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Don’t be lame

16 Jun 2013
Posted by Shannon

Don’t be lame is probably the best motto I’ve ever heard for doing any sort of communications aimed at a general audience, from journalism to PR to a TV series. 

It was the official policy of Barack Obama’s digital campaign run by a low-key strategist named Teddy Goff, who does some of the best thinking around when it comes to online communications. 

The folks over at Big Think got him to talk about how they persuaded 1.5 million people to read about Mitt Romney’s tax policy. And no, they didn’t insert porn videos. They combined a sense of humour with some chutzpah – they claimed the URL – and they spoke to their audience in a way that recognized them as real people concerned with how they are being governed. 

“It was very kind of the Romney folks not to steal that domain before we got it,” he deadpans.   

 His primary point – that it doesn’t matter how important a message is if it’s dull – is one that any organization embarking on DIY communications should note. 

“It’s funny: when you talk to corporate marketers, when you talk to people who have been doing PR for a long time, they will acknowledge that `not being lame’ has never been their M.O.,” Goff says. “They’re well versed in `risk mitigation’ or how not to annoy `stakeholders’ or create problems. But they’ve never had to actually deal with consumers who can click away as soon as they don’t like what they’re seeing.” 

 He has no name for his technique, but I had an editor who called it, “Hook’em and hold’em.” The lede was suppose to hook the reader by intriguing, enraging or amusing her; then every subsequent word had to be justified in terms of whether it informed her enough to keep her reading.  

Unfortunately, H&H has fallen out of favour in most media, old and new alike. Probably because everything from corporate newspapers to tech blogs are being staffed with just the sort of low level PR and marketing folk who, as Goff notes dryly, have never considered `not being lame’ as part of their M.O.

Their real audience – which pays for these messages – likes dull, earnest, and witless and the succes of their marketing is defined by pleasing the buyer not interesting the public.  

 But anyone whose success is measured by engaging a general audience would be better off listening to communications strategists like Goff.