I am always amused at the sign holders that attend football games. If you have ever watched pre-game coverage, then I’m sure you understand. Hours before the kick off, commentators gather to break down the keys to success and the sign holders are there. Just when you begin to focus on the interviews your attention shifts from offense and defense to the large poster board obscuring several people and boldly declaring “I’m Single!”
Sign holders jockey for position. They extend their arms and lift high their pictures, slogans and messages. Some are funny. Some are serious. All sign holders share the same goal. Get noticed. It’s a grand opportunity to steal a moment of fame and have everyone talk about the message.
What makes a message memorable?
Meanwhile, most leaders have a palpable desire to do the same. You want everyone to talk about your vision. Communicating a memorable message is a tough assignment. If you’re looking for excuses there’s plenty of blame to spread around. Distractions abound. Everyone seems busy. Listening skills are deteriorating. The percentage of employees that report feeling overwhelmed continues to climb. And the number of messages that compete with yours escalates every day. It’s no wonder that Patrick Lencioni suggests “Great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officers as much as anything else.”
Whether you are casting a vision, leading a change or selling a product you need a memorable message. Here are four ways to make your message sticky.
Sticky messages never exist in isolation. When I think about the funniest game day signs I have ever seen I recognize that they connect with real people. Memorable messages do not connect to some-thing, they connect to some-one. Before you communicate a vision for the future, determine how the vision makes life better for real people. Make the connection.
Think about how many of your most powerful memories are associated with celebration. If you want to deliver a memorable message and inspire others beyond the moment you will need to strike a positive chord. Sticky messages are saturated with confidence. Frequently, the best vision statements are inspiring. Avoid empty optimism. Real celebration requires substance. But, you must consider ways to communicate messages that point toward progress, solutions and celebration.
What is the easiest way to spread the word? Get help! Multiply the message by multiplying the messengers. Enlisting the help of others will require you to give some attention to the clarity of your message. Before you communicate make sure the information is lucid. Otherwise you diminish the number of messengers that will pass it along. If your message is not clear enough that others can easily share it, refine it until it is. Don’t forget to ask for help. Never assume the baton will pass from your hand to the next without practice and instruction. Be explicit when commissioning others to share.
Repeat the message. Then repeat it again. OK it’s obvious. Apparently it’s not obvious enough because most leaders fail to do it. If you want a message to stick, then don’t assume everyone caught the vision the first time. Ignore that feeling that redundancy is a bad thing. When it comes to key messages, repetition is necessary. Explore creative ways to reinforce what is most important through every means possible. If you’re not very creative, you might want to watch ESPN’s College GameDay next Saturday. Sticky messages are ubiquitous.