Are You Repeatable & Retweetable?

Guest post by Sam Horn

Are you preparing an important communication? Whether it’s a report to your boss or board, [annual report, or donor thank-you campaign], its success depends a lot on whether people can remember what you said.

Because if they can’t, all the [time] you spent [researching], organizing your thoughts, and crafting your copy, video, or presentation just went down the drain.

The good news is I’ve developed a step-by-step process for shaping a repeatable-retweetable phrase-that-pays. Here it is:

Step 1. Condense Your Main Point into 10 Words or Less

What is a change you want people to make? An action you want them to take? Condense that into a single sentence with a verb to prompt people to take the desired action. Follow Elmore Leonard’s advice and “leave out the parts people skip.” You know it’s perfect when you wouldn’t change a word.

Step 2. Use Word Play to Turn that Sentence into a Phrase-That-Pays

What’s a phrase-that-pays? It’s a crafted one-liner that is repeatable and retweetable. You want it to resonate—”to have extended impact beyond that which is apparent”—and for people to be able to repeat it after hearing it once. …If they can’t repeat it, they didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it, [they won’t take the action you want.]

Step 3: Put Your Rally Cry Into a Rhythm

In one sentence, what do you want people to do differently? Write it down even it doesn’t sing. See those words as a jigsaw puzzle. Right now, the words probably don’t fit. They may feel awkward or sound clunky.

Start talking out loud and experimenting with synonyms. Try different word combinations. Keep playing with variations until the words fall into place. Your ears will tell you when you’ve found the perfect mix because there will be a rhythm—a cadence—that sounds right.

For example, say, “If you see something, say something.” “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Feel how easily those words roll off the tongue?

When a phrase is fun to say, people voluntarily share it which takes it viral. This Week Magazine reported that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is “one of the most recognized ad campaigns in any industry and has generated billions of dollars in additional revenue.” That’s just one example of why crafting a rhythmic rally cry isn’t petty word-play, it’s a bottom-line pay-off.

Step 4: Use Words That Start with the Same Sound

Have you ever put one of those cardboard insulating sleeves around a hot cup of coffee so you didn’t burn your fingers? Entrepreneur Jay Sorenson saw an opportunity. He knew it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So, he played with alliteration, came up with Java Jacket, and cornered the market.

Jay says, “Customers who meant to call our competitors call us instead because they can’t remember our competitors’ name.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have people calling you because they so vividly remember what you said? Increase the likelihood of that happening by using alliteration to craft a name, tagline, [or message] that is music to our ears.

Step 5. Use Rhyme So You’re Remembered Over Time

The U.S. government was concerned about the number of injuries from car accidents. So, they launched a public service campaign to convince people to wear their safety belts. “The original tagline? “Buckle Up for Safety.” Yawn. No one noticed. No one cared. No one changed their behavior.

Back to the drawing board. Second time around, they incorporated rhyme and rhythm and came up with “Click It or Ticket.” That intriguing phrase not only got people’s attention, but compliance also went up and injuries went down.

What does that prove? That a well-crafted phrase-that-pays can change behavior. It might even save lives.

Step 6. Pause and Punch Your Phrase-That-Pays so It POPS

People often race through high-stakes, high-pressure communications. They’re so nervous, they are subconsciously trying to get the presentation over with.

The problem? People can’t remember our content if our words are a blur.

Arthur Levine, editor at Scholastic of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, came up to me at Maui Writers Conference after watching me emcee and said, “Sam, I like the way you speak. You put space around your words.”

When I coach clients, we craft a repeatable, retweetable call-to-action for their big idea.

Then, they rehearse putting space around their words. To prevent “rushing and blushing,” they practice putting a three-beat pause before … and after … important points so people are more likely to absorb them and imprint them.

So, what’s an important communication you’re preparing? What do you want people to remember? What action do you want them to take?

Do you have your pithy, profound one-liner to reinforce that point? … If not, use this process so you’re the one people remember, your [organization is] the one they talk about, and…the one whose words make an enduring difference.

Intrigue Agency founder Sam Horn is on a mission to help people create quality communications that scale their impact for good. Sam and I share a passion for getting attention: In her book Got Your Attention, she reveals what it takes to connect with others clearly and compellingly.

Nancy Schwartz in Messaging | 1 comment
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