I’m hooked on Gordon Ramsay’s TV show, Kitchen Nightmares.
Yeah, I know — some folks don’t dig his potty mouth. But here’s the thing … While Chef Ramsay doles out sound advice to clueless restaurateurs, the guy also dispenses sage lessons for those of us in corporate communications, especially writers.
Here are three prudent precepts from Ramsay, minus the profanity:
- Use fresh, local ingredients. Chef Ramsay has walked into countless professional kitchens only to find vacuum-packed slabs of meat, frozen vegetables, dehydrated potato flakes and bottled sauces. His inevitable, horrified question: how do you expect to create good, honest fare and succeed against your competition when you’re using sub-par ingredients? How indeed? Whenever I feel as though I’m relying too much on stale, prepackaged ingredients (old third-party data) to support an article, marketing brochure or speech I’m writing, I return to my clients and ask for fresh, homegrown ingredients — i.e., internal data, insights and proof points. Hey, I’m all for the judicious use of statistics from respected third-party sources but when surfing the Net becomes my primary method of gathering support data I know I’ve lost the plot. I redouble my efforts to get first-hand data from my clients. This not only creates a better end product but it also helps to position my clients as thought-leaders.
- Respect your ingredients. Chef Ramsay is constantly reminding wayward cooks of this crucial ground rule. Treat your ingredients without respect, he warns, and you’ll produce “crap.” As a writer, I’m not always pleased with the basic ingredients that I’ve been given: a handful of bullet points quickly scribbled by my boss; an email from a subject matter expert that reads like a doctoral thesis; a stream-of-consciousness monologue from a senior executive who has bigger fish to fry. If I disrespect these ingredients — by focusing on their shortcomings, for example, or throwing them together without much thought — I’m doomed. My work will suffer, and my displeasure and lack of respect will be evident. In short, I’ll produce crap. Equally important, by disrespecting my ingredients I’ll miss the nuggets of gold that are always present and waiting to be mined, even in the least perfect ingredients. What’s more, I’ll miss the opportunity to collaborate — truly collaborate — with my clients, drawing out their passion and their wisdom, trading ideas with them, and creating a final product that exceeds expectations and delights us both. In other words, I’ll miss out on some of the greatest rewards that my job has to offer.
- Keep the menu manageable. I can’t tell you how many episodes of Kitchen Nightmaresfeature chefs struggling with menus that are out of control. Dozens and dozens of dishes that have to be prepped and cooked at a moment’s notice by a small, beleaguered staff. Watching them try sure ain’t pretty, and their failure is assured. We face a similar situation in corporate communications. We have a rapidly expanding menu of communications tactics at our command: social media, blogs, podcasts, webinars, plus all of the more traditional print and online tactics that we’ve been using. Clearly, each of these tactics has value. And the C-suite wants us to leverage all of them to fullest advantage. But most of us just don’t have the staff or the budget to use every tactic at our disposal. If we spread ourselves too thin, our efforts pretty quickly become a communications “kitchen nightmare.” So our work really comes down to doing our homework: learning about these tactics and determining which of them truly suit our needs, reach our target audiences, and maximize the time and resources we put into them. Keeping the menu manageable — in a restaurant and in corporate communications — makes good business sense.
I’m definitely going to keep watching Kitchen Nightmares — not just for the sheer entertainment but also for Chef Ramsay’s unexpectedly sound career advice
Thanks, Chef! I’m a fan.