Attention spans have never been shorter it seems.
But what can you do? In order for people to value your content, they’ve got to extract the value that’s there in the first place.
The problem is, no one’s going to wait around for you to explain at length. You’ve got to get the point across as quickly as possible.
Luckily, there’s a solution. All you have to do is say more with fewer words.
Here are two communication strategies that allow you to present an entire idea in 10 words or less.
Tapping Into the Mental Schema
A mental schema is a concept firmly rooted in the brains of your target audience. You can use these schemas to pack an entire story into a few words.
Let me explain.
Remember the movie Speed? Back when the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock action flick was being pitched to producers, it was described as Die Hard on a bus. You instantly get the premise if you’ve seen Die Hard.
When YouTube launched, people called it “Flickr for video.” Since Flickr was a free service that allowed people to upload and share photos, YouTube must be all of that… for videos. Common sense, right?
But here is a question many of you may be thinking. Do you always need to use a popular movie or a brand name as a schema? Absolutely not.
What comes to mind when I say “library?” You think about books, lots of them. You think this because “library” is a schema too.
Now what if I were to say Wine Library? You would think about lots of wines and maybe Gary Vaynerchuk’s business. And, you would be right. Gary does have a ton of wine, and you get that instantly.
Just remember that a schema takes advantage of what your audience already knows to tell a complete story in fewer words. You use analogies, archtypes, established worldviews, and popular culture to create instant understanding.
As you might have guessed, these schematic comparisons are great in persuasive writing. Just take a look at 10 persuasive writing methods for practical examples you can use today.
Legendary direct marketer Joseph Sugarman said “Every word has an emotion attached to it.” Beyond emotional trigger words, this means that even ordinary, everyday words carry an emotional association for the recipient. And as with mental schema, choosing correctly from among these simple words helps you quickly create a complete story.
For example, let’s take a look at the word “subscribe.” By definition, subscribe implies sending or receiving payments. Similarly, here are some emotions associated with this word:
- You subscribe to communication mediums (phone, internet)
- You subscribe to media (magazines, video games, newspapers)
What’s the association? A commitment to pay recurring fees.
So, when you use the word “subscribe,” you tell a story about a product that requires you to continuously pay for continuous service or use. Now let’s look at another word.
Think of the word “get.”
What pops into your mind? Getting money, getting links, and getting traffic. Or in other words, getting something you want.
But there’s also another association. When you “get” something, you often keep it — without continuous payment (unlike subscribe). This is a subtle difference and here are two examples:
- You get a phone. You subscribe to phone service.
- You get a newspaper. You subscribe to newspaper updates.
You see how that works? Well, Willy Franzen understood this subtle difference when he increased his subscriber count by 254%.
He simply changed his call to action from “Subscribe by RSS” to “Get Updates via RSS” and his subscriptions went way up. This worked because he altered the association from “continuously pay” to “get for free.”
So now you see how even everyday words have emotions attached to them. And when you want to write short, informative messages, you can carefully build a story around each word in your message.
What about you? Do you know of any other ways to communicate more information in fewer words?
About the Author: Derek Halpern discusses new media communication at his blog Prevential.