I write. I write a lot. I write without second thought and press “publish” before I even review my text most of the time. And so should you. Here’s why.
Opinion pieces are not like other journalism or business communication. In your mind, that is something dangerous or risky. Because you are focused on objectively informing. You are clearly not out to influence the reader. News, or a business report simply array the facts. Like this quarter’s sales break down. Sure, the way you present facts makes a difference but you pretend to avoid opinion. And what good is that? You are essentially saying “I don’t know what this all means, please someone else tell me.”
No, no, I want you to do two things much more important than just look at sales figures. First of all I want you to rethink something we all had as a fixed idea. Fresh eyes on something. Have you ever considered that tomatoes are incredibly clever? Within a few hundred years they went from a relatively unknown species, limited to a small part of the planet, to conquering the entire globe all year round. If my analogy is good and you stop reading and think for a minute, you might see the world in an entirely different light. You might think of something interesting and useful for your task in hand in fact.
Masterful communicators don’t stop there. They add the second element which propels good writing or business communication. Fire. Emotion. Passion. For the love of tomatoes, let’s stop eating bland varieties! See how that doesn’t work? Lack of flavor in tomatoes surely is not that important. I set it up well and then lost it. Why?
Passion doesn’t appear magically from the sky. Good presentation skills or fancy writing can’t conjure it up either. Passion is about the flow of ideas between two states. Like a liquid moving between two bowls of differing altitude. There needs to be a problem for there to be passion, a difference. So if you want to communicate your opinion effectively, you need to set up that difference. What difference?
This is a very scientific way to explain it but we are living in the age of algorithms. What we need to do is to set up our model of how the world works first. In business this is often our current practices. On a personal level it is “how I think the world works”. Political correctness crashes and burns even at this, very basic, phase. If you can’t clearly show your model, there is no chance you will evoke emotion. If I talk about “the liberal world view” most of you will passionately position yourself in relation to whatever you think that is and whatever else I am discussing. Same if you say “this is how we have been doing business until now” before you make your case for change within your organization.
If you think back to an opinion piece that touched you it often started with an individual. Poor Ahmed on a boat from Syria, here is his story and how he ended up in a prison in Sweden. Or an amazing old man that still works the old print machine for a small local newspaper in Iceland that is supporting a community. They start from one person and connect all the model of the world view which is in friction with that one, indicative and symbolic human.
Don’t hide behind the mask of a politically correct, bland and “safe” way of communicating. Find that person. Tell us the story. Be that person.