As a business it’s essential to effectively communicate with your audience, whether they are customers or investors you have to make sure your message is loud and clear. However, what I see time and time again is too much focus on the nuts and bolts of what the product does; that’s not going to cut it. There are too many people screaming for our attention in today’s marketplace and consequently the chances of people remembering anything about us are slim. So, you need to be really clear about what you want them to know. Ask yourself, if people only remember one thing about us, what is it? Then frame it in a story.
Why a story?
Well, humans are programmed to remember stories. It’s how history was passed from one generation to the next in the days before the written word, in other words it’s in our DNA. A story is much easier to recall and creates the context to help people understand why they should be interested in what you do. Before starting any communication then you need to decide on these two things:
- What is it I want them to know
- What’s the story I’m going to use to get it across
I recommend doing this exercise using post-it notes, don’t make the mistake of jumping straight into Word or PowerPoint as you will quickly lose any flow to your communication. Once you have the story framework these tools can help to add substance, to create a powerful beginning, a coherent middle and a strong ending to our story. Above all else they should put our single message front and centre, there should be no doubt what it is.
Structure your communication
It’s also important to have a structure to your communication that takes the audience through certain expected hoops so that you sign post where you are going. A good way to start this is using a problem and solution construct. In other words what problem are you trying to solve and how do you solve it. Often making this scenario based is a good idea as well as the audience can relate to being in this situation, with this problem and so are much more interested in the solution. What comes next depends on the audience. An investor is much more interested in the opportunity, the founding team and the “ask”, whereas a customer may want more detail on ease of adoption, support and timescales.
With a clear message, story and solid structure in place you can now focus on the actual content. Notice content actually comes a way down the list, but it tends to be what most people start with. It’s important that content creates a proposition for the audience rather than just describing what you do, and it should be as short and concise as possible. Think headlines and bullets rather than long complicated sentences. Always use plain English and avoid jargon and abbreviations, you need to create understanding. Something that sounds good but makes no sense or conveys no information is worthless. Here are 3 simple things to remember when crafting content:
- Say what you mean. Don’t use complicated language that loses all meaning
- Show don’t tell. Don’t tell me you’re passionate, show me you are
- Less is more. Don’t over elaborate. Make one point, make it well and move on
Following these steps, effective communication needn’t be difficult, people just make it so. If you really understand what you’re talking about you should be able to explain it in simple terms that anyone can understand. Distilling complex things down to their essence is a skill that you need to develop to do this. It is more difficult to frame an idea in one sentence than in twenty but that one sentence will convey infinitely more meaning.