A former colleague tells the (cautionary) tale of being commissioned to write a document in support of a new marketing strategy. The strategy itself was very simple. But the marketing director – who needed to sell the strategy to his Board – wanted weighty support for the simplicity.
‘We need something substantial,’ he told my colleague. ‘We need something serious. I’m thinking 50 or 60 pages of serious.’
My colleague suggested that something short and to the point might be more appropriate. ‘Perhaps just a page or two? Clear and concise? Something that’s easy to read, consider, and digest?’ But the marketing director was set on the idea of a document with the physical attributes of an old-fashioned telephone directory.
The document which my colleague eventually delivered was an impressive 52 pages long. And, about two-thirds of the way down page 47, he slipped in a sentence that said: ‘If you’re still reading this, call me on [telephone number supplied] and I’ll be happy to shout you lunch at my favourite restaurant.’
For several days he waited for his phone to ring. But it didn’t. It seems that even the marketing director failed to get as far as page 47.
In the wise words of one of my early mentors: ‘When you have something important to say, say it as simply and succinctly as you can. And then shut up.’