Everything you say, every Tweet, every interaction you have with other people informs them of your brand, and their perceptions of and experiences with you help to define your brand. This is a big deal, and it’s something you want to control. I’m sure you can think of that person whose presentations you try to avoid. They’re too long. They’re too wordy. She shows up with forty slides for a twenty-minute presentation. She reads them to you. Torture. Agony.
You’re probably also familiar with the guy who tells you about his job, and when he’s done, you still have no clue what it is he does to make a living. You know that there were a bunch of words strung together and that they were in English, but you didn’t understand a thing.
The offenses demonstrated in these two examples are rooted in a common problem with content creation–we make it far too complex for our audience’s needs or, more importantly, their interest. Remember what your English teacher told you about writing an essay? That you need to know your audience? She was right. You need to craft your messaging in such a way that it resonates with your audience. There is considerable research into the way that the brain processes information, as well as how the ego responds to it. But the simple truth of effective messaging is this: keep it simple and make your audience feel that it’s about them.
When you’re asked to put together a presentation, it can be really hard to avoid the temptation of including every single detail. After all, you don’t want to be called out for not covering something! When someone asks you about what you do, the desire to impress with excess detail can be similarly compelling. I would challenge you to approach messaging by thinking about the outcome you want it to achieve, and by working back from there.
Truly effective messaging has the following features:
It passes the fifth-grader test. If a nine year-old would not understand it, scrap it and start over. Keep it simple.
It’s re-tellable. Your audience can articulate your message after they’ve received it. This seems simple, but it’s very difficult to achieve.
It centers on one to three big ideas. Effective, persuasive messaging is focused. It doesn’t go into all the details.
It speaks to a problem your audience has. Whether your audience is your coworkers, your boss, an interviewer, or your Twitter followers, they will be much more engaged in your content and its message if it’s about them.
The bottom line.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of delivering messaging that is complex, overly technical, and relevant only to you. Put your audience at the center of your content and craft messaging that relates to them. Keep it simple and make it relatable, and it will be memorable and valuable.