Stop! Read! Remember!
All communicators—marketers, editors, salespeople—grapple with the same issue: How do you get people to hear you when they’re bombarded with competing messages via multiple media?
The answer: Send a message that interests them. The media clutter won’t drown out a message that’s compelling to the reader. That’s why marketers use “You” and “Free” in ads—words that hook the reader and reel him in to the rest of the message.
One way to make a message compelling is to make it personal. There is a journalistic rule of thumb that a news story’s importance is directly proportional to its distance from its readers. A small fire on Main Street gets full front page treatment; a capsizing ferry killing hundreds on the other side of the world gets one paragraph on the bottom of page 12. We’re interested in what’s nearby because it is what has the greatest chance of affecting our daily lives (that’s one reason “free” and “you” draw us in).
You can make this principle work for your business communications. Consider “ABC Printing,” which conducted a customer survey that asked three questions—Will business be better or worse next year? Will you spend more with local suppliers in 2011? Do you think local buyers will spend more with you? Fifty people responded and 35 answered “yes” to all three. ABC sent a press release to the local paper with this headline:
ABC Printing Releases Survey Results
Compelling? Maybe if you work for ABC Printing or it’s your chief competitor—but it says nothing of interest to anyone else. The news value is not in who issued the survey, but in what the survey found. What if it had carried this headline:
70% of Local Businesses Will Buy More in 2011
If you run a local business, sell to one, or buy at one, this might draw you in because it (a) offers real information and (b) hits close to home. What about this headline:
Local Businesses Will Sell You More in 2011
Sell me more? Why? How? Who? The company’s name is gone from the headline now, but most people ignored the first version so the name went unnoticed. The second and third headlines drew people into reading at least the first sentence, where the company name is prominently displayed. And they positioned the company as one invested in the business climate and local community. In other words, the kind of company that listens to its customers and can be a trusted adviser on business printing. That’s a message worth sending and hearing.