Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Process grows solution-fruit; events go bang and wilt!

I worked with a person a couple of years ago who was charged with building an alumni organization. She was never successful.

Why?

Because she failed to understand the difference between process and event.

Building anything takes time

She kept trying to hold one-time, big-hit events: a dinner, an outing, a meeting with a special speaker, and so on. She thought these would draw alums in the area out of the woodwork. They didn’t.

The advice I and others gave to her was to hold monthly meetings on the same day of each month for at least 6 months. I told her these meetings would be sparsely attended at first, but over time, more and more alums in the area would be drawn in. Then, after several months, once a critical mass had been achieved, try an event organized by those who were showing up for the monthly meetings.

Those who came and kept coming and who invited others to attend would be the best ambassadors for building a larger organization. In other words, use those who had become engaged over time to reach out enthusiastically to others.

Slow and steady isn’t as pretty as a showcase

The problem with the advised approach?

It was too hard. It took too long to create visible outputs. And if there was one goal she had that she was determined to achieve at any cost, it was to be able to show off visible outputs all the time.

She lived for the big bang here and now, not for the long term.

What she needed to be successful was to implement a process, but all she was willing to do was target “showcase” events.

Outcomes are lasting; outputs are once and done

Seth Godin stated in his blog, “Events are easier to manage, pay for, and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.”

Events are easy. Process is hard. Both can be costly, but only one yields the desired outcomes as opposed to ephemeral outputs.

Usually, the primary result of an event that anyone cares about is how many people showed up. If it’s a fundraising event, it’s all about the money pledged.

Neither of these outputs drive long term outcomes.

Process aims to establish relationships, change behaviors, or create the means for maintaining ongoing momentum. These are outcomes.

A wedding may be an event, but it is the outcome of a relationship building process that will continue past this one event. It’s one point on the eternal timeline of the process called life.

Events can be triggers for a follow-up process

If it’s big and loud enough, a flashy event can be used to kick-start a process. After the event, you can then begin to contact and woo the attendees, seeking to engage them in an ongoing process. But this is really difficult to accomplish.

If the event is “successful” with lots of attendees (outputs), odds are that there will be some enthusiasm generated that will serve as motivation to begin and maintain the follow-up process that will yield relationship outcomes. You also have to be sure that you’ve captured all the requisite information from attendees, which is awfully hard to do when there’s a party going on.

If the event fails to draw the hoped-for numbers, then motivation for follow-up will be low, and with a smaller pool, the success of the follow-up effort is iffy.

An event that was preceded by a steady, momentum-building process that will continue passed the event will yield far better outcomes.

Process is forever; solutions are the fruit

Outcomes are better results than outputs, but even better than results are solutions, and that’s what process will drive you to.

When a person enters therapy, they will want to see results, but their ultimate hope is for the outcome of a solution that resolves their issues.

Results can get them on their feet, but a solution keeps them walking.

Customers and constituencies want solutions.

  • The result of process is outcomes that lead to solutions. Process is the tree that produces blossoms of outcomes that grow into solution-fruit.
  • The result of events is outputs. An event is like a beautiful vase of fresh cut flowers that are here today and wilted tomorrow.

Think of it like this: Process is a timeline that extends into the future. An event may appear on that timeline, but it is not the end point.

An event is a closed loop. It doesn’t point to anything outside of itself if it’s not part of a process. It comes, it ends, and that’s that.

If you’re trying to grow your business, your membership, or your constituency, you need to cultivate a process that will yield ongoing fruit. Events that aren’t rooted in process are ultimately dead ends.

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Thoughts?

Monday, April 25, 2011

It stinks, but it’s from the heart!

Recently, a person I follow on Twitter posted a tweet stating, “Heading out to celebrate so-and-so’s birthday!! I wrote them a poem. It stinks but it's from the heart :)”

Really?

This is akin to, “It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts.”

We jokingly spew out these little truisms when we’ve forgotten an anniversary or birthday gift, or just didn’t take the time or expend the effort to at least get a nice card.

As the recipient, when confronted by these brush-offs, we will smile, give a hug, and say, “You’re right, it is the thought that counts.”

But, ironically, that’s not what we’re thinking.

How often do we treat God this way?

When I was a kid, people frequently sang “specials” in church. Many had no vocal abilities whatsoever. Listening to them was painful and embarrassing.

Yet, the pastor and others would praise the effort because it wasn’t the quality of the singing that was important, but that it came from the heart as a “gift unto the Lord.”

Seriously?

Which is better? To not receive a gift someone had the means and ability to provide? Or to be given crap in a box that is supposed to be appreciated and valued?

There are two issues here that need correcting.

One involves having the means and ability to give a good gift and failing to do so.

The other involves not having the means or talent to provide the gift being offered.

In the first instance, the reality is that the “thought” behind our lame giving is tied to selfishness, greed, or laziness.

In the second instance, we are coveting something we don’t have and that isn’t ours to give.

In both instances we are cheating the recipients!

We are offering a gift that is not truly from our hearts, is not representative of who we are, and that actually devalues the one to whom we are giving.

We hold back what we are really able to offer because we don’t want to share from our own store of means, talent, intelligence, etc.

This is true whether the gift is for another person, or a gift “unto the Lord.”

When giving of ourselves to God, what’s truly tragic is that, everything we have comes from Him in the first place. It’s all His. What we have is His and what we don’t have is His.

What He wants is us, not our stuff.

And He definitely doesn’t want us to sing Him a song if He’s not gifted us musically. That would be cruel.

The thing is, when we give anything to God, a tenth, a half, or a whole of something we don’t have, He still loves us.

He’ll smile, give us a hug, and say, “Thanks.” But He knows we are capable of better.

If we really care about the one or the One to whom we’re giving, the thought and the gift will match, and we’ll give from the means, abilities, and talents God has blessed us with.

Anything less stinks and it’s not nice to give people stinky gifts.

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Thoughts?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Need to be creative? Get back in the box!

When I was a smaller boy, my dad was a florist and the foreman of a local greenhouse. There was a room where they kept the boxes; huge, heavy, person-sized boxes. This was one of my favorite play places because inside those boxes I could unleash the full power of my tiny imagination. A box could become a spaceship, a fort, a boat, an airplane, and so much more. I once used a few of those boxes to construct one dandy lemonade stand. I loved those boxes.

Sometime in the 60s or 70s the slogan for being creative emerged as “think outside the box!

This was the call to think differently, to shift your paradigm, change your perspective, and reframe your frame of reference.

As a result, all manner of stuff has crawled out of all manner of boxes, often letting loose more Pandora-monium than useful creativity.

Still, today, thinking inside the box is eschewed like the plague.

What a huge mistake!

I say, if you want to unleash the best of your creative energy, you need to get back in the box with your thinking.

Creativity needs boundaries to thrive!

Recently, a friend posted a YouTube video of John Cleese talking about how to be more effectively creative.

[As an aside and completely unrelated to my topic, my favorite quote from the video is, “People who have no idea what they're doing have no idea they have no idea.” Yes! The clueless are clueless to their cluelessness – a topic for another time.]

Central to Cleese’s discussion in this brief video was the concept of creating a “tortoise enclosure” that represented boundaries of space and time; to put yourself in a place free of distractions and set a time limit for developing your idea.

One person commented on the video stating, “Interesting how much structure goes into producing a creative work. On the surface it would appear the opposite.”

Structure can unleash boundless creativity!

Consider poetry. Some of the most beautiful poems are sonnets written by Shakespeare. These consist, essentially, of 14 lines of ten syllables each, in rhyming iambic pentameter, arranged a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.

Another simple form of poetry is the haiku. A haiku is three lines totaling 17 syllables arranged 5-7-5. Yet these little poems are capable of evincing incredible images and strong emotion.

Structure is the box that allows such amazing creativity.

If there are no boxes, we’ll ask for them or find our own

Among the most herculean of tasks is being asked to speak or write and then given no other parameter other than the deadline. Inevitably, confronted with such an opportunity, you will ask for a topic, as well as how much time you have to speak or how many words are desired from your pen. The most frightening response you can receive is, “Oh, pick whatever topic you want and write or speak as much as you care to.”

Such a response is guaranteed to throw you immediately into the deepest depths of writer’s block. You have no idea where to begin or end. It’s like being abandoned in the middle of a frozen white tundra with no compass or point of reference surrounded by nothing but a flat-lined horizon.

That’s why you see such quotes from writers like the one attributed to Gene Fowler who said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Or Red Smith’s take, “Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Getting inside a box would be a comfort at this point. And, in order to tackle your assignment, that’s what you need to do: Get into a "box" to relax and let the creative juices flow.

Box it up and let it out

There’s nothing wrong with being creative inside the box of your choosing and design. Or as Cleese calls it, a “tortoise enclosure.”

You tame the blank white sheet of paper by creating boundaries and applying structure.

Most writing or speaking opportunities will come with parameters. You will be given a topic, with which you are usually allowed some flexibility. And you will be told you have 20 minutes or so to speak, or that your article should be around 750 words. If not, then you need to structure your own box.

Sides of the box include time delimits, quiet space, project parameters, and content topic.

Thinking inside the box not only allows you the freedom to be more creative, it also helps you stay focused which yields better, more cohesive results.

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Do you like to think "inside" or "outside" the box? Share your tips and insights!

Monday, April 18, 2011

It’s all Glossolalia to me!: Speaking in tongues in plain English

I grew up in church. Or, more accurately, church was central and essential to my growing up. While I didn’t actually live in a church, I spent a lot of time in ours. Everyone who went there did.

There was church at least twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday night, and then various “meetings” other times through the week.

And then there were the revivals. Revivals were every night except Monday for at least two weeks, sometimes four or five or six weeks.

We were one of those families, when the church doors were open, we were there.

As a result, I grew up speaking “Christianese.” It’s the language we used when talking about the Bible, church, Jesus, God, and all things religious. In fact, anyone who has been a Christian for a few years tends to speak Christianese. It comes natural.

Much of Christianese is an adaptation of snippets from Scripture strung together as needed. If you don’t know the Bible or have never been to church, you most likely won’t understand Christianese.

In fact, much of Christianese can sound really bizarre to an “outsider,” also known as the lost, a sinner, or heathen.

Someone who is lost has never found Christ, aka Jesus, the Lord, my King, our Saviour. And that’s Saviour with a “u.” Leaving out the “u” is what those liberals do (aka, the really, really lost).

It can get really freaky when we start talking about “being washed in the blood” and “cleansed by the blood.” For the unenlightened, it can sound pretty darned creepy. I mean, who bathes in blood and how can that make you clean?

I know, it just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, when you take these odd sounding phrases and mix it up with the King James version of the Bible, things can really get crazy. Suddenly sentences are laced with a lot of thee’s, thou’s, and words ending in –eth.

It’s no wonder I was never able to “lead someone to Christ;” no one who wasn’t already “in the way” had no clue what I was talking about!

Frankly, when I would really think about it, I wasn’t sure what I was talking about!

I mean, what does it really mean to be “filled with the Spirit” or “washed in the blood”?

In college (yes, I went to a Christian liberal arts college), one of our professors challenged us to try to talk about our faith without using any Christianese.

We couldn’t go more than half a sentence before hitting the wall and drawing a blank, if you get my meaning (I also speak fluent cliché).

Back then, besides the King James Bible, which provided the foundation for Christianese, we didn’t have a lot of other resources to turn to. The New English Bible and the Living Bible were just coming out.

Today, thank goodness, there are a wide variety of Bible translations and paraphrases that can help move Christianese from the obscure into the mainstream. Now, we can talk about our faith and be hip, contemporary, and a little more understandable.

Or can we?

After all, the blood of Christ is the blood of Christ in any Bible version, and is essential to a person’s salvation. Oh, and salvation means, uh, well – being saved! You know, born again; being saved from being lost! I mean, it’s like, we die to ourselves and are raised in Christ.

Get it? Think “Easter.”

Um, Jesus was nailed to a cross to take the punishment we deserved on himself so that we can accept the gift of salvation and have eternal life. Like it says in the Bible:

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:15-21, KJV)
You dig? Capiche? No?

Okay, let’s try the new, cool, with it Message version of these verses:
“…and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
Is that any clearer, or does it still sound like someone’s speaking in tongues?

Hmm, I guess unlearning Christianese isn’t all that easy. But I’ll keep trying because I really want you to get this.

After all, your very soul is at stake. Mine, too.

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Thoughts?
 
Here's an excellent post on the same topic with great tips:
http://stickyjesus.com/2011/07/avoiding-christianese-how-to-connect-to-non-believers-online/

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stance & Slant: Stand and deliver with respect

There’s a great commercial by Xerox that shows a guy interacting with a cardboard cutout of the “Fighting Irish” mascot. The mascot, of course, doesn’t speak a word, but his “stance” speaks volumes.

Stance refers to a person’s posture, body language, and the physical expression of their attitude: the way they hold or carry themselves.

For athletes and musicians, the stance is the position they take just before performing. The attitude being expressed is to perform well and win.

Stance also can refer to a person’s attitude, state of mind, or the specific position they hold on a topic.

People who hold liberal views are referred to as left-leaning, which is their stance; while those of a conservative bent are said to lean to the right.

The stance we hold when we take a stand on an issue translates into writing as slant, but with a bit of a twist.

Slant is not just about where we stand, but is more about connecting with our intended audience.

Avoiding the spin cycle

When someone abuses slant, they move into spin. To put a spin on something usually means bending facts, stretching truths, and embellishing reality to make something more appealing; kind of like trying to gild a cow pie and presenting it as an acceptable centerpiece for the dinner table.

On the other hand, the purpose of slant is not to distort, but rather to clarify, connect, and convince using clear facts, plain truths, and unvarnished reality.

Slant takes into consideration the intended audience and casts messages in a tone and style acceptable to that audience. Wording and terminology used are selected and crafted carefully to ensure the audience will be able to receive and understand the message.

Engineers, lawyers, and accountants

For example, when I was developing technical sales proposals with AT&T, the majority of these documents were written by engineers to engineers and incorporated a ton of acronyms and technical terms only engineers could appreciate.

However, these proposals also included financial sections, legal sections, and the always critical executive summaries. Each of these sections were crafted to appeal to their intended audiences.

The executive summary was always one of the more challenging sections to write, and one that I was often singled out to develop. It was slanted toward a non-technical reader who wasn’t a finance or legal expert, while providing a brief but thorough overview of the entire proposal that would allow the reader to make an informed decision.

Engineers, lawyers, or accountants didn’t write executive summaries primarily because their personal stance was too heavily weighted toward their specialties. This made it impossible for them to slant their content in a way that would connect with someone who was not deeply versed in their specialties.

Leaning in to make connections

Writing slant means you need to be objective about your own viewpoint while being sensitive to your intended audience. It means you lean toward them like you lean in close when chatting with an intimate friend.

Slanted writing is real, personal, and accessible.

We all have a variety friends, relatives, and acquaintances who are very different from one another. The way you chat with your buddy, Gus, the 30-something architect, can involve more complex ideas and language than when you chat with Aunt Gertie, who is in her 70s, dropped out of school after 7th grade, and spends all her time watching reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

With each, you’ll modify your conversational style to match their conversational style as well as taking into consideration their frames of reference, etc.. If you don’t, there will be a lot of “Huh? What?” going on.

Slanting expresses respect

When you write slant, you are being aware of who you are writing to, what’s happening in their world, what your key points you are trying to get across, and how to connect with them in a respectful way at their level.

You will want to be aware of essential demographics, but more importantly, you want to see the people you are trying to reach as human beings and not just an “audience” you are “targeting” with a “message.”

To slant your writing never means to “dumb it down” or come off as if you are talking down to your audience. That’s just another form of spin. Slant is about getting close to your audience, leaning in, looking them in the eye, and respectfully sharing your story.

Tell it slant

To best connect your message with your intended audience;
  • Be aware of your own stance on the topic
  • Stay away from spinning your message
  • Tap into the language of the audience’s community
  • Lean in and write to them as if you are addressing a friend
  • Talk to them, but never down to them
  • Be respectful
Carefully crafting a message means to slant it to be accessible to the various audiences you are trying to reach.  It means stepping off your soap box and standing alongside those you want to connect with.

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Thoughts?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Letting Go of (Prop)aganda: Giving Props To Him Who Sustains

We are surrounded with daily messages telling us what we need to be happy, successful, and just live comfortably in this world.

Then, about once a week, we go to church and sing a hymn that declares, “He [Jesus] is all [we] need.” We hear sermons that remind us to rest in and depend on Jesus for – everything.

But then, we leave church, get into a reliable car, drive to a nearby restaurant, easily pay for a great meal, go home to our nice house, and putter with our toys around the yard.

Ah, summer time and the living is easy.

Marketing = Give us all your money and then you’ll be happy

The world’s propaganda (called marketing and advertising) is essentially geared to take our money. We are teased with the idea that buying this or that will bring us the happiness we won’t find from sticking our money into a savings account or donating it to worthy causes.

The purpose of man, we are told, is to get more stuff!

The devil in the marketing details

The devil’s propaganda is geared toward shifting our reliance away from God onto anything else: better job, loving family, good health, lots of savings, nice house, food in the pantry, and so on.

Satan’s goal is to get us to find our identity in anything and everything other than faith in Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

These other things may all be good. The point is that they are not the point!

Our purpose in life is not about our happiness, but about serving God and enjoying him.

Giving props to the One who knocks away the props

Both what the world sells us and what Satan spins to us is really (prop)aganda: These are all lies we use to “prop” ourselves up instead of depending on and trusting in God.

How does God tend to correct this misplaced dependence?

Simple. He knocks the props out from under us. One at a time. As many as it takes.

How do I know this? Because I’m learning it.

Learning to lean the right way

In the past year or so, pretty much all of my props have been taken from me. I lost my job, developed a series of serious health issues, and had my car stolen and totaled.
  •  The job I lost was the one I quit a good job in Indiana and moved to Cleveland for, among “promises” that it would include years of stability and bonuses.
  • The health I lost included issues with bronchitis that somehow led to atrial fibrillation and flutter that required minor heart surgery and ongoing management with meds. Trailing these was severe anemia that required five units of blood and three iron infusions over several months to get me back on track.
  • The car I lost was a 1992 Jeep that was taken for a joy ride that ended head-on into a tree. It was insured, but the money was needed to cover other, more pressing bills, which means I’m still carless.

In the midst of all this, there have been no job offers, no freelance clients, and just enough unemployment to squeak by.

All of these taken together represent control over my life: it’s not in my hands!

Better than birds

Guess what? Despite fleeting moments of panic, I’m doing okay because God is taking care of me. But I have no idea what’s next! I’ve been kind of forced to live as Jesus directed in Matthew 6:25-34 where he said:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

What’s the point?

Why is this happening? I don’t know. All I know is that I can trust Him to take care of me and that He is.

Maybe what’s happening to me is actually an object lesson for someone else who’s watching my situation. Maybe it’s a training ground for something else coming down the road. Maybe, because I was feeling so cushy in my great-paying job, it’s God’s way of reminding me who’s really in charge of providing my income. Maybe it’s all of those or none of those reasons.

At times I feel like the three Hebrew dudes, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, just before being tossed into a fiery furnace, said to their king:
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

It is clear that I’m not in charge here; I’m not the boss of me. The point is that it’s that all the “props” in the world are worthless. The only right way to lean is on the everlasting arms of God the Father.

And God knows what’s best for me.

While there are days that feel a little “warmer” than others (meaning, getting a little close to furnace), the bottom line is that my needs have been and are being met.

Plus, in the midst of the tough stuff, there have been some very, very good things that have happened: God brought a wonderful, loving, godly woman into my life to whom I am now joyously married. He’s surrounded me with wonderful, godly friends who have blessed me enormously. He has proved to me, again, how much He cares for me.

While I have felt alone, He has never left me alone.

And although props are nice, it’s more important to give props to the One who sustains our very lives:
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

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Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sell me your salsa and no one gets hurt!

My wife, who is always looking to do something nice for me, recently brought home a new brand of blue corn tortilla chips. It’s one of those “down home” brand of products that includes a folksy little story on the back of the bag about how mom and pop got into the business.
Usually, these stories, often clever and endearing, are meant to create an aura of a homey business run by nice people who are just like you and me. But this one had a slightly ominous twist to it.

It seems the business got its start in salsa with the chips coming later. Of course, the salsa was made with loving care in the back of a small rural restaurant (rural is implied).

This fresh salsa made from “only the most expensive ingredients” was once only available with your dinner in the restaurant.

That is, until Mr. Big walked in. And this is where the story gets a little dark!

You don’t mess with Mr. Big

This nameless man is identified as “the president of an upscale supermarket chain.” He was apparently a bit of a thug because what happened when he tasted the salsa is nothing short of shocking.

Like an armed robber in a bank ordering money from a teller, this Mr. Big, according to the story on the bag, apparently confronted the owners, and in their words, “demanded we package it for his stores (emphasis mine).”

Yikes! Seriously? Demanded?

I’m sorry, but I have just a slight problem believing that he demanded the salsa be packaged for his stores. If that’s truly the kind of guy he is, he’s probably a jerk to work for!

I’m guessing a more accurate word might be “insisted.” Or, something like, “enthusiastically encouraged” them. But I really don’t think he thuggishly demanded anything.

You’re wondering, “So what?”

Well, let me tell you the “so what!”

If it’s not true, it’s a lie

I don’t believe the story is an accurate representation. Which means it’s essentially a lie. Just like the claim that they still mix their salsa in 5 gallon buckets. These exaggerations don’t ring true and so the story becomes less effective.

Good compelling writing, even on bags of chips, does not mean you exaggerate, embellish, or in any other way alter or misrepresent facts. When you do, you damage your own credibility and weaken your brand.

Now, if this little bag tale had been cast as a folksy yarn which implies its loosely based on fact but has been stretched for humorous affect (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) then, okay. That’s different.

But that’s not the case in this instance. The essay is written in a serious, but semi-warm tone, clearly being presented as a factual bit of company history.

Does this bag really contain safe, nutritious food? Hmmmm….

Again, you’re asking, “So what?”

This makes all of the company’s claims suspect. It raises a tiny, gnawing doubt about the quality of their products. If they’re willing to stretch the truth on their story, can we be sure the ingredients list is 100% true? Are they really “all natural” ingredients? Do these chips really contain no cholesterol or tans fat?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The point is that good writing must be precise, accurate, and truthful. Period.

Stretching the truth may seem like it creates a stronger story, but it actually threatens to weaken your brand and sour your customers. Just don’t do it.

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Postscript: I emailed the company in question regarding the use of the word "demanded" and claiming to make their salsa in five gallon buckets. Here is the response I received the day after my inquiry:

Regarding the wording you mention, you're probably right, it is a little clumsy to say he "demanded" that we package it for his stores, but the sentiment was honest and heartfelt--intended to convey a little bit of his sense of enthusiasm. As for still making our salsa in 5-gallon buckets, I can verify that that statement is absolutely true. We simply haven't found a way to make it in large batches and still preserve our breakthrough flavor. It's a little harder that way, but we think the results are worth it.
Hmmmm. I'm still just a tad skeptical about the buckets, but it seems they are telling the truth! A photo of the "buckets" in action would help alleviate disbelief. As for "demanded," I hope they change the wording going forward.

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Thoughts?