Let's pretend, for a moment, that this whole Twitter thing never happened. And while I'm at it, I'm going to vaporize Facebook posts, Instagram, and even Snapchat.

My reason for annihilating social media is not that I think it's inherently flawed. It's just that the instant convenience of these tools has made many of us forget how to effectively tell our story. Yes, social media is appealing, but most of what we experience is like cotton candy: It's sweet, but it doesn't stick (except to your fingers).

That's why if you want to not only get someone's attention but also convince that person to buy something, you can't just bitmoji your way to persuasion. You have to make a case that's moving and memorable.

To help you do so, I'd like to reboot a concept that's been around for a long time: the elevator pitch. You're familiar with the term, I'm sure, which Business Dictionary defines as a "very concise presentation of an idea covering all of its critical aspects, and delivered within a few seconds (the approximate duration of an elevator ride)."

I know what you're thinking: "Yawn!" And it's true that the term "elevator pitch" can bring up a mental image of having to talk to an old guy in an expensive suit (who could be your CEO, but still).

But the concept of the "elevator pitch" is still sound: By reducing what you have to say to its very essence, you can ensure that your recipients will not only understand what you have to say, but will also buy into your idea.

In the movie business, it's known as a high concept or "logline." And the late great Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, wrote about why the high concept is so important in movies: "If what the movie is about isn't clear from the poster and the title, what are you going to say to describe it? If you can't tell me about the movie in one quick line, well, buddy, I'm on to something else. Until you have your pitch, and it grabs me, don't bother with the story."

As Mr. Snyder wrote, a high concept "is like the cover of a book--a good one makes you want to open it, right now, to find out what's inside."

OK, OK, you're convinced, but you might ask: How do you apply high concept to your own communication? It's really simple--so simple, in fact, that I can sum it up in three steps:

1. Decide on the desired outcome of your communication.

  • "I want to inform our customers about our new return policy."
  • "I'd like to get funding approval for this project."
  • "I want customers to call us about this new addition to our product line."

2. Once you know the outcome you want to achieve, link it to the audience's need. Using the examples above, you could say:

  • "Customers told us our old return policy was confusing and felt unfair."

  • "This project will help my boss achieve an objective on his performance management plan (and help the company)."
  • "Our new product will cut the customer's energy costs."

3. Create a message concept--in 10 to 25 words--that meets the audience's need while achieving your objective.

  • "How our new return policy will make your life easier."
  • "Proposed project supports important objectives."
  • "Cut your energy costs by 14 percent just by using our product."

Notice that the message concept tells your audience what is in it for them--quickly. Don't expect audience members to extrapolate the meaning, winnow it down, or read it twice. They need to know immediately what your communication is about and will make an instant decision about whether to pay attention or whether to tune out.

The high concept is this: Say it quickly, simply and so that the audience members know what's in it for them. Do so, and your communication will catch the audience's attention every time.

(Feel free to tweet that.)

Published on: Aug 6, 2017
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