INBOX INSIGHTS, April 13, 2022: Spoil the Ending, Equal Time, The Great Resignation

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Don’t Be Afraid to Spoil the Ending

I am going to give away the ending of this post. You need to reach the right audience. The right audience won’t run away if they know how the story ends. Give them a compelling conclusion and they will stick around to read the rest of the narrative.

I love reading. I read a lot, sometimes three different books at a time. I mostly read thrillers and murder mysteries where stating the ending at the beginning ruins the whole story. Until it doesn’t. I recently started reading a book where the author gave everything away in the first chapter but it was such a twist that I couldn’t wait to dive into the rest of the book to see how it all happened.

Why don’t we apply these same rules to our marketing content? Why are we so worried about putting the ending first?

When I read for pleasure, I can take my time and be pickier. I recently just started reading a thrilled that started with the ending. It was such a weird twist that I couldn’t wait to dive in and find out how they got to that point. When I read for business and professional development I’m trying to consume as much relevant material as possible. Herein lies the issue that I run into – a lot of the content I need to be reading is dense, technical, and complicated. My eyes start to swim and my brain feels like it’s flip-flopping. The best I can do is a cursory skim of the material. But I don’t get much out of that. The next thing I do is start at the end and work my way backward.

What? You read articles backward?

Yes, yes I do. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I don’t read the sentences themselves backward, just the paragraphs. I’ve found that by reading the conclusion first and then each paragraph that comes before tells a more cohesive story and helps me comprehend what the author is communicating.

Think back to when you were taught how to write in elementary school. Start with your hypothesis or argument, use the next three paragraphs to reinforce your point, and then state your conclusion. Using that structure, your point is the first and last thing you talk about. This structure gives the reader the information they need to decide if they want to keep reading. Back to my original point – if your conclusion is compelling, people will want to read the whole story.

An excellent example of not starting with the ending is online recipes. Who among us hasn’t searched for a simple recipe, only to be met with an 800-word essay on how it had been passed down from their brother’s mother’s sister’s grandmother’s Nona’s housekeeper, and every time they drive past a field of tulips they are reminded of the way the sun shone through the window at 6 am on a Tuesday morning…you get the idea. The reader wants the recipe. Give them the recipe. Then give them the back story. Don’t worry, when you reach the right audience they will want to read the whole thing.

At this stage, you’re wondering, “If I state the conclusion upfront will people bother reading the rest of the article?” Yes. If your readers know what they will get out of the content and it suits their needs, they will stick around for the rest of the story. Earlier, I was talking about how I like to read thrillers and mysteries. There are a fair number of stories that start with the ending. It’s a risk, but I’m the right audience. It’s my favorite genre and I’m always looking for new twists and turns. Your content should do the same.

So, don’t be afraid to give away the ending. Your audience will want to know how you arrived at that conclusion and stick around for the rest. You’ll also be doing people like me a huge solid by helping me understand what you want to communicate faster and I will stick around for your whole story too.

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– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Binge Watch and Listen

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss the impact of the Great Resignation on organizations and how marketers should be thinking about preserving institutional knowledge. How do you anticipate and protect your organization from unexpected (or expected) departures, ensuring you can still meet your goals and create the kind of impact you need? Tune in to find out.

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Data Diaries - Interesting Data We Found

In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s talk about equal time. Have you ever listened to a podcast or a show where one personality just overwhelms the others? Have you ever watched a panel at a conference where one panelist – or even worse, the panel moderator – just hogs the mic as much as possible?

One of the things that artificial intelligence gives us is the ability to quantify data like this and identify issues within the data. Natural language processing has become so skillful that speech recognition is now more or less a commodity. While it’s not perfect (and will take some time still before it does reach human-level transcription), it’s substantially better than it was even just four years ago.

In our In-Ear Insights podcast, we use AI to keep track of how much speaking Katie and I do, to make sure one of us isn’t totally overwhelming the other. From week to week, topic to topic, the dominant speaker changes, but on average, we do okay. Here’s how it works. Each week, we load our podcast episodes into the transcription service, and it provides not only a transcript, but basic text analytics:

Percentage speaking example

When we tabulate up the results, what we see looks like this:

Speaker percentage

This is very healthy. What we see is that week to week, depending on the topic, one of us typically has more to say than the other. And if we apply a 5-week moving average to this, here’s what we see:

Moving average of speaking

In other words, we’re both speaking roughly about 50% of the time, which is what you’d expect and want in a podcast with two hosts.

In another show that has two hosts that should have equal billing, running the numbers shows that one host speaks on average 79% of the time, while the other host speaks a mere 21% of the time. That’s quite an imbalance.

So what? What’s the point of this information? If you’re running a show of your own, track your data and see if the reality matches up to your perception that the different participants have equal air time. Your audience will appreciate the balance, especially around different topics and as we see above in our own data, it’s okay for one episode to lean one way and another episode to lean the other way.

If diversity and inclusion are strategic imperatives for your organization (which according to the latest CMO Survey by Duke University, 40% of marketing leaders have seen employee acquisition and retention benefits from D&I initiatives), then this sort of analysis helps you understand whether or not a program is working. Representation – meaning an audience gets to hear different, balanced points of view – isn’t just who’s listed on the docket, but who actually gets to speak and be heard, and how much.

If you’re organizing something like a panel at a conference, not only is it important to have diverse people represented on the panel, you need participants committed to sharing the stage with each other equally. The worst panelists are the ones who clearly weren’t talented enough or persuasive enough to earn a speaking slot of their own, and so they hijack the panel instead. But instead of just going with your gut, with today’s AI tools you can validate your suspicions by analyzing past recordings and performing speaker analysis.

And finally, if you’re a host or speaker or moderator, use tools like this to check yourself. I thought I was giving Katie equal air time on the show, but now I have the data to confirm that my perceptions were correct – and it’s easy to see how those perceptions might NOT be correct.

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