How Word Clouds Help Me Research and Compete

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Amazon Earnings Call Word Cloud (100 words)

A wash of information confronted me and I had to scramble to make sense of the flood.

This is common for me. Not so much that it is a problem, but enough that I recognized a solution when it appeared to me.

My mini-revelation came about in the last week. It was after I had listened to a quarterly earnings call from a major technology company. This is a regular occurrence for me and I use this input to give me a clear idea about how companies are presenting their results and their messages from the most senior executives. In most cases, you will have the CEO and CFO presenting the results to the market and to a group of financial analysts that follow their stock.

Companies present their earnings calls live and online which means you can consume the content as an online feed. The presentation is online and accompanied by the audio. Also, for the major companies, you will access the transcript of the call, including the Q&A between the financial analysts and the executives.

This can make for interesting reading. This reading is a snapshot of a core truth. My reason for making this statement is the executives read their report to the market. It is prepared and curated and inspected by a range of senior leaders inside the presenting company. This is as purposeful a delivery of news and opinion as you will find. There are no accidents in the delivered content – it is all on purpose.

ProWritingAid and Word Clouds

As a Medium subscriber, I was introduced to ProWritingAid and I have found it to be a multifaceted and powerful tool with a manageable learning curve. Wish I had found it earlier in my career.

In amongst the multi-facets is a “word cloud” tool on the website. Simple form and function, yet powerful. It allows you to enter a bank of text or a website URL and have the software’s word cloud algorithm generate a word cloud – 100 words being the default. From the default production, you have a few levers for adjustments, including the color of the font, the number of words and size of cloud production.

The example above is from Amazon’s recent Earnings Call and thins ~9,000 words down to 100 words in the cloud. The following is the 10 word version of that same call.

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The way to interpret the cloud is larger and darker is more emphasized throughout the document.

It gives a simple pictorial that communicated the key messages from with the transcript.

Comparing Companies

With this super-power, I thought about ways to use the word cloud beyond its fundamental form.

As I was producing a variety of clouds, I looked for contrasts amongst the companies and I now use the clouds to look at companies in similar markets to see if there are any “hidden” messages. It also means I can look at clients’, prospects’ and competitors’ clouds to see what they mean to say.

This can be highlighted when the same block of words are used to produce clouds of a variety of words e.g. 100, 50 and 20. This mix provides a real contrast and I have even produced down to 8 words.

Interesting when you get to small counts and in one case a competing company had “REVENUE” in a large, bold and black font that dominated the cloud. It was clear where their emphasis lay. I then wanted to see how an 8 word cloud looked for my employer – result below.

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Closing Point

Word clouds are a powerful presentation graphic. As we live in the world of storytelling in business, the cloud can be a novel and meaningful backdrop to your storytelling.

I am now making it a feature of presentations to spark conversations from “hidden truths”.

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