Have you ever read Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin? It’s really one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I happened to read it in 2008, just as the elections were heating up. It was so interesting to contrast what was going on in the 1860s with what was going on in my own time.
Anyway, better reel myself in before I go on a history rant. One of the interesting things that Goodwin points out is that Abraham Lincoln is sometimes not viewed as a genius, even though really he was. One of the reasons for this is that Lincoln was able to take extremely difficult, complex issues and boil them down into bite-sized mouthfuls that his audience would easily be able to grasp. Consider, for example, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Anyone can understand how a structure would not be able to stand if it was divided up, and yet Lincoln used this analogy, about a decade before the American Civil War, to explain what was happening in our country.
Every now and again, I see blog posts about what kind of voice people should use in a blog. I always answer that you should use your own voice. You should be authentic. If you like to use a more intellectual tone, then that’s great!
However, as I think more about Lincoln and what he was able to do through his oratorical skills, I am beginning to wonder if sounding highfalutin is really the best altogether approach for a blog. For one thing, the chances are good that we’re not all using the same frame of reference. Take, for example, the reference I began this post with. Unless you happen to have the same love of history that I do, that book probably means very little to you. If I use words that the c-suite understands as appropriate, that might not mean much to you if you don’t swing in those circles. If I frame things in terms of Facebook and Twitter, you might not really catch the wave if you don’t swing on those sites.
Maybe we need to find ways to write the way Abraham Lincoln talked. We need to try to figure out what common experiences unite us all. I had a teacher in high school who said there are just a few things people can agree on – death, children, and taxes. I don’t know. That might be over-simplifying things a bit. But if we really want anyone to be able to pop by our blogs and understand what we are trying to say, we need to try to speak in terms that are universal. I try to do this when I talk about community-building in Social Media, for example. I try to relate it to an actual community, like your town or city or apartment complex. That’s something we can meet on, and then we can travel down the path so that you can see what I’m talking about over in the corner.
Abraham Lincoln knew that there were a lot of people who disagreed with his point of view about slavery, the Union, and the growth of the US. Similarly, we have to bear in mind that people might not be immersed in Social Media or marketing or customer service or PR or anything else that we find ourselves totally married to. How can you bring those people into the space of your blog and make them feel at home? What common experiences do you share with your readers? What can you use as a foundation for your relationship?
Is there a way for you to “Lincolnize” your blog?
Let me know what you find out.