It only takes three minutes to tell a compelling story and inspire others to join in the cause of being a force for good.
The white terrier raced down the trail at full alert. It proceeded to swing behind me on the single track foothills trail and nip at my heals as I continued my run uphill towards the descending dog’s owner. For three minutes I was corralled by the terrier as it barked and nipped at me. Reaching the dog’s owner (who offered no verbal instruction to the dog) she apologized halfheartedly and continued on. The terrier was already racing off to chase the next hiker behind me.
We all have habits we have no intention of correcting. Acts that break the social contract or do not conform with expected practices. If we are authentic in our communication about these behaviors, people will give us latitude. However, when we ignore them and act as if they happen in isolation on rare occasions, it breaks our trust. We embrace the eccentric when we understand. However, pretending to be one way and acting another with not intention of changing does not breed loyalty.
We get disappointed when visitors do not follow our unwritten rules. If it is an essential agreement, then share the information so everyone can participate as you wish.
President Obama prefers a teleprompter, David Letterman is a fan of cue cards, speakers at the TED conference hold index cards, and televisions field reporters rely on an earpiece. CNN even tried a hologram virtual reporter. No matter the preferred delivery technology, the message matters most.
How would your fans describe the communication you generate? Would they describe them as empowering or prescriptive? Information about sporting events often focuses on the restrictions. Understandably there will almost always be some entrant who requires all the exceptions to be spelled out. However the vast majority of the participants are there because you exist. They want you to succeed because you are among the few willing to cultivate their passion.
Take the following description from an upcoming cycling race:
Registration and number pick up will be held at the Galt House ONLY. There will be NO on-site registration or number pick-up….There are also pre-riding opportunities on Thursday and Friday between 12pm and 12:45pm. However ABSOLUTELY NO pre-riding is available while there is racing on the course and riders who are discovered on-course while racing is on-going are subject to immediate disqualification….if your team purchased team parking space you must pick up your parking pass at registration at the Galt House. No passes will be issued on-site and there will be no access to team parking areas without a pass.
This is all essential information but the tone appears worthy of a TSA screening experience. What if the same information was conveyed as if two reasonable adults were speaking to each other? A quick edit might allow for the following:
Remember to pick-up your race number at the Galt House, which is our official registration venue. To provide a fair and open course during each race we have scheduled a course inspection opportunity on Thursday and Friday between 12pm and 12:45pm. Team parking passes are available for purchase in advance of the event and in order to reduce vehicle congestion on race day, the passes will be ready for you at the registration pick-up. For your convenience all registration and parking passes are processed at the Galt House so you can focus on riding come race day. We are thrilled you have chosen to join us and please do not hesitate to contact our event team with any questions.
Same information, just a subtle shift. The second draft trusts the participants and understands that they share a passion for a sport that is on the fringe. One can always print all the necessary restrictions on the back side if required for legal reasons but why no lead with empowerment?
Empowering or prescriptive, which approach works best for you?
|Castell de Montjuic
One of the reasons I am intrigued by the process of assisting enterprises and individuals define their purpose is that it provides a platform for consistent communication. When we are uncertain of what we believe then it is common to communicate whatever feels right at the moment, which tends to be be more confusing to our customers than we realize.
Seth Godin’s post on writing naked is a good challenge for me and perhaps valuable to your efforts.
- Write in the now
- When in doubt, say it clearly
- Avoid long words
- Better be interesting than follow these rules
If you were Stephen Hawking and had to go the lengths he does to compose a message, you would communicating precisely what you wish to say. There is too much effort required to add irrelevant information. It makes me wonder how often we add extraneous details without considering the value of of brevity.
McDonalds just announced that it was hiring up to 50,000 new employees on National Hiring Day- April 19, 2011. McDonalds was planning to add these positions already but decided to lump the hiring into a single event. The coverage of McDonald’s announcement turned into national news due to size and scope of the one-day event.
What can we learn from McDonald’s experience? I recently received a letter from an independent school announcing four significant philanthropic gifts to separate initiatives. My assessment of the school after the reading the message was that great things were taking place. Had I received an announcement once a week over a month from the school sharing news about each contribution individually it may not have had the same impact. Sometimes a flood of information leaves a greater impression that a stream of constant communication running at the same pace.