The jazz myth in blogs

Sometimes, conventional wisdom and common sense take a backseat to a compelling narrative that is too attractive to question. When myth is taken as fact in such cases, it can actually have the opposite effect of what was originally intended.

For instance, after graduating from college I devoted a tremendous amount of time trying to learn to play jazz. One of the most harmful myths perpetrated about jazz music is that it’s “improvised.” While improvisation is a key part of the music, it takes place within a framework, or arrangement, that serves as a road map for the group. In addition, each musician has a specific role to play to hold a song together. Last, the best musicians put in long hours to perfect their craft (it’s been reported that Wes Montgomery, the groundbreaking jazz guitarist, rehearsed his combo eight hours a day), and rarely do they play a phrase or idea that they haven’t spent time developing beforehand.

Somewhere along the way, however, it became accepted (or at least not well explained) that good jazz was about getting up and playing whatever came into your head at any given moment. As a result, successive waves of musicians had to take a circuitous journey to the truth, all while polluting coffee shops, restaurants, and outdoor venues with half-baked, turgid renderings of beautiful compositions. (Sad to say, I have contributed my fair share of middling jazz and am still paying off my karmic debt.) Ultimately, poorly rehearsed, meandering fare had the effect of turning people away from one of our country’s great art forms.

A similar myth has taken hold in the blogosphere. Widespread access to the tools to create and post blogs has enabled multitudes of individuals to share their thoughts and opinions with the world. As corporations have recognized the value of promoting their expertise through blogs, many have come to believe that the direct path to publishing enabled by technology means that all willing employees should write and publish their insights.

Not so fast.

Even the most brilliant minds could benefit from an editor, since typos, poor grammar, and sentence fragments lessen the impact of ideas. Sometimes industry insight and the ability to distill it into comprehensible prose are mutually exclusive. Often, the marketing and communications functions aren’t well served by independent voices lobbing missives into the ether that are untethered from a company’s brand or messaging. Just because anyone can blog doesn’t mean that everyone should blog. So what’s the answer?

Writing an effective blog is no different than crafting a good presentation, writing an interesting article worthy of publishing, putting together a sound strategy, or playing jazz that people actually want to hear. It takes hard work, diligence, iteration, and some talent. To proceed otherwise assumes that having a presence in the market is the same as establishing a credible voice or that quantity and quality are synonymous. By making a commitment and dedicating the necessary energy and resources, however, companies can ensure they make an impact with their blogs.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of Leff. He's spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he's had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of "lean content creation" as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.

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