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How to write better copy for the while "digital transformation" urgency, "change or die" thing - Coté's Commonplace Book - Issue #61
Two pieces of writing advice for when your goal is to communicate, not (just) entertain. Scroll to the bottom for a Yacht Rock playlist.
Hold the reader's hand
Here’s a piece of writing advice that seems annoying at first, but is especially needed in most non-fiction books: tell people what you’re about to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. I’ll give you an example. I was reviewing a book draft recently and the author wanted to make the point that “digital is the new default” and secondary, that the scale requirements are different now. They then jumped into a list of example in business and regular life. It’s great to provide examples of statements like “digital is the new default,” but it’s jarring to just read through several section of this. By simply adding some short surrounding text, you can make the transition softer, less noticeable.
“Digital is the new default. This is true across IT that’s used to run businesses and that consumers use. Let me show you a few examples of each.”
And then you go over the examples, each a paragraph or two long.
At the end, you wrap up with another little section that says something like “As these example shows, organizations must now rely on digital to run their business and interact with people. This puts new pressures on IT to perform at scale.”
(My wording of those sentences and using the word “digital” in the way the English say “hospital” and “university” isn’t the best, but whatever.)
Writing about the urgency of "digital transformation," or anything in technology
I love the narrative arc of saying that a problem technology was once the darling technology that saved the day. But, now that previous hero-technology has become the problem child.
This isn't the tech's fault, it just was allowed to wilt by vendors and users - it could also have been customized so much that it's now unchangeable (e.g., many ERP and help desk systems).
There is a lot of empathy to have for "legacy" technologies!
When you want to say that the technology most people currently use is old, crufty, and unhelpful...and so they need to urgently get some new technology, you only need to make this point once and not spend too much time on the back-story.
Once you've spent 2 to 4 sentences being all like "you're held back by your legacy stuff!", what's more valuable is talking about (1) what the desired, new, better end-state is, and, most valuable (2) how to get from here to there.
Your reader will know and be convinced that they need to change - otherwise, they won't be reading your text/pitch. They are most hungry to know how.
From our upcoming State of Kubernetes 2020 survey:
This week we discuss Dagger’s Launch, Employee Tacking and Executive Compensation. Plus, some thoughts on beans and broccoli…
Relevant to your interests
Change Is Hard. Here’s How to Make It Less Painful. ‘we noticed that people only begin to be open to accepting, embracing, and making a change when their mindset starts to shift from “this change is going to be difficult, costly, and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding, and normal.” Once someone starts to believe that a change could be easy (or at least doable) to make; that the rewards of making the change will outweigh the costs; and that the change could become normal – that is, that it could be “the way we do things,” then that person starts to be willing to operate in the new ways the change requires – they’ll learn and do the new behaviors, and the change can occur.’
Engage with my brand!
"I'm not much into health food. I. Am. Into. Champaign!"
I created a playlist from the April 1st Left of the Dial Yacht Rock episode, from back in Austin on KUTX.