Specificity is Credibility

Issue 007. By Thomas. Patrick Thomas.

Welcome to The Story is the Strategy, a weekly newsletter about becoming a world-class business communicator. My mission is to help you become a remarkable storyteller and significantly increase your professional impact. Learn more here.

We’ve made it to Issue 007! To mark the occasion, please enjoy this image from a German Wikipedia page that shows the evolution of the 007 logo from 1962-1995. Finding non-copyrighted James Bond images is hard, ok?

Ideas

📚 The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One - How to Deliver It. I’m enjoying this twenty-year-old book by Richard Dowis on the art of the great speech. It falls very much into what I call “level one” of business storytelling: nailing the basics. It’ll help you think about narrative structure and word choice with plenty of great historical examples throughout.

If you enjoy this newsletter, I think you’ll like it, too.

Put it to Work

Specificity is credibility. Pierce, a reader, had a great comment on last week’s issue about identifying change. In his industry, companies identify the most obvious change they can think of - and then stop right there. As a result, many businesses are competing for customers with only slightly different product positioning all based on an observation of the same generic change. Not very effective.

It reminds me of this great tweet I saw recently: 

Wow, is this slide bad. It makes a bunch of huge assertions - some gibberish, some quite specific - all with zero evidence. It’s laughable, but it also reminds us about something important: you won’t be credible if you don’t do the work.

If your company positioning looks like everyone else’s, you don’t understand the change you’re describing as well as you need to. When I hire an agency to write something for me and the draft looks like any moderately competent person could have written it, the copywriter didn’t do enough research before starting.

You need to be able to understand something really well to describe it simply. Shallow writing floats from one vague statement to the next (“machine learning is going to transform the retail industry”), interspersed with random quotes pulled from the top results of a Google search. Deep writing is tightly packed with insights and novel, specific descriptions that stick with your reader.

And specificity is what drives retention. The Science of Storytelling mentions an interesting study. It found that describing three specific qualities of an object (“a dark blue carpet” or “an orange striped pencil”) helped create vivid scenes. And vivid details enhance persuasiveness even when irrelevant to the central argument.

When you’re doing any kind of business communication, from a simple presentation to a grand company strategy, make sure you’re building on a solid foundation of understanding. Your job will pull you in a million directions. You’ll be tempted to skimp on the research. But remember: specificity is the surest path to great stories and credibility. 

As always, feedback is a gift. I’m still figuring out how to make this newsletter as useful as I can for you, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. I reply to every message I receive. And if you’re enjoying it, please share it with your friends and colleagues. Thank you!