It’s the sauce that makes the message tasty

We were at lunch, and my friend Ms. B was describing her nonprofit’s latest communications failure. I had dipped my spring roll into the bowl of sweet sauce and was trying not to drip the red sauce onto my green tie.spring_roll

Ms. B’s organization services people with various educational backgrounds. They are not unintelligent people, but unlike Ms. B, they do not have a PhD in administrative health care, either. They do not work in government relations, which would require them to prepare detailed position papers about health care that only those with a health care background – or who legislate on health issues – could comprehend. Ms. B prepares dry material, like a spring roll without the sweet sauce.

The vast majority of the people her organization services certainly could not digest her reports. And Ms. B is not trained to translate her research into a language those stakeholders could absorb.

And therein lies the stain. Ms. B’s organization decided its researchers must blog, tweet, and otherwise spread their reports via social media. No matter that they are not trained in social media. No matter that they haven’t been trained to synthesize their reports into a format understandable by the general public. Just do it, they’ve been told.

The organization has a communications team. But they are not to be involved in this endeavor.

Say what? The sweet sauce is tipping over! Quick, get a napkin! Too late. Ms. B’s nonprofit just poured sauce on its tie.

Not incorporating the communications team in a communications plan is a recipe for failure. Communicators take the complex, simplify it accurately, and disseminate it with the greatest chance of positive impact. It’s a skill set, an acquired taste. Successful organizations integrate the communications team into every aspect of the organization. A successful organization assigns members of the communication team to the researchers so they can work together to spread the word.

Communicators are the sauce that makes the message tasty. They are effective on the spring roll. They’re wasted on the tie.


© 2013

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


3 responses to this post.

  1. Nice line at the end!



  2. Love the springroll/tie analogy – great message



  3. Indeed we are. They will probably see a huge problem with writing in “Plain Language.” Unfortunately many orgs make this mistake. Because the communications/marketing people have “other priorities”. When will orgs learn that all external and internal communications should be handled/run through the communications department?



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