Google is a gift to communicators. Yes, I know people are grumbling about Google lately. For example, there’s the Atlantic Monthly article, Is Google Making Us Stupid? The New York Times on July 27 weighed in with "Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?" Ragan Communications just posted an article, Google is good, but it's not God.
Yet, for LEAN communicators who need to do more with less and get great results, Google and other search engines are a mission-critical tool. In fact, Google and other search engines can help us improve our communications in three ways:
1. Know our audience. If you’re pitching to an individual or a group, you can gather detailed information about your audience before you start planning your communications and certainly before you start writing. Through regular Google searches or checking out LinkedIn or Facebook pages, you can learn interesting nuggets about the people you’re addressing. Know your audience is a core element of being LEAN. For example, one of my students from my class this summer learned this lesson the hard way. In his final paper, he wrote eloquently about a subject that the main professor knew intimately. The topic was an organizational model the professor had worked with daily for years when he was a management consultant. If the student had “Googled” the professor, the student would have learned that the professor worked for the consulting firm that invented this organizational model. And if the student were savvy, he would have viewed this as a dead giveaway that he needed to either rewrite that section of the paper or even choose something different to write about. But the student didn’t and he's now having to explain a charge of plagiarism.
2. Research our content. Through search engines, you can quickly learn about topics you want to write about. Forget about squandering hours in a library or calling or emailing sources; you can spend minutes on your computer in the comfort of your own house or office. You also can fact check multiple sources to ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information.
3. Help fill in the gaps. With the search engines, you also can detect what’s missing in terms of facts or analysis. This becomes your sweet spot—you then supply the missing information or the interpretation that connects the dots or provides a new point of view. And from your audience’s perspective, this is your value add.
For example, years ago a famous sports writer for one of the Chicago papers told me and other impressionable journalism students that he used to call his brother-in-law, a rabid football fan, immediately after Monday night football and ask him: “So what do you still want to know? What did the color commentators neglect to tell you?” What his brother-in-law shared became the focus of his column the next day. Today, that advice is even more pertinent. What’s the point in regurgitating information anyone can find on Google? Been there. Read that. So what? Instead, you need to offer up the new.
Google and other search engines have dramatically changed how many of us work. And for those of us who need to do more with less and still produce great results, Google is a great tool. Thanks, from LEAN communicators everywhere.