FocusCopy uses the CFE Framework to bring clarity and focus in all business communications.
FocusCopy writes copy, processes, procedures, and marketing material by using the CFE Framework. The CFE Framework was developed by Stuart Broderick, co-founder and COO when he first started working as a cyber security consultant over 35 years ago. The framework can be applied to anything – copywriting, cyber security solutions, raising kids, and literally everything.
The CFE Framework resulted from the need to explain very complex topics to audiences not well-versed in the topic, or to understand very complex customer issues in a simple and reproducible way.
It is really an off-shoot of the KISS Principle… Keep It Simple, Stupid.
The CFE Framework can be adopted for any requirement..
Whether you use it for collection and analysis of information OR use it to communicate information effectively to an audience.
CFE uses a three-phase approach and is an acronym for:
The steps necessary in each of these phases depends on what the CFE Framework is being used for. It’s either to…
- Collect information
- Communicate the results of some activity
Whichever it is… the CFE Framework allows organizations to develop procedures that you want your team to complete the same way, each and every time (even if the sources of information are different every time).
Using the CFE Framework for Information Gathering
Let’s examine how we use CFE Framework for information gathering and processing.
Clarity on Information Gathering // Phase 1
When collecting information to perform specific tasks, this phase is the most important. Why?
Because Phases 2 and 3 will FAIL if this isn’t done correctly.
When requesting any information from an individual or business, nothing upsets them more if you need to keep returning and asking…
When collecting information, you must have Clarity of Purpose. In other words, you must understand the following:
- What information you need
- Who you must contact to get the information
- How you can collect it
- What you want to do with it
If you can’t answer these questions, then go back to the information source and ask “just one more question”.
WARNING: This will ruin your credibility and make you look foolish.
Before implementing the CFE Framework and founding FocusCopy, I’ve made this sort of mistake in the past and paid the price. This was my impetus or driver to create the CFE Framework.
Assuming you have all the information you need, and you truly have Clarity of Purpose for what you need this information for, you can move on to Phase 2 – Focus.
Focus On The Right Information // Phase 2
Often, a different person or team uses the information gathered in phase 1 to perform a particular task. This could result in operational issues – especially if the information gathered is incomplete or is the wrong information.
During Phase 1, your business went to the trouble of ensuring that you have all the information you need to perform your task(s). The key now is to verify that you have all necessary information and a plan to complete every step of your task(s) exactly as it is defined. If it has been properly defined, then you should not need any further information. If any assumptions are required, you should be able to defend them. Update your Clarity of Purpose definition so that this assumption is not required next time and that the information will be collected.
Defining a Process
If your business hasn’t defined (and documented) a process for using the information gathered during Phase 1, then it is likely that your Clarity of Purpose is incomplete or overblown.
In other words, one of the following is happening:
- You or your colleagues are collecting too much information (some of which you won’t use)
- You aren’t collecting the correct information to complete you task (i.e. you’ll have to make assumptions or request further information)
Whichever it is, you must document the process and update the requirements for Phase 1.
If you choose not to do this, then you will not reap the benefits that CFE Framework will give your business.
Execute the Plan // Phase 3
Assuming you have all the information you need and a defined plan for working with it, complete every step of your task exactly as you defined it. The result of this is that completion of the task will result in exactly the deliverable expected – each and every time.
What does that mean for your business?
- Increased productivity
- Tasks will be completed at or under budget
- Improved profitability
- More time to do other things (such as making the next sale!)
Using the CFE Framework for information gathering and task completion is very simple. Yet, many businesses, regardless of size, do not do this properly. This typically results in added expense, and worse still, disgruntled customers. This is especially true for sales and services businesses where direct customer contact is a daily occurrence.
Don’t fall into that trap!
Using the CFE Framework for Information Communication
Let’s apply the CFE Framework for information communication!
Clarity On Information Communication // Phase 1
When we communicate something to another business or colleague, it may include text, video, sound, graphics, or even recorded speech… So we need to determine the optimal communication method.
When communicating ideas, information, data that originates in one brain (the writer) and is processed by another brain (the recipient). It does not matter what technology we used because that technology simply transports and then presents the information in ways that the recipient can interpret and use.
We still must define a “Clarity of Purpose”. For business communication, this means that we must understand and document what the communication:
- What they are looking for / expect?
- Why they will read it?
- What actions and decisions we want them to take after receiving the information?
- What compelling reasons will drive them to take action (if appropriate)?
- Whether they will share the communication and what effect that may have?
This is a lot of information to collect.
In my experience, if this information is not known, then the resultant communication will be ineffective. Worse still is the wasted cost of producing the communication.
The higher level the communication recipient is in a business, the shorter and punchier the communication should be.
Example: Presenting to C-Level Management
Earlier in my career, I worked in a large organization where we often presented to C-level management. The following examples show what happens when you get it wrong or right:
In one instance, the leader of a project I worked on decided (against my recommendation, of course) to present the results of our work using a 123-slide presentation. The meeting ended abruptly when, after 20 minutes, the CEO suddenly had to go to another meeting and said his ‘staff’ would brief him later. The recommendations included in the presentation, although correct, were ignored. I don’t think there was another meeting…
On a later project, I was presenting the results and recommendations from our work to the C-level of a different company. In this case, I used 9 slides -TOTAL. I expected the meeting would last 30-45 minutes at most. Nope. Guess again! The C-level became so engaged by the message that discussions lasted over 1.5 hours AND they committed to take the actions recommended.
What Worked & Didn't Work
The first approach didn’t have a Clarity of Purpose. Instead, it used a ‘spray and pray’ method for flooding management with data and hoping they could figure out what they should do.
The reason the second approach worked and the first one didn’t was that I did the following:
- Had a defined clarity of purpose for the communication
- Focused the communication on this purpose
- Delivered exactly what was needed – no more and no less – to support the decision you are asking them to make
Focus On Information Gathering // Phase 2
When developing a business communication, it is highly likely that you know far more about your subject that the recipient. This is where things start to go wrong.
Most people (myself included earlier in my career) want to show how smart we are!
We want to make ourselves and our employer look good in the hope that we’ll make more sales, get more work, get more money, etc.
This is the slippery slope to creating a business communication.
Most likely, you will create an ineffective piece of copy and will not get the results you were hoping for. Been there, done that.
That’s why I created the CFE Framework to “keep me aligned with business needs and on the straight and narrow”.
Use this phase to really concentrate on planning what the communication will be, how it will be delivered and what result you are looking for without adding more information that is essential. Do this, and you will increase the probability of achieving your desired result.
Execute the Plan // Phase 3
Now you have a clear understanding of…
- What is needed (and NOT needed)
- How the communication will be provided to your clients/recipients
… You can now begin the creative portion of business communication.
Creating the communication can be difficult, or even scary, for some people. But when you get it right and you receive the results you wanted, the euphoria you feel is amazing.
With the wide range of communications media available today, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the choices. Or is it…?
Think about your Clarity of Purpose from Phase 1. If you did that correctly, then you already know the recipient’s preferences for communications. You centered Phase 2 focusing on what the communication should be, so do not change how you deliver it now!
You have a plan… Execute it.
Provide the communication exactly how you planned it. If you called it correctly in your Clarity of Purpose statement, then you’ve got a much higher chance of getting the result you are looking for.
Although I mostly focused on business communications, I believe you can apply the CFE Framework to any business process. You simply have to get Clarity, Focus on what’s needed, and finally Execute the required task(s).
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But to use the CFE Framework successfully, you need to practice until it becomes second nature.
I believe the CFE Framework will work for you and it has for me over many years. If you are interested in improving your existing copy or expanding your business communications (and learn how we put the CFE Framework into action), schedule a free strategy call with us today. When you decide to let FocusCopy create copy for you, you will experience CFE in action.