Use Specifics to Strengthen Your Message

“When the new antenna went live at New Year’s, you’d swear that Dizzy Gillespie was in your living room.”

I can easily visualize this scene, and hear it too. Can’t you?

This is an excerpt from a fundraising letter I received recently from WBGO (the premier jazz radio station in the NY metro area), referring to the value for listeners of the station’s huge new $2 million antenna.

The Dizzy detail brings the point to life in a memorable way. Far more memorable than if WBGO described how the new antenna is enriching visitors’ lives.

Instead, they create a tangible image of my enriched life with this brief but powerful detail that shows, rather than tells, the value of the new antenna.

All too often we fall under the spell of the curse of knowledge, forgetting that our networks don’t know the details at the visceral, memorable level like we do. As a result, nonprofit writers often write in broad, vague strokes that are forgotten in a flash.

I urge you to take WBGO’s lead to feature rich details in your content. Strategic use of specifics makes your messages:

  • Authentic: The right details give a story a much greater presence, a feel of truth.
  • Unique: Getting specific is often the fastest way to make content rise above the mean. The details distinguish your message from others that would otherwise sound so similar.
  • Convey much more with fewer words: Specific words and pictures can clarify a message much faster than an extensive explanation of the core point.
  • Transport the reader: Like a good movie or compelling novel, where you are get completely absorbed  in the story, rich details can draw your audiences into getting lost in your message.

How do you use detail to bring your audiences into your organization’s story? Please share your experiences here.

P.S. Get more peer guidance on strengthening your organization’s marketing impact with our no-charge Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide,

Nancy Schwartz on October 1, 2012 in Writing | 2 comments
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  • Shar McBee

    Nancy, I love your examples…in all of your work. VERY helpful. Something I was advised for strengthening a message: drop the adjectives. People don’t use them in conversation nearly as much as they tend to use them in writing. Drop them and the message gets clearer.
    Shar McBee, author of “To Lead is to Serve”
    http://www.JoyofLeadership.com

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Great point, Shar. Thanks for sharing out!

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