Monday, 10 October 2011

The Litmus Test

To spare blushes I will not mention the name of the extraordinarily progressive and creative clients I’ve been shooting with this week in Dallas.  Except to say that they really get it.  They’re using vivid and entertaining messaging to directly drive revenue with their clients and partners.  

Thanks to our (parody) presenters Joey and Alan, the satire is right up there with The Daily Show. A shot between the eyes for all of those pseudo-news show's that companies make for employees sometimes.

One day, this won’t seem so unusual. Companies everywhere will be creating dynamic and entertaining communications. They’ll stop patronising their employees with “plastic” performances from bored talent reading corporate-safe text with all of the passion and humour of an infomercial about cleaning fluid.

Why do we think that people’s taste’s change when they come to work. And why do we think that television and films are a different medium that video used in the workplace

So – here it is. Three ways to know if what you’re doing is worth the effort.

1.              Does it look like the kind of material people choose to watch?
This simple litmus test will probably fail 80% of corporate communications being produced today. Especially the video-based stuff.  Try watching some award-winning TV.  Documentaries, comedies, drama  - anything as long as it’s good. I’ve met lots of internal comms and marketing people who say they don’t have time to watch TV or go to the cinema. How on earth are you supposed to BUY this as a service if you have such low exposure to the good stuff.

2.              Is it intelligent?
I’ve seen corporate awareness campaigns that would patronise my 8 year-old daughter.   Cartoons. Poor writing. Unfunny humour and unbelievable, undramatic drama. Just ask yourself; “Would I watch this crap?”.   Seriously – I am astonished at what some companies churn out.

3.             Is it appropriate?
Video and film is a time-based medium. If what your teaching is a skill – great. I can get a YouTube video to show me how to gut a fish. Fantastic, if that’s what I need. But usually, in business, we’re not talking about pisco-culinary expertise. We’re talking about convincing people to modify their behaviour to benefit the business in some way. So use television for what it’s good at. Making people feel and understand.  In the words of a west-coast surfer, “let’s make some memories dude…”

I understand that in reality, this situation is not going to change overnight. BUT the more companies use grown-up ideas and creativity to engage employees and customers, the more obvious it will be to the laggards that what they’re doing is just not working.  We know that companies have standards and rules to keep to.  These rules are sometimes in opposition to what interests people, entertainment-wise - so there’s always a challenge.  But that’s no reason not to try, and the outcome is almost always exponentially more effective.


  1. Spot on as always Jim. Why should comms people "not have time to watch TV" if it's part of their learning? To remain relevant in nearly every profession people need to continue to learn and grow. You wouldn't want to be given medical advice by a doctor who hasn't kept up to date with developments in medicine since 1993?

  2. Absolutely. I have worked for a lady within the last two years who commissioned a comprehensive internal comms campaign based on a comedy series, and claimed not to have time to watch watch TV. They tried to destroy the comedy in the episodes just because she "wasn't getting it". She was fatally disconnected from her employee base...