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29 thoughts on “Red State, Blue State

  1. Kady Hommel

    Michael, I love this warning: “”It’s information with the humans deliberately removed.”

    How is it that we insist on not remembering that people like to hear about people, preferably people kinda/sorta like themselves? They also love pictures of people, and they love seeing themselves in those pictures (assuming the photos aren’t awful!)

    I too don’t watch TV. Much.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Something about “business writing,” I think, causes us to shut our normal brains off!

  2. Jean F

    “Too much TV is OK.”

    I justify my TV watching by doing something else simultaneously (usually entering sweepstakes). Somehow one mindless activity cancels out the other (and I like winning prizes). And since I live alone I have an excuse, right?

    As a professional writer, people sometimes call on me to critique their writing. It is often ponderous. People have the mistaken ideas that longer words and longer sentences make them sound smart. Better to use words everyone understands and sentences short enough to avoid getting lost before the end. Your idea of humanizing business writing by including stories or at least mentions about real people is wise. I always tell them to read their stuff out loud and imagine they are talking to someone in person.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I agree on the out loud reading. Makes all the difference.
      And I’ll have to check out the sweepstakes idea too!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I may have to penalize you for too many words, Diane, but I appreciate the sentiment!


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