What does bread have to do with good communication? Good question.
If you just want a short, scannable 3-bullet-points tips sheet for marketing copy, stop reading right now. This post is about the character of good communication and, as a natural outgrowth, leadership.
What makes good writing? Start by thinking like a whole person. You are more than your job description. The person you are communicating with is more than a customer or a donor. Don’t forget that, and you will be unforgettable. I’ll illustrate with an analogy from my life as a whole person, then pull out some applications.
First a story:
I used to bake bread all the time. I loved it. Then I stopped because my life got too busy and I didn’t need to be tempted by all that bread that smelled so good fresh out of the oven.
But now, like so many others in the homebound days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve started baking bread again. It’s comfort food and a comforting ritual. Not only that, I’m working on a sourdough starter. Civilization has been making sourdough bread in some form for millennia, but it’s a learning experience for me.
I can’t fathom life without learning. And my latest endeavor sits in a cloth-covered mason jar on the top of my refrigerator, fermenting and bubbling, energizing me from its potential.
My friend Edith has been making sourdough for years. I call Edith and pick her brain. I take pictures of my starter and text them to her, asking if it looks right and what I should do next. She’s my bread coach.
Edith has taught me that bread only requires four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and time. The starter doesn’t even need salt, just a tad of sugar to get it started, which for mine came from ten raisins I soaked in water overnight, then ate the raisins and saved the water. In the days since, with regular feedings of flour and water, my foamy mixture is picking up yeast from my home environment and nourishing it. Edith says that, like wine, sourdough develop terroir, that character of taste and aroma and mouth feel unique to the place it was produced. She adds that it has even been found to include DNA from the baker. This diversity means more taste, nutrition., and personality than supermarket bread produced with monoculture yeast in order to quickly and efficiently crank out huge quantities.
What sourdough teaches us about communication
Sourdough won’t grow in a sterile environment. Neither will I. And neither will you. Neither will any organization or concept. Or creativity. Sterile writing is boring and people will take it or leave it.
Sourdough needs to be fed. Without fresh energy it will flatten and become inactive. Same is true for the human brain and spirit. Feeding your own spirit is never wasted. And it also feeds robust writing and healthy communication.
Sourdough ferments. Ingredients need to break down and rearrange before something yummy emerges. Communication, whether written or interpersonal, often seems to get a bit or a lot stinky before it gets good. Be brave, stick it out, and trust the process.
Sourdough is unique to the baker. You are you. Be you. Good writing and clear communication honor the voice and environment of the person as an individual. A human individual. Or the distinct corporate culture.
Sourdough is elemental. Michael Pollan, in Cooked, his book (which, by the way, is writing you’ll enjoy reading) and the accompanying video, focuses on sourdough bread in the section on Air. Air is really the fifth element: flour, salt, water, time – and air. The higher quality of the elements, the higher quality the end result will be. The world desperately needs people and organizations that start with a commitment to high-quality interactions, including the bones of good written and spoken communication, lived out with compassion and integrity. If you want to show up in the world with unique value and gain respect, there is no other way.
“Take someone a loaf of your sourdough bread, and you’ll have a friend for life,” says Edith. Need I say more?
I can help you communicate like that, whether creating your content or coaching you to improve. Contact me to tell me your challenges. Let’s learn together.