The Myth That Is Killing Your Communication (And the Simple Truth That Will Improve It)

By Keith Ferrin | Guest Writer

The Myth That Is Killing Your Communication

I have heard a particular myth for more than two decades now. Ever since I began writing and speaking after college. And I hear it a lot.

People believe this myth and apply it to nearly every communication scenario. Running meetings and workshops. Writing important emails and blog posts. Preparing speeches and presentations. Developing marketing and sales plans.

This myth is everywhere. What is it?

Content is king.

Include terrific content and people will read your email. Wrong.

Include terrific content and people will hang on your every word. Nope.

Include terrific content and you will make the sale. Uh-uh.

Include terrific content and your meetings will be productive. Hmmm

Hear this clearly:

Content is not king. Purpose is king. Content is the peasant that serves the king.

A few years ago, I was coaching a CEO who wanted to improve his communication. One or our first meetings was spent planning an all-company meeting. I started with a question I always ask my clients as we begin to plan: “What is the purpose?”

Content is not king. Purpose is king. Content is the peasant that serves the king.

He responded with “Well, I want to talk about — ”

I interrupted him and asked another question. “Do you realize there is no one in your company who cares what you want to talk about?”

(Maybe not the best way to speak to a CEO and new client, but he didn’t kick me out of his office, so I continued.)

“No one cares what you want to talk about. They care what you want to accomplish!”

This CEO knew what he wanted to talk about (his topic). He had not decided what he wanted his content to accomplish (his purpose). He was about to waste 150 work hours (two hours for the 75 people in his company), not to mention thousands of dollars on the room rental and catering.

Sharing content that is on-topic, but not on-purpose is killing your communication.

There are heaps of benefits to crystal clarity when it comes to your purpose. For the scope of this post, let’s focus on the big three.

1.   You Will Prepare Messages More Efficiently

Have you ever spent hours preparing a slide deck for a meeting or presentation, only to skip through several slides? How about searching old emails for “potentially relevant information” to include in the email you are currently writing?

Whenever I teach a Complete Communication System™ workshop, attendees hear me say (several times): “A clear purpose gives you a mindset for your preparation.” That clear mindset is the filter through which all of the possible content must pass.

When your purpose isn’t clear, any info that is on-topic might fit. When your purpose is clear, it is very easy — and fast — to set aside all of the on-topic content that is not on-purpose.

An unbelievable amount of time is wasted trying to figure out where a slide, statistic, chart or analogy fits, when the real answer is it fits in a different piece of communication!

2.   You Will Deliver Messages More Confidently

A few paragraphs ago I shared a sentence I say to my workshop attendees. Actually, that’s only half of the sentence: A clear purpose gives you a mindset for your preparation ... and a direction for your delivery.

The second half will help you deliver any message more confidently. When you’ve decided what you want to accomplish, the delivery is simply answering the question, “How do I best accomplish this purpose and serve my audience?”

All the subconscious purposes begin to fade away.

  • How do I impress them?
  • How do I fill the time?
  • How do I squeeze all this in?
  • How do I make the sale?
  • How do I not look awkward on stage?

The reason the nerves subside is because your focus moves away from you! It becomes about your audience (which is where every message should focus in the first place).

Simply put: Clarity breeds confidence.

3.   You Will Land Messages More Effectively

If you don’t have a target, the chance of you hitting it is pretty slim. (Let that sink in.)

Identifying your purpose is establishing your target. What do you want this email, this presentation, this meeting, this blog post or this team training to accomplish? Once you identify it, your chance of hitting the target will skyrocket.

You will get a reply to the email. You will deliver an engaging presentation. You will lead a productive meeting. You will write a blog post people want to read. You will facilitate an effective team training.

You have a decision to make. You can believe the myth and keep sharing “on-topic” content. Or you can decide on your purpose and deliver only the content that accomplishes your purpose. Please choose the latter. You will enjoy your job more ... and your audiences will enjoy you more!

This is the first part of a series I’m calling Communicating on Purpose. The next three posts will take a deeper dive into how you can immediately apply the purpose principle to three common scenarios: meetings, email and presentations.


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About the Author

Keith Ferrin

Keith Ferrin is a husband, father, author, speaker, blogger and founder of the Complete Communication System™. When it comes to communication, his passion is helping people prepare more efficiently, deliver more confidently and land messages more effectively. Keith has been blessed to work with everyone from CEOs to entrepreneurs, small business owners to pastors, and sales professionals to first-time authors.

Learn more at, or his faith-based blog:

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Published: 07/10/2018

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