Apple's press release for the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro runs about 2,000 words. At the end of Tuesday's keynote, Tim Cook summarized the products in just 17 words. Cook said the smartphones are "the most powerful and most advanced iPhones that we have ever built in a stunning new design."
For any entrepreneur or leader, being able to distill the essence of a new idea or product in one sentence is a powerful and effective communication strategy.
Apple executives use this strategy whenever they unveil something new. Every product is accompanied by a short description that fits easily in a Twitter post of 140 characters (no need for the extended 280-character limit).
Cook delivers the big picture--or what neuroscientist John Medina calls "the gist."
In Brain Rules, Medina writes, "The brain pays more attention to the gist than to the peripheral details. ... Normally, if we don't know the gist--the meaning--of information, we are unlikely to pay attention to the details."
In other words, when you give a presentation, start with the big picture before drilling down into the details. And end with the big picture, too.
Once Cook gave his audience the gist of the Apple iPhone 11, he introduced Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller, to dive into the details--the OLED display, spatial audio sound, three cameras, and the chips in the phone.
Think about it. How much do you need to know about the A13 chip in the new iPhone 11? If you really want to know just how powerful it is, you can read the specs to learn about the chip's specific engineering details. For most people, however, Cook's summary of "the most powerful" iPhone is enough information.
Cook returned at the end of the keynote with another simple summary, one that also would easily fit in a Twitter post: "The new iPhone 11 with its new dual-camera system, powerful A13 chip, beautiful new finishes, and incredible capabilities."
Crafting a twitter-friendly headline is harder than it appears. After all, Cook's former boss, Steve Jobs, once said that "simple is harder than complex." He was right. It's easy to add information. It's much harder to cut.
Here are three ways to communicate the gist of a product in one sentence.
1. Focus on features that matter most.
Focus on one, two, three, or--at most--four features you think your customers will love. For example, the press release for the Apple Watch Series 5 is just under 1,900 words. Cook summarized it in 22 words (and, yes, under 140 characters). Cook said, "The new Apple Watch Series 5 with its always-on retina display, compass, new finishes, and the amazing new features of WatchOS 6."
The headline for the Apple Watch 5 Series mirrors Cook's summary almost word-for-word. Although there are many more features and details, the Apple marketing team decided that its customers would be the most interested in the always-on display. The headline leads with it, as did Cook's presentation.
2. Stick to one big number.
When Cook introduced Arcade, Apple's first mobile game subscription service, he said, "Apple Arcade is the only place you can get unlimited access to over 100 ground breaking, exclusive new games."
Sometimes, one number is important enough to build a headline around.
3. Keep it short.
Crafting a sentence that fits in a Twitter post is a great exercise to build concise descriptions, whether or not you use Twitter as a vehicle to promote your product. When Cook introduced Apple's first streaming service for original programming, he delivered a sentence of just 124 characters. Cook said, "Our mission for Apple TV Plus is to bring you the best original stories from the most creative minds in television and film."
In Apple's communication strategy, nothing is taken for granted. The speakers on stage use the same headlines as the company's website, press, and marketing materials. Short summaries make it easier for customers to learn about new products quickly and concisely--and it makes it easier for salespeople to explain those products in as few words as possible.