Following former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday night, fellow communicator Denise Graveline shared this word cloud — a visual representation of word frequency — of his speech on social media.
Looking at her post got me thinking. Why don’t we use word clouds to evaluate the core elements of our own messages?
Like the speechwriters working around the clock for the presidential candidates right now, communicators in every industry use speeches to motivate audiences to take a specific action. To believe in our cause. To help us make social change happen. But the words we choose to help them understand the urgency of our issue can make or break the speech.
Why not use a visual tool like a word cloud to show us the frequency of the words we use and help us understand if those words will frame the issue the right way? A visual illustration will help us determine whether we are emphasizing the wrong words — those that can undermine or draw focus away from our single overriding communications objective. Word clouds can also help us prepare spokespeople. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words; what makes the visual illustration of the speech you intended to deliver any different?
Creating your own word cloud can be as easy as using Wordle, a free online resource. Just copy your text into Wordle and it creates a word cloud that can be customized and saved as a JPEG file. You can even enter a URL address for Wordle to create a word cloud of a specific web page. While Wordle may be the king word cloud generator, there are several other online sites that provide similar word cloud tools for communicators of all kinds.
We don’t have to wait until a speech is over to see how the words — and the resulting messages — stacked up. Perhaps we should use word clouds earlier in the process and make the “word arithmetic” work to our advantage.