“Crafting a Simple Message” — An Excerpt from Unleashing Your Superpower
“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know enough about it.” – Albert Einstein
Whether conveying a policy position, business concepts or the attributes of a product – whatever it is that you need to share in order to pull your audience along – no one will jump on board if they don’t clearly grasp your message. Almost all effective, persuasive messaging has one common core component: simplicity.
But here’s the thing: If you don’t capture them quickly, you’ll lose them forever. You have seconds to capture your audience. If they can’t quickly – as in seconds – grasp your core message, you’re sure to lose them. And if you don’t capture them at the get-go, you’re not likely to regain their attention.
There’s been a lot of research recently on the complexity of language and people’s attention spans. This book isn’t designed to explore, dissect and/or validate this research. But I do think it’s fair to assert that reading comprehension is on the decline and attention spans grow shorter.
Most people don’t read; they scan. And they gravitate toward stylistic devices like bullet points that offer simple content and lots of white space. That’s how we grab people these days.
We can express disappointment, advocate for change all day long – but, at least for now, we have to accept that if you want to persuade, you need to structure your content succinctly. You need to craft simple, impactful messaging.
In later chapters, we’ll discuss how to select and structure language that persuades. But for now, let’s focus on how to craft simple messaging.
First and foremost is making certain that your core message is easily accessible to your audience – that you’re using language that isn’t unnecessarily busy. We’ve established that the message is rarely simple; it is, in most cases, multifaceted. And you probably know the issue at it’s deepest and most complex level. You probably know every intricacy. And you should.
But when it comes to persuading others, you must – at least at the outset – keep it simple. Here are some suggestions to help with that.
- Debrief Yourself
When I set about to craft a message, ideas begin to bounce around my head like ping-pong balls. I see all the dimensions, curves, angles, various components. I’ve now got to get all that out of my head.
So get it all out, all those concepts. Explore how to best do so. We all have different ways of working. Find the way that’s right for you.
Here are a few tips to try:
- Write everything on a whiteboard
- Sit with a friend; say it all, record it
- Talk into your iphone
- Type into a document
- Take a pad of paper and start writing
Personally, I like to sit with a piece of paper and just go crazy. Or sometimes I use a whiteboard. I fill up one side, flip it over, and fill up the other. The objective is to get all the concepts floating around in my head into some physical form. This brings clarity.
What you now have are pieces of a puzzle. Move them around. This fits here, that fits there. That piece over there? You’re not yet quite sure where it fits, but sense that it fits somewhere. Put it aside; save it for later.
Now focus on what’s most immediately relevant. Commence to tinkering. Tweak it, refine it, hone it down to its essence.
There may multiple methods of getting it all out there that work well for you. Investigate. Explore. Try out a few. I sometimes use a combination. There’s no right way, no one-size-fits-all approach.
(Here’s another tip: Take advantage of quiet time in your car to gather your thoughts. Appreciate it. Take advantage of it to generate ideas. Talk into your phone. I used to be afraid of silence. Now I often crave it. A respite from all the noise.)
No matter what format you opt for, forget about form, sentence structure, complete sentences, fully formed thoughts, etc. Don’t even worry yet about it all making good sense.
And please don’t focus on narrowing the messaging. Go broad. Get it all out there, even things that might seem (at present) silly or irrelevant. It popped into your head; maybe there’s a good reason, one that just hasn’t yet revealed itself. Just capture it all.
Once it’s all out there, it’s time to begin the process of crafting that simple, persuasive message. This content will be a living message; it’ll continue to evolve over time. Don’t aim for perfection. Your goal is to refine and improve the messaging as you walk through these steps.