It’s not me, it’s you. A sterling starting point for any communications, be they funding applications, awareness campaigns or sales pitches.
I work with many organisations who begin their communications by thinking about themselves; why they would like to tell you about their work; why their work is important to them; why their product is amazing. They forget to think about why their target market should care.
I remember working with a group of emerging artists to help them learn how to talk about their work. The time I asked them to write a press release they were typically around 5 pages long and didn’t get to the point until the bottom of page 4. The pages were full of all the different ways their artistic process was fascinating (to them). It was probably a kick in the teeth to hear me say that no one would read that far, that they needed to find a hook in the first sentence and then take the reader on a short journey with them, because 5 pages is far too long. The pain they felt in cutting paragraph after paragraph, sentence after sentence was because they weren’t using their reader as their starting point.
Similarly I work with organisations who are flummoxed by the word count limits in funding applications, and struggle to articulate the importance of their work in a 300 word summary. With a complex project, 300 words can feel like trying to dance with your legs tied together. How can you show everything? But if you start with the question ‘what is the most important thing about this project and why? You can start to build a compelling narrative for the person who knows nothing about it yet.
And that is the crux of communicating a new idea – you have been immersed in the process, in the thinking, in the experience of of trying to solve a particular problem. Your audience (usually) has not. What is your hook for the person who hasn’t been on your journey?