Made to Stick

Model 1: A traveling businessman is offered a drink by an attractive woman. He takes it, and the next thing he knows he is lying in his hotel bathtub with ice around his body. He calls 9/11 and they tell him he's the victim of organ thieves – his kidneys have been stolen.

Model 2: "Comprehensive community building naturally lends itself to a return-on-investment rationale that can be modeled, drawing on existing practice."

If you read these two, which one will you remember an hour from now? The organ thief story (which is an urban legend by the way). Why? Because it is a story, simple, concrete and evokes emotion.

.Yet the second is the way many organizations write about what they do. Why? Because it sounds more professional? Because its easier? (You don't have to stop and think about what exactly you mean, and how you would express it to someone who doesn't know your organization).

Another example: if John F. Kennedy were a CEO he might have said: "Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategic aerospace initiatives." Instead (because he knew something about how to communicate), he said our goal would be to send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.

It's a challenge to write things that really say something, that are simple and concrete. But its worth doing. The easy "semantic autopilot" way of saying things the way you've always said them does not really communicate.

My source for this: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

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