Avoiding the cardinal sin of communication
| September 30, 2020
We all have opinions about the communications we receive from businesses and associations. In some cases, we get too much material too often; in others, not enough. Some pieces are too generic; some too detailed. But there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to turn off your customers and prospects: being too boring.
We live in an age where we expect to be entertained — whether it’s through traditional or social media, in education, even in work settings. Our attention spans are much shorter than they’ve ever been. At the same time, there’re more messages hitting us now than at any time before.
Given this, we tune out messages that are not compelling or those that seem unnecessary or overly technical. We dismiss out of hand anything that seems too generic or not targeted to our particular situation. And we delete anything that is flat, trite, overused, or boring.
How do you avoid turning off your target audience with your communications? Here are a few suggestions.
Really know your audience.
Know what’s important to them now. Messages that may have resonated 7 or 8 months ago may totally turn people off right now. Priorities and needs have changed.
The message you send, as well as the medium used to send it and the frequency with which you communicate, may all be different now than they were pre-pandemic.
Start with the WIIFM.
Focus on What’s In It For Me (the audience), not what’s in it for you (the sender). Why should they care about what you’re saying? What benefit will they get from paying attention to your message?
Leave logic to the Vulcans.
My mentor, Alan Weiss, says logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act. You want people to take action — therefore, appeal to what will stir their emotions.
This doesn’t mean you ignore or obfuscate that facts — just lead with something that will keep your audience’s attention and make them consider learning more about what you’re offering.
Stop me in my tracks.
The most important function of a title or headline is to convince people to pay attention to what else you have to say.
Don’t restate the obvious or use wording others have adopted. Find something compelling — even outrageous — that will attract attention and make me say, “That’s interesting. Let me learn more.”
Don’t bury the lead.
In journalism, the lead paragraph of a story conveys the most important information. If people only read that paragraph, they get the gist of the story — the rest of the article includes supporting details.
Too often, I see the most compelling statement in a post or email hidden halfway down the page. If you don’t capture my attention right off the bat, I’ll never get to that information you’ve included later in the story — no matter how important it is.
Consider the strengths of the medium.
In-person encounters are off the table right now. Make sure you adapt your communications to the media choices available to you.
How you convey a message in video is very different than audio or email. How you communicate over the phone will not be the same as in a Zoom meeting. What you include in an email is different than what you’d put in a LinkedIn post or a Tweet. To quote Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”
Keep it Simple and Succinct (KISS).
Say what you need to say as quickly and efficiently as possible. No one has ever said I wish that email message from ABC company was twice as long and had more detail in it. Get to the point quickly. Less is more.
The way to cut through the noise in the marketplace today is to say something fresh and different that makes me stop and pay attention to you. Intrigue me, excite me, inspire me — but whatever you do, don’t bore me.
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