Don’t Serve a Water Sandwich

What is a water sandwich? You know, a sandwich filled with water. Someone left out the mayo, mustard, lettuce and tomato. Worse off, they left out the meat. I sometimes feel this way about a $5 foot long. In the communications world, a water sandwich is a statement, a press release, an earnings call that leaves the audience with content that they can’t apply, deluged with fluff, and underwhelmed. They’ve been handed a sandwich without relevance and without context. Who wants that?

A client introduced me to the analogy. But the concept of substantive, relevant and contextual information is central to good corporate communications. You have to appreciate a client that understands the importance of relevance and the weakness of longwinded fluffy responses. Think about it. When your CEO adds a sentence to your press release, it’s not easy to bark back and say “So What? What does that have to do with our message?” But it’s such a simple and powerful question to ask. If you can’t answer it, the statement probably doesn’t belong in the release. If you can answer the question, than the answer should probably be in the release. The problem is that you had to ask the question in the first place.

Dare I say it? The cardinal sin in communications is to serve a water sandwich. We are heading back into earnings season where conference calls are often filled with water sandwiches. Particularly small biotech companies searching for things to say. Avoid the trap. Don’t dilute your message. Maintain your credibility. Stick to your core message and support with relevant context. If there is a sentence, a phrase, a word that does not support the key message, question its purpose. Ask yourself, “why should this stay in the communication?”

Jason Spark is a senior vice president at Canale Communications and can be reached at

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