My twenty-year-old son volunteered at the Democratic National Convention, and, like savvy sons everywhere, he knew his mother would want a memento. Thanks to Andrew, I now have a stack of signs that were waved as speakers like Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg encouraged us all to say, “I’m with her.”
The DNC gave us four days of lengthy speeches. My collection of signs distills into a few short words the big takeaways from those four long days. “Yes we can” Stronger together” “Change maker” and my favorite, “Do the most good”. They convey the optimistic tone and can-do spirit that the Democrats strived for in their convention, albeit in much shorter form than the lengthy speeches. Most importantly, they are far more memorable. Of course, the DNC knew they would be; research backs them up.
Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners. They are unlikely to remember the details of your speech, but they will remember what they saw. Did you look friendly? Did you seem trustworthy? And they will remember the thousands of concise and colorful signs waving across the arena. Whilepolitical speeches are cited in history books, visuals have greater real-time impact on the everyday voter.
You may have heard communications consultants talk about “optics,” the PR buzzword that refers to how something appears to the outside world. It sounds like jargon, one of those phrases we public relations professionals use when we want to seem invaluable. In reality, it is a reminder to put your audience first by helping them absorb information in a way that works for them. Distilling your complex concepts into a few pithy and visual statements shows respect for your audience by putting their needs ahead of yours.
Nonprofit and foundation executives can improve their communications if they start by thinking about how their audiences learn. There still is a place for speeches, lengthy articles and reports, but if you want to make them memorable find a way to make the visuals matter.
I’ve hung my DNC signs on my office walls, and they make me feel inspired and empowered. I’m keep them up after the election as a reminder of the impact of well-chosen – and well-designed — words.
In September, I helped facilitate a session a Philanthropy New York organized by Exponent Philanthropy’s Local Engagement Group that focused on Communications Strategies for Small-Staffed Foundations. Since PNY staff received good feedback from attendees about the session, they asked me to pull out a few key ideas for grantmakers who couldn’t attend that day.
Sometimes the very first question a foundation or nonprofit asks me is, “Can you get me into the New York Times?” Or “I want to break 1,000 followers on Twitter. What should I do?” These tactical questions are the last ones to consider not the first.
If your foundation is starting or revamping your communications program, you need to follow a simple but strategic process to develop a realistic plan. Read the rest of the article here.
The Gannett Company joined the ranks of media companies that are dropping newspapers from their empires. Gannett, publisher of USA Today and dozens of local newspapers, just spun off its print holdings while retaining its higher-profit digital outlets. Another casualty of declining newspaper profits.
This is a loss for all of the towns that depended on Gannett papers for local coverage. It means that these papers will have smaller budgets and, likely, fewer reporters. Those reporters will have even less time to research and write in-depth stories and to develop expertise in specific beats. Many more stories will be online only.
For communications strategists, this means that every pitch needs to be carefully researched and perfectly targeted. Reporters don’t have the luxury of fact checking a release or skimming a pitch that doesn’t seem dead on at first glance. Keep pitches short and don’t waste reporters and editors valuable time.
We communications strategists, especially those of us who love writing, need to remember that in the digital environment a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Simply put, pictures are easier than words to appreciate online. As more and more Americans get their local, national and international news online, they are likely to learn more from infographics and videos than a well-crafted 1000 word article.
Shakespeare was on to something when he wrote that headline. Turn the pages of almost any magazine and you will find a listicle–an article in the form of a list. Five things we’re excited about this month…Ten steps to healthier eating.
Why are they so prevalent? In our overcharged, hyperactive communications world, lists are orderly. Lists don’t waste time on lengthy musings. And they are simple to read on your smartphone and tablet.
Their titles offer a clear understanding of what is to follow. And they always deliver on their promises. If the list promises ten steps to cleaner air, it doesn’t include nine or eleven steps.
Most importantly, lists provide information in a way that is easy for your brain to process. They are visual as well as verbal. They are far more memorable than paragraphs.
Almost everything has a list component to it. You can use this technique to breakdown complex topics to make them easier and more appealing for your audience. It is also a great way to issue a strong and clear call to action. Here is one example of complex public policy recommendations broken down into a list of five. Check out this article from The New Yorker with more research on why our brains like lists.
I’m done with six word memoirs. Whole Foods had shown us that all it takes is one word to tell a story. And they did it by relabeling their bins. No longer do you put your discards in the ‘Trash’ or Recycling’. You now either “Compost” or add to “Landfill”.
Why is this so effective? Whole Foods customers don’t want to contribute to Landfill. It evokes images of mountains of garbage destroying the environment. It makes you think twice before dropping off your empty take-out sushi container.
Governor Cuomo set the standard for two word stories when he renamed rest areas at “TEXT STOPS” as part of a campaign to stop distracted driving. These signs, which come at frequent intervals along the Thruway, are constant reminders not to drive and text. They are high impact, low cost and much better than a traffic ticket for distracted driving.
A recent two-minute segment of the Today Show featured four guests from around the country talking about the role of family in education. One was a nationally known expert from Harvard. The other three had personal stories to share.
In today’s media-savvy world, I would bet that each guest prepared and practiced sound bites to share their stories. They were all well prepared and ready to dialog with Al Roker. So what happened? Aside from the national expert, each guest got to say one sentence. That’s right, one sentence.
This is not a jab at Today; they are experts at making the show entertaining. Rather, it is a lesson for everyone preparing for an interview. Know your most important message. Be ready to say it as soon as the camera is on you. Don’t try to segue into it or make another point first—you will miss your opportunity. Multiple messages sound great in theory, but when the microphone is in your hand, grab the moment to make your big point right away.