Business Communications

Modern business publications, presentations, and web content (text, audio, and video) don’t simply communicate the value of one’s products and services. They create value by establishing an organization as an authoritative thought leader and as a reliable source of advice and counsel.

Joe presenting at 2015 PLRB conf


“Selling your notes” is the phrase I use to describe the systematic process of:

  1. Gathering knowledge accumulated in memos, emails, spreadsheets, and in peoples’ heads; and
  2. Packaging that knowledge into reports, presentations, and other communications that can be used to promote your enterprise or sold outright.

By “selling,” I don’t mean just putting a price tag on reports, although that is an option, especially for potential clients who are not established customers.

You can “sell your notes,” however, through the growing practice of “sponsored content,” wherein business partners with an interest in reaching out to your customers will help foot the bill for producing and disseminating your message.


Social media has created the expectation that organizations allow for interactive communication in a variety of formats they don’t control, and whose reach and impact can be measured through various metrics.

Simply stated, if you want to “go viral,” there are two easy ways to do so:

  1. Say something really smart; or
  2. Say something really stupid.

Either way, others will spread the word for you, and the metrics will spike.

As it is, much of the effort put into tweets, hashtags, and other digital ephemera are attempts to be heard when you really don’t have much to say. To state the obvious: The key to communication is having something to say.


There are three ways in which published content creates value:

  • Through its initial impact upon release;
  • Through its lasting value as an archived resource; and
  • For in-depth explanation of topics that come up in conversation.

Compared to the pre-networked era, communications today have less impact upon publication, but more impact in online archives.

A lot of effort is devoted to initial impact, as any number of individuals and organizations compete frantically to win and retain followers through social media. Even the most sober of enterprises engage in this, as it is fairly cheap and easy to execute, and almost no one wants to be completely absent from social media.

A heavy reliance on social media for immediate impact creates the reddest of red oceans, however. You’re competing for someone’s attention with all the other messages bombarding him or her. Some enterprises have to swim in that ocean, but it’s ever more crowded.

Blue waters await those who create content with lasting value that will appear on search engines or upon request when people seek what you have to offer.  You may still have to strive for impact upon publication, but never neglect the defining value of archival content.


You don’t have to have answers to be authoritative. You will appear to be wise and be highly valued if, like a librarian, you simply help people organize their questions and find their own answers.

My career has spanned the time when the challenge shifted from finding information–any information–on a topic, to managing an avalanche of information available online.

Any organization can add value and become indispensable if its customers come can rely on it to help navigate today’s oceans of information. If you are monitoring those waves anyway, why wouldn’t you help your customers do the same?