Talking Strategy Manifesto

Our friends at ChangeThis just published our manifesto, Talking Strategy: Three Straightforward Ways to Make Your Strategy Stick. Chip and I believe that most organizations do a lousy job communicating their strategies internally. Most execs seem to believe that formulating a strategy is 90% of the battle. If you’re a sole proprietor, that’s true. In a larger organization, though, the test of a strategy is how effectively it guides the specific actions of specific people. And that is fundamentally a communications challenge.

Once you realize that, the action plan becomes clear. You’ve got to translate the strategy into concrete terms that your folks can understand (not “maximize shareholder value”). You’ve got to make sure the strategy is specific enough to be useful to your employees (i.e., it helps them make decisions better). And perhaps most importantly, you’ve got to establish a language that makes it easier for the front-line people to talk back to the boardroom people in terms that both understand. If you do these things, you can avoid the 3 nasty barriers that impede strong strategic communication.

To learn about the full nastiness of those 3 barriers–and to see whether your own organization suffers from them–go check out the manifesto. And tell us what you think of it.

Idea Sandbox’s TV-style elevator pitches

Paul Williams at Idea Sandbox has written a fantastic piece on the admirable simplicity of TV-show intros. As he says:

It can be challenging to boil down what you do into a short blurb… For inspiration, I suggest paying attention to the 30-second narrations at the beginning of TV shows.

At the start of each episode producers deliver the swift backstory and premise of the show. If this was our first viewing, we would understand what makes the show worth attention.

This is EXACTLY what you need for YOUR elevator pitch… What’s your 30-second blurb? Your backstory that builds awareness of the premise of you (or your project, company, etc…) and lets me know why you’re worth my attention?

As an example, The A-Team, which incidentally may represent the greatest artistic achievement of mankind, manages to communicate a complicated and not altogether coherent backstory in the space of 20 seconds:

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit.

These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune.

If you have a problem. If no one else can help. And if you can find them. Maybe you can hire…

The A-Team.

Link via John Moore of Brand Autopsy, who points out that these intros are admirably sticky by Made To Stick standards. Absolutely. And one thing we can learn from these intros, that is directly relevant to more everyday work communication, is that we should start presentations with a little bit of context and a little bit of mystery. Context: “In 1972, a crack commando unit…” Mystery: “If no one else can help, and if you can find them…”

Giving a presentation implies that you’ve been asked to state your POV on an issue that is non-obvious. AKA a mystery of sorts.

Here’s a bad way to start a presentation: “Good to see all of you at the Volleyball Happy Hour last Thursday. Now let me start by reviewing the basic assumptions of our research.”

Good way to start a presentation: “Our sales have always been weak among exurban buyers. And yet they visit our stores in reasonable numbers. But only 58% make a purchase, versus 78% of urban visitors. Why? Last time this group met, we committed to figuring out why the exurbans were leaving empty-handed. Today, we’re going to tell you what we heard from them, loud and clear.” It isn’t the A-Team, admittedly, but it will keep the audience conscious.

Tasting dog food made me a better cook!

Via the always-interesting Mojo Mom, a link to an interview with the professional “sensory analyst” Pat Patterson. As described by MM: “Imagine a day at work where you eat dry dog food and rate how meaty it is, and describe the smell of used cat litter. Pat has traveled to New Jersey to feel men’s faces after shaving, and flown to Indonesia to taste fresh fruit.” I wonder if you could just sign up for the Indonesia part.

Training your spouse like an exotic animal

When I read this fabulous Amy Sutherland piece in the Times last June, my Stickiness Radar started blazing. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that I HAD a Stickiness Radar until that moment. Much less that it could “blaze.” Does a radar “blaze”? Doubtful.

Sutherland discusses how, in the course of studying the methods used to train exotic animals (like elephants and baboons), she had a thought: Hey, I wonder if these methods would work on my husband. This piece is 6 for 6 on the principles of stickiness. After publication, she stayed on the Times Most E-Mailed List for what felt like 2 months. Now, bizarrely, she has re-emerged on the Most E-Mailed List, 7 months after the publication of her piece. That’s damn sticky. And it has given my blog post the veneer of topicality.

The Stickiness Aptitude Test

We worked with Guy Kawasaki (and the folks at Electric Pulp) to create a “Stickiness Aptitude Test.” It’s designed for entrepreneurs who want to assess the stickiness of their message. Check it out!

Also we had an interesting Q&A with him, including some discussion of the stickiness of products. In non-Made To Stick news, there’s a great blow-by-blow analysis of Guy’s LinkedIn page by two LinkedIn insiders. They’re essentially trying to make Guy’s page stickier (though they don’t use that language). Chip and I have been talking a lot lately about how to apply stickiness principles to personal promotion, as in a job interview situation. More to come.