Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Examples of Good Corporate Communication Do Exist

In several previous blogs, we’ve highlighted examples of poor communication. From poorly worded media statements of companies in crisis making horrible word choices to poorly phrased email statements to downright awful corporate announcements which highlighted insensitive, inconsiderate and thoughtless communication by corporate leadership – poor communication is everywhere. However, occasionally, I run across an example of corporate communication done right.

A couple weeks ago, I read about the acquisition of deal-a-day website Woot by the e-commerce giant Amazon. I knew nothing about the Woot brand, their corporate culture or the deals of the acquisition, but the letter to employees written by CEO Matt Rutledge was nothing short of brilliant. He utilizes Cicero’s model of successful communication utilizing three essential ingredients: charm – teach – move.

For the full text, click here.

Throughout the letter, Mr. Rutledge employs Cicero’s model, but let’s look at a few specific things he did right:

1. His style is consistent with the brand and the corporate culture. A quick look at What is Woot? page on the website shows the company is snarky, clever, self-deprecating and uses humor during their customer interactions. Mr. Rutledge’s letter to employees utilizes the same tone in the very first sentence – “I know I say this every time I find a picture of an adorable kitten, but please set aside 20 minutes to carefully read this entire email.” His tone and clever delivery continue throughout the letter until the very last line – “Also, there will be six muffins waiting in the company break room, courtesy of the nice folks at Amazon.com. Welcome to the family!”

2. He directly addresses with employees how this change will impact them. He writes, “We plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot – with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company.”

3. He embraces what he knows will be employees’ “top 5 burning questions” (which really turn out to be only four questions). Nonetheless, the format is clear, concise and demonstrates he knows his employees and what their concerns will be. He outlines that company data forums, staffing, leadership and culture will remain unchanged, therefore quieting restlessness among the ranks about how these changes will impact them and their jobs.

4. He is likeable – his funny, self-deprecating style puts people at ease. He knows this news is big for the company and its employees, but he utilizes language to make the changes relatable to his audience. “This is definitely an emotional day for me. The feelings I’m experiencing are similar to what I felt in college on graduation day: excitement about getting a check from my folks combined with nausea from a hellacious bender the night before.”

While this style of writing would not work for every person, company or audience, the communication lesson is clear. As a communicator, your goal should be to provide your audience with content that grabs and keeps their attention. Integrating your personality, perfecting your tone and utilizing the corporate culture provide a positive experience for the audience and move them to action.

1 comment:

TJ said...

Yes, being likable is an under-rated aspect of being a strong communicator.