Is your message boring or overly technical? What can you do to make it more digestible?
Making the Boring Digestible and Memorable
Those of us who care about communication – and who work with businesses or organisations – are constantly challenged to make something inherently complicated, easy to understand. It is not unusual to find organisations who have struggled for years with this core problem. Sometimes the spoken word really is just not enough and there is a need to be more creative. Here are some random examples of clever ideas, which I share, hoping they will provide all of us with inspiration.
BA Comic Relief Safety Video
I have been doing a bit of travelling recently and one cannot but admire the brilliance of the British Airways Comic Relief Safety video. Trying to get frequent fliers to pay attention to flight safety (whilst also getting them to donate money to Comic Relief) must be one of the biggest message challenges there is – particularly as the obvious option of scaring the bejabbers out of passengers – is not available. If you haven’t seen the second edition of this, the Director’s Cut is here:
Information is Beautiful
Information is Beautiful by David McCandless is a fabulous coffee table book which I think I must have lent to someone (if it’s you can I have it back please). It has literally hundreds of examples of different ways to present information visually. To reach the standards of ‘beauty’ demonstrated in the book would require a designer and a reasonable budget, but if you are just looking for inspiration for the latest PowerPoint presentation, you might find something you can replicate.
Of course, there are many other sources of inspiration for graphics. Infographics have come of age in recent times and can be a great way to get a message out. It seems to me you will still need a creative designer and a budget, but they can certainly have an impact. Although the word inforgraphics is modern, the idea has been around hundreds of years. This is a blog about graphics that changed the world – including the Florence Nightingale one pictured below. Nightingale’s charts illustrated month by month, the overwhelming number of deaths in Military Hospitals caused by preventable diseases. It changed hospital practice forever. Others mentioned in the blog are Mendeleev’s 1869 Periodic Table and Harry Beck’s 1931 London Underground Map.
Tell a Story
I am not going to reiterate all I have said before about story-telling and how important stories, examples and anecdotes can be in message building. But there are people out there who are going one step further: weaving important information into a fictional story. This strikes me as being very hard work but is something of a specialism for the author Patrick Lencioni. He writes about business management and teams and I have read and enjoyed ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable’.
Most of the book is the fable or fictional account of the challenges faced by a new CEO tasked with turning around a cash-burning start-up. In the end, there is an analysis of the story explaining the ‘best practice’ that can prevent or deal with the problems faced. It’s clever and makes the otherwise dull topic, very digestible.
The Humble Metaphor
It is not possible to leave out from this list my old friends – metaphors, analogies and similes. So often they explain things very well, either verbally or visually.
“The only analogy I can have to it is like having a bunch of nosy neighbours watching your house…Somebody sees somebody in a suit going into a room. The second person concludes it’s a doctor, the third person concludes it’s an undertaker and by the time it gets to the end of the day you’ve got the cause of death and everyone’s looking forward to the funeral.”
Social Media Videos
Finally, let’s return to videos but with rather lower production values than the BA example, we started with. I am a huge fan of the World Economic Forum’s bite-sized videos that appear on LinkedIn. An archive of them can be found here. As you can see they are very simple but very effective.
Studying your subconscious mind. 📕 Read more: http://bit.ly/2Hk9OSN
Posted by World Economic Forum on Friday, March 8, 2019
So now all we need is a story, or a novel, a graphic or a video, to explain the difference between World Trade Rules, Canada +++, Norway style deal etc. – just in case we have to vote on which one we, in Britain, want.
- Dominic Cummings’ Lockdown Drive : Falling Foul of Fairness - May 26, 2020
- Stay Alert – A Perfectly Good Message - May 18, 2020
- Hostage to fortune: 20 thousand deaths would be ‘a good outcome’ - April 28, 2020
- Presenting online: lipstick and heels - April 2, 2020
- Risk Communications: COVID-19 case study - March 4, 2020
- The PM’s Media Silence: Strategy or Farce? - February 26, 2020
- Emily Maitlis – Airhead: Why all PRs should read it - February 10, 2020
- Greggs On A Roll - January 14, 2020
- Crisis Comms Management – Aussie PM gets it all horribly wrong - January 7, 2020
- Naming – A Misunderstood Art - December 11, 2019