“Plenty o’ nuttin’”

Posted December 2nd, 2010 in Communications, Marketing, Media Relations, Music, Public Relations and tagged , by Jeff Bentoff

Communicators often find there’s one obstacle that’s hardest to overcome.


We sometimes fall in love with the sound of our own voice, the words we choose, the cadence. And that can get in the way of the message and our communications judgment.

If you’re falling in love with what you’re saying, remember the words of that great philosopher, The Robot: “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”

[Warning, warning: From the classic 1960s TV series, “Lost In Space.”]

Blogger Rob Parnell writes in a post called “Murder Your Darlings”:

As Elmore Leonard once said, “If I come across anything in my work that smacks of ‘good writing,’ I immediately strike it out.”

Finding the right words to communicate your message usually involves deleting, not adding. Think focus.

Two good examples come from new books about musicians – and the examples involve words, not notes.

In “Frank: The Voice,” author James Kaplan tells how in 1943, Frank Sinatra’s new publicist, George B. Evans, coined the moniker that helped define the great singer.

According to a New York Times review of Kaplan’s book, Evans didn’t like the wordy slogan Sinatra was known by at the time: “The Voice That Has Thrilled Millions.”

“Certain he could come up with something better, Evans closed his eyes and imagined what drove Sinatra’s fans in bobby socks into a frenzy and suddenly realized he didn’t have to add anything. “All he had to do was subtract. Frank was just … the Voice.”

Another example comes from a world of music far from Frank’s – the world of Rolling Stone Keith Richards and his highly acclaimed autobiography, “Life.”

Richards earned honor as co-writer of some of rock-‘n’-roll’s greatest and most legendary songs. James Fox, a journalist who collaborated with Richards on the autobiography, found the guitar slinger and tunesmith to be a talented editor, according to Janet Maslin of the New York Times.

Maslin quoted Fox:

“What I couldn’t guess was that he’d be such a very good natural editor,” Mr. Fox, reached by e-mail, says of Mr. Richards. “He cut, accordingly, for pace and rhythm — a real musical cut. As for calling the book “Life,” Mr. Richards did some editing there too. “My Life” was what the book was to be called. “I said ‘I tell you what, just cut off the ‘My,’ and you’ve got a title,” he says. He might just as appropriately have used another title he likes, “Keep It Dark.” But, he says, “I’m saving it for a song.”

Actually, it’s not surprising that Richards is a smart editor. Rock-‘n’-roll and the Stones are about directness, if nothing else. And in rock-‘n’-roll, directness communicates.

One way to sum this all up – in song, of course – comes from ol’ blue eyes himself.

This song isn’t about editing, but it kinda fits. Enjoy.

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