Social media, emails, texts, blogs, websites—never before have we had so much information at our fingertips coupled with the ability to share it in an instant. But these powerful tools come at a price, and that price is information overload. When it’s time to talk to your audience, what’s the best way to cut through the clutter?
Some businesses and nonprofits resort to marketing gimmicks—which, like shiny objects, do have a way of drawing the eye—but the organizations that maintain our interest over the long haul are those that follow the three C’s of communication.
Keep it CONCISE
The incessant demands on our attention have become a hallmark of modern life, and the result is that few of us have any time to waste. Don’t dilute the power of your message by going on and on forever. Think about the most boring person you’ve ever met at a cocktail party—the one who’s in love with the sound of his own voice, and embarks on the endless soliloquies to prove it. If you ramble, your audience may slip off to the punch bowl before you’ve gotten anywhere close to the punch line. Share your story, but don’t hold others hostage to it.
Make It CLEAR
Being concise, however, doesn’t mean that everything you write must be in sentence fragments or formatted as bullets. In the proper context—a blog entry or annual report, for example—it’s fine to delve deeper, but don’t inundate your reader with every single thought you’ve ever had.
Give your audience examples they’ll understand. Use metaphors and similes to which they can relate. Organize your information in a logical manner. If you make it easier for people to know where you want to take them, they’re much more likely to accompany you on the journey.
When it comes to socializing, you might enjoy hanging out with that flaky friend who’s into devotional chanting one week and death metal the next, but you’re probably not going to entrust her with your life savings. Certain things demand consistency, and your brand is one of them.
For your message to get through, you must always maintain both internal and external consistency. That means the tone you set should match the message you’re trying to send, AND you must deliver that tone over and over again so that your audience knows what to expect from you.
There’s a reason Nike uses the slogan “Just Do it!” instead of, “Hey, maybe one day in the not-too-distant future, you might—if you’re feeling up to it—consider the possibility of dragging your body to the gym. Perhaps.” As a brand that promotes forward motion, the company’s verbal m.o. is to use the active voice and lots of short, choppy phrases. For example: “Run, Don’t Hide. Nike Flash. Be Seen. Stay Dry.” Given the personality of the brand, this style of writing is the logical choice, and it’s also what we’ve come to expect.
To be effective, your writing must get to the point, respect your audience’s intelligence, make it easy for folks to figure out what you do and how you do it, and easier still to recognize you the next time they engage. Do all of those things, and you’ll ensure that there is a next time.