Will Brands Achieve Content Fluency?

Provoking conversations

From the book of questions I developed during the holidays, here's one that connects directly with a project stemmed from a company's 2020 vision.

Coca Cola's call for liquid content is a very ambitious series of promises. It calls the attention to the nascent content strategy industry and to some of the questions large brands that have been active in social media for a few years are asking themselves.

Regardless of the state of your content, and if you're a beverage company, I would expect a liquid, the your state of content fluency is a worth-while question.

First, definitions: fluency

noun /ˈflo͞oənsē/ 
fluencies, plural

  • The quality or condition of being fluent, in particular
  • The ability to speak or write a foreign language easily and accurately
    fluency in Spanish is essential
  • The ability to express oneself easily and articulately
  • Gracefulness and ease of movement or style
    – the horse was jumping with breathtaking fluency

I especially like the horse example as we all know there are times when you need to jump through hoops to make things happen, even on the right side of an air tight process.

Fluency and culture

As every bilingual (or more) person knows, fluency depends more on understanding the culture you're interacting with than knowing the exact words and grammar.

It's valid at operational level as it is downstream with promotional activities. And when you have two very different cultures, things do end up lost in translation.

What happens when the cultures are those of the World Wide Web in social networks and that of your organization?

Human automation

One of the tricks I learned early on with doing translations is that while thinking was appropriate and helpful during written and consecutive sessions (this is where I did my 10,000 hours), it slowed down and often screwed up during simultaneous interpreting (1,200 hours).

False friends, words filed next to each other in your brain, and being too slow to transmit meaning were the most frequent culprits. In medical translation as in corporate America, going out there unprepared is unthinkable.

It doesn't mean you don't need to know both languages well, practice, and train for doing it. It means with practice you develop a rhythm, which is what allows you to keep transmitting signal as even flow of intellegible content.

You learn to let conscious control go and switch into doing the job. It's a change of stance.

Rhythmic gymnastics for your team

If you prefer the gymnast metaphor to deconstruct and reconstruct what you need to do, feel free to use that. Here's a whole series of posts on content and the new gymnastics of business.

Rhythmic gymnastics combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, theatrical dance, and the manipulation of what they call apparatuses — ribbon, rope, hoop, ball, clubs. We might think of them as tools.

While in traditional gymnastics, the techniques used in floor routines are strung together with the music layered on top, in rhythmic gymnastics, the music, tools, and movement are one.

This kind of fluency.


It's about getting the mechanics and the execution right.

In the illustrated examples, Coca-Cola's ambitious goals [hat tip Joe Pulizzi] are:

  • Coca-Cola needs to move from creative excellence to content excellence, 
  • They need to develop content that makes a commitment to making the world a better place and to develop value and significance in people’s lives…while at the same time driving business objectives for Coca-Cola, and
  • Through the stories they tell, to provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture.

I like the idea of fluency.

It accounts for situational and contextual awareness and cultural implications. I'm a linguist, so I'm geeking out on words a little here. The doing part will be exciting to experience, on both sides of the conversation.

We're used to thinking in terms of liquidity these days…


Note: I first came across the term "liquid" used in similar conceptual lines in Geoff Livingston's Now is Gone (2007), where he dedicates a whole chapter on thinking liquid.

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