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Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less

ISBN: 978-1-118-70496-7
256 pages
February 2014
Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (1118704967) cover image


Get heard by being clear and concise

The only way to survive in business today is to be a lean communicator. Busy executives expect you to respect and manage their time more effectively than ever. You need to do the groundwork to make your message tight and to the point. The average professional receives 304 emails per week and checks their smartphones 36 times an hour and 38 hours a week. This inattention has spread to every part of life. The average attention span has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight in 2012.

So, throw them a lifeline and be brief.

Author Joe McCormack tackles the challenges of inattention, interruptions, and impatience that every professional faces. His proven B.R.I.E.F. approach, which stands for Background, Relevance, Information, Ending, and Follow up, helps simplify and clarify complex communication. BRIEF will help you summarize lengthy information, tell a short story, harness the power of infographics and videos, and turn monologue presentations into controlled conversations.

  • Details the B.R.I.E.F. approach to distilling your message into a brief presentation
  • Written by the founder and CEO of Sheffield Marketing Partners, which specializes in message and narrative development, who is also a recognized expert in Narrative Mapping, a technique that helps clients achieve a clearer and more concise message
Long story short: BRIEF will help you gain the muscle you need to eliminate wasteful words and stand out from the rest. Be better. Be brief.
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Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Preface xvii

Part ONE

1 Why Brevity Is Vital 3

2 Mindful of Mind-filled-ness 13

3 Why You Struggle with Brevity:The Seven Capital Sins 27

4 The Big Bang of Brevity 35

Part TWO

5 Mental Muscle Memory to Master Brevity 43

6 Map It: From Mind Mapping to BRIEF Maps 45

7 Tell It: The Role of Narratives 59

8 Talk It: Controlled Conversations and TALC Tracks 81

9 Show It: PowerfulWays to Make a Picture Exceed a ThousandWords 91

10 Putting Brevity toWork: Grainger and the Al and Betty Story 105


11 Meeting You Halfway 113

12 Leaving a Smaller Digital Imprint 123

13 Presenting a Briefer Case 133

14 Trimming Your Sales (Pitch) 143

15 Whose Bright IdeaWas That Anyway? 153

16 It’s Never Really Small Talk 165

17 HelpWanted: Master of Brevity 173

18 I’ve Got Some Good News 183

19 And the Bad News Is… 189

20 Got-a-Minute Updates 197


Resources 219

Notes 221

About the Author 225

Index 227

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Author Information

JOSEPH McCORMACK is the founder and CEO of Sheffield Marketing Partners. Sheffield specializes in message and narrative development, and also provides video production and marketing communications services to help package stories to suit the right audiences. Joe has more than 20 years of experience as a senior marketing executive helping companies develop strategic communications that make them stand apart in a challenging marketplace.

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I get several hundred emails per day. I wish people would just ask for what they want in the first sentence. I don't need to know their whole life history to make a decision. Getting people to be brief would save everyone a lot of time.
— Guy Kawasaki, author, publisher and entrepreneur

You could write a book about trying to get people to pay closer attention and stop getting distracted and interrupted, or you could help people be succinct. Joe has chosen the better path.
— John Challenger, CEO Challenger, Gray and Christmas

"We are entering an age of infobesity. Brief is your new weapon to cut through the clutter and stand out."
— Sam Horn, author of POP! and Eyebrow Test

As a military leader, telling a story that's clear and concise helped me to thrive in a sometimes hostile media environment overseas. I’m convinced that following Joe’s counsel and insights has made me a more effective and efficient leader.
— Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV (ret.)

Brevity requires discipline, confidence, and preparation, but you will stand out, and your people, including potential clients, will love you for it. Use McCormack’s practical advice -- the results will astound you!
— Marshall Goldsmith author of the New York Times and global bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

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Press Release

February 19, 2014
New Book, Brief, Sets Standard for “Less is More” Mandate

In business, there’s suffering when people aren’t succinct: conversations that don’t end; presentations that are pointless; meetings that run painfully long. There’s a general helplessness that brevity is beyond reach in an information-driven, attention economy. The impact is real and the cost of ineffectiveness is high.

That’s the point of Joseph McCormack’s new release Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less(Wiley; February 17, 2014). McCormack is founder of the Sheffield Company (www.sheffieldcompany.com), a boutique marketing agency that helps clients like Harley-Davidson, BMO Harris Bank, W.W. Grainger and U.S. Special Operations create a message that is clear and concise.

“Brevity belongs in business – it touches everyone, from the boardroom on down” says McCormack. “The book challenges professionals to keep it tight and get it right the first time, or else they’ll get left behind.”

BRIEF tackles the pressing challenges professionals face when they fail to get to the point quickly. It’s harder than ever to hold people’s attention, especially given how they are constantly interrupted, inundated with information, and increasingly impatient.  A recent survey showed that more than 43% of people abandon complicated or lengthy e-mails they receive in the first 30 seconds.

McCormack shares practical insights and real-world anecdotes that help the reader immediately embrace brevity as a professional advantage. In BRIEF, the reader will:

  • Discover why brevity provides instant relief.
  • Understand why professionals struggle to be succinct.
  • Learn how to gain discipline to create a clear and concise message.
  • Explore when and where to bring BRIEF skills to work.
  • Commit to a practical action plan that others will notice

In addition to the launch of BRIEF, McCormack introduced a new business unit called The BRIEF Lab to help teams of professionals gain mastery as lean communicators. The BRIEF Lab provides a comprehensive curriculum that consists of one- and two-day workshops to immerse participants in a series of challenging practical exercises on the BRIEF methodology. Currently, there are facilities in suburban Chicago and Southern Pines, NC. 

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