Several times in my career I have plowed head-long into business essentials like mission, vision and messaging. None of it has been very pretty and I am no longer surprised when I find an organization has complicated and often convoluted messaging. In Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, the suggested first principle for getting to the core of any idea, is simplicity.
If you are attempting to explain what your company does and it requires a long explanation you can be assured most of what you said will be lost on me. The Heath brothers point out that saying something short or creating sound-bites is not the mission either, but proverbs are!
The best (long-form) example of this, strangely enough, is the urban myth. If you know or recall any, then a strong case is made for this point. Simple stories that convey a profound yet sticky message. Yet a proverb is much shorter and seems to convey a message that has an eternal quality about it like, “A bad beginning makes a bad ending.”
Perhaps the one great roadblock to simplicity is what the Heath’s call “The Curse of Knowledge”. When we know something, we find it hard to imagine a time when we didn’t know. When you are trying to explain your organizations purpose to me (mission, vision, core message) the hardest thing to do is put yourself in my shoes; the person without the knowledge. Simplifying your idea helps me understand.
Take that one, rather long, full page (or more) of messaging about your organization and try to fit it it on a billboard. You are likely closer to a simple, proverb like message that will stick! There are 5 other principles to making your idea “sticky”:
Is your organization already stuck in the mud on the first principle?