Two things have been on my mind. I have not been able to shake them, and I just realized why: They parallel each other.
The ideas seem to be wildly divergent: On the one hand, I have been marveling at the inability of the Obama administration to tell a compelling story; and on the other hand, I have been thinking about the design of my web site.
At first they don’t seem related, but I’ve finally worked out the connection… if not the solution…
With less than 40% of the American public even bothering to go out and vote, there aren’t a lot of people listening carefully to what President Obama says.
There is also the 24 hour newsbeast that must be fed. And sadly, most people get their information about Obama and his ideas from the newsbeast. So Obama says something. Someone writes about what he says. An Editor selects a few key details from the story, a writer summarizes that, and the TV presenter speaks those words in front of the camera.
So – even in the very best case – the majority of people who hear what Obama has to say, actually hear it third-hand, after a couple of revisions and edits.
None of this is news. I know.
But imagine how frustrating it must be for Obama to present an idea with his full dialectic and intellectual abilities… only to have the majority of people hear a watered-down, filtered, and largely incorrect version presented? How frustrating.
Not exactly rocket science, but…
Creating messages that survive this slash-and-burn editorial process is a skill some people have in spades… and none of those people work for Obama.
The naive gullibility and ineptitude of the Obama Administration when it comes to story telling is jaw-droppingly bad. The simplest preventative measures are repeatedly overlooked, flubbed, or simply ignored.
Analyzing the colossal communications failures of the Obama Administration is a tired and well-covered topic, so I don’t need to go into the total howlers – like letting their insurance proposal be called the “Individual Mandate” – but the overall failure to tell a simple and compelling story, time and time again, is simply inexcusable, especially considering that his detractors are phenomenally good at it.
Is there not a single person in the administration who has taken Journalism 101 yet? You think they’d learn how to throw a punch after being beaten up by the schoolyard bullies for so long!
Which brings me to my web site! (No really… this will totally make sense! Bear with me…)
Losing all the special customization and design of my web site was a bit of a blessing (despite losing the money it cost me to get it done), and now that I have overcome the initial shock of the loss, the blessings are more apparent.
There was a lot of pretty in that version of the site, but the story wasn’t there.
I had lost the essential message of what it is that I do, and who I do it for, and it was lost under too much text and colorful logos.
As I rebuild my site, I will do it slowly, and in appropriate increments. I’ll add the essentials of the story back into the site, and leave the shiny flashy bits for those who do shiny flashy things of no consequence.
So where is the parallel between Obama’s inability to tell a story, and my old, over-designed web site? It comes down to this:
Everything is story.
No matter where you look, everything is trying to tell you a story. Because that is what humans connect with.
That bumper sticker. The font choice for that company’s logo. The menu at your local restaurant. The hidden forward-pointing arrow in the FedEx logo. The color of that shop.
Every one of these details was selected to make you feel something, to tell you something about the offering, and to engage more than just your reasonable, rational mind with choosing that product or service over another.
The devil may be in the details, but the story goes all the way down to the smallest of those details.
What story are you telling? Does it flow? Does it work across multiple different media? Does it survive vicious editing? Is it easy for someone to remember and repeat to someone else?
If not, then you have some work to do… right Mr. President?