It’s a tough question.
Mostly because you probably don’t even know you’re cursed. Psychologists and behavioral economists who study this phenomenon find the more of an expert you become in your field, the more likely you are to be cursed by your own knowledge. That is, you don’t know what it’s like NOT to know what you know. This has HUGE implications in our communications. We end up communicating to clients, internal team members, and even our kids in a language they can’t comprehend and then wonder why our product doesn’t sell, that project doesn’t move forward and why our kids just won’t patiently wait when we ask them to. According to Chip and Dan Heath, The Curse of Knowledge is the villain to all things sticky – including your messages.
Tamer Osman, CEO of RGlobe was a participant in our August Decker Made to Stick Messaging program. He noted that throughout his career it has been challenging to create messages that resonate and have a lasting impression on customers. “I’ve struggled with pinpointing the best approach to delivering complex messages to any type of audience in the most simple, yet effective way.”
Here’s an executive who has spent his career managing account and strategic relationships with Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, CA, Microsoft and many other leading high tech companies. Experienced, smart, entrepreneurial and, like many technology execs (and likely the other 5.9B people in the world), Tamer had the classic case of the Curse of Knowledge. Just how cursed was he? As part of the program, each participant gets to test this out first hand by giving their pitch to a group of other professionals right out of the gates. Here’s Tamer with his “Take One” message, pitching RGlobe:
Was the pitch a SUCCESs?
Using Chip and Dan Heath’s SUCCESs framework from Made to Stick, Tamer received peer feedback about the stickiness of his message. Did it have the elements of being Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story?
Tamer’s “Take One”
The biggest element missing here is that of concreteness. He talks about the process for leveraging a partner, streamlined platforms, and private collaborative networks. Those terms are common knowledge to Tamer – certainly, there’s a tune playing in his head that makes perfect sense to him. But to us, the listeners, it sounds like abstraction after abstraction and our minds start to blur. We have no concrete image of what the service offers.
You might be thinking, “He’s talking to techies. It’s concrete to them.” And yet, we too often make the wrong assumptions about what our listeners do or do not know (remember, we’re cursed!). In fact, one Oracle engineer in the program said, “I’m really technical but even I don’t understand what your company does.”
This is not to say that you can’t have technical terms and information. We’re not encouraging you to dumb it down. Instead, for any abstraction, think of a concrete example to support it. Even better, lead with the concrete example, and THEN reference the abstract term. The bonus is when you do this, you’re helping your technical audience spread the message further. And that could mean closing the deal if they take your oh-so-sticky message and sell it internally to senior management.
Here’s where it gets really good…check out Tamer’s “Take Two” pitch, delivered in the afternoon after applying the Decker Made to Stick principles throughout the day.
The Secret to SUCCESs
What SUCCESs factors stood out?
Concrete: Check! Tamer uses a fantastic set up that is targeted to a specific listener group. He’s provided a concrete image of the difficulty, and potential, of working effectively with partners. You can “see” it.
Simple: He’s added an analogy to help you instantly get the concept. “It’s as simple to use as Facebook, but it’s private and secure.”
Emotional: He’s getting to the pain points of the listener. Dealing with partners is complex and time-consuming. Houston, we have a problem.
After completing the program, Tamer said “I now have a new prospective on how to reach my audience by crafting the right message through their eyes and the confidence to know the difference between the right way and the wrong way.”
What now? How do you spot the Curse?
The first step: Sit back and think about your listeners (or readers). Now REALLY think about them and ask some questions: what’s important to them? Why would they be resistant? What do they know about you/your service?” Then and only then can you start crafting your message.
Next, have someone outside your immediate team, organization, or even industry to review your message – they’ll be able to spot the curse before you do.
Better yet, sign up for an upcoming Decker Made to Stick Messaging program: November 17th in NYC, or December 10th in SF. Hope to see you there!