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September 28, 2007 | Tate Linden
At an event put on by ASAE last night I heard David Colton, page one editor for USA Today, say the words in the title of this post. Unlike most of the online references to this topic he wasn't talking about how to preserve your singing voice or avoid painful laryngal issues.

He used the phrase to jokingly refer to the way most newspapers write articles. It's the advice he gives to others at USA Today if they want their article to be printed as written. Most newspaper articles start with a convoluted introduction that sets the tone, provides context, or tells the back story to the article before the real reason for the story happens - leading to the reader wanting to scream, "GET TO THE STORY ALREADY!" As you probably know, USA Today just says what happened and leaves the verbal gymnastics to the other papers.

I've heard a somewhat similar phrase used in the news industry - "Don't bury the lead." But it has key differences. Burying the lead implies that you miss the point of the story. Clearing your throat doesn't mean the point of the story is missed - it just means that it is delayed.

I really like the new phrase, though. It's got a lot in common with something we say at Stokefire all the time - that being "Get the [bleep] out of the way of the message." We often spend so much time in marketing trying to set up the perfect delivery of our message that our audience loses interest before we get the chance to tell 'em why we're worth knowing.

I think we may end up stealing "Don't Clear Your Throat." I like it that much.

And in case you're wondering how Stokefire lives up to our own phrase - here's how I introduce my team:

"Hi - we're Stokefire. We name stuff." And if I'm feeling ornery I might add "...and we do it pretty damn well."

Might be worth taking a look at your own messaging to see if you're expectorating a bit much. (No one likes to hear you gargle.)

And last - David's discussion was pretty cool. He talked about how the focus of the paper help bring the nation together. To provide common ground - stuff that everyone could talk about over the water cooler. I could really see how this philosophy has to be paired with the no-nonsense delivery of facts without preamble. No one starts a water cooler conversation with "Did you hear? Twenty years ago these two guys started a tech company in their basement..."

Jeffry Pilcher September 28, 2007 12:27 PM

This reminds me of a term we often use around Weber Marketing Group: "creative encryption" or "creative encoding," which the a deliberate attempt to make a concept more interesting than it is when phrased in plain, straightforward English.
The questions that need to be asked when doing this are:

* Will the reader need to apply more energy than necessary to decipher the message?

* Will it take longer for readers to get the message than if it was just delivered straight?

* Will the message be deciphered in the way it was intended?
There's another term you could use for it too: 'advertiseritis.' For some reason, ad agencies seem to loathe messages delivered straight.

Tate Linden September 29, 2007 8:36 AM

Interesting angle, Jeffry.
Agreed that having an encoded message can help - but you have to start with that core statement. Many companies are so busy building in funny, strange, or lofty goals into their message that they forget what they were trying to say to begin with...
Odd that it could get to the point where just saying what needs to be said is refreshing...

dottie October 11, 2007 11:05 AM

It seems like you guys are talking about two different things
(1) Is the point clear

(2) How much throat clearing occurs before the writer/speaker gets to the point
Being unclear is a mortal sin, but it is committed alot, especially by ad agencies being clever.

Throat clearing is a venial sin but it is everywhere and we're all vulnerable.
I've struggled with the throat clearing issue since I started blogging. My its nature blogging

lends itself to throat clearing. Tate, as I look at your post on this topic, it looks to me

like there's 1.5 paragraphs of throat clearing, but that seems right in this medium.

Tate Linden October 11, 2007 11:25 AM

Dottie -
You win!
I am most certainly a throat clearer. Thankfully I reserve most of that for the blog. If I were a better blogger I would've somehow done a USA TODAY style intro. But I'm not a great blogger.
I guess there's a difference between getting your brand message across and telling stories to those that are already familiar with your brand. My blog is probably 60% business tool and 40% BS meter to ensure that the ideas developing in my brain actually make sense to people. Yep - I've gotten business here, but more often I've gained new perspective as folks (like you and Jeffry) give me feedback about stuff I've posted as fact or opinion.
There's a place for throat clearing. It's just not in an arena where people have hundreds of other messages coming at them. (Which does make me wonder why I do it on my blog...)
Many thanks for stopping by!