Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend. He traveled the land in search of worthy foes. (Cue prospective worthy foes)..."I see you like to chew. Maybe you should chew...on my fist!" The warrior said nothing, for his mouth was full. Then he swallowed. And then he spoke...

"Enough talk, let's fight!"

kung fu branding Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation

So begins the classic opening sequence from Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda. This short exchange reveals a lot about human cynicism and its implications for marketing and communication. Namely, people don't buy the hype. No matter how legendary you claim your skills are, people don't want to talk, they want to fight.

Through the communication lens: don't TELL your audience what you do, SHOW them what you do. Based on many years of working for and with small businesses and nonprofits, I can say with some confidence that the number one communication challenge for smaller organizations to overcome is the incessant need to talk about oneself, as though volume of word is a suitable substitute for tangible proof. The number two communication challenge is avoiding hyperbolic statements of grandeur as though an educated audience would actually believe what you say.

Recently, a pre-edit website bio from a client in the coaching arena included the following phrases:

  • "...a lasting result that richly avows the complex diversity of the corporate world."
  • "Displaying a vivid understanding of the human condition..."
  • "Uniquely devoted in the realm of organizational relevance..."

I don't even understand what most of that means. The unfortunate reality is that we've moved past the days when people actually trust companies and their advertisers. They want to see the proof. They want to touch the product. They want to be able to align marketing copy with reality.

How do you do it? Pictures. Videos. Blog posts (from the heart, not from the salesman). Podcasts. Testimonials. Reveal the core of who you are through emotional texture and experience, and you can keep the copy to a minimum. The irony is that writing good marketing copy is hard. Revealing who you are and what you do is easy.

Enough talk. Let's fight.

Tim Whitney

About Tim Whitney

Tim is the founder of Greenisland Media, having worked for and with nonprofits for over 18 years in policy, program design, and communication. @greenislandtim