I was listening to an audio book [Words That Work] by Frank Luntz. He is known for his political work, but much of his insights are applicable outside the political arena. His main point is summarized in the following sentence;
It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
I’ve heard him on Fox discuss the ANWAR controversy and make the following point; exploring for alternate sources of energies is a better message than than drilling for oil, even if they constitute the same thing. It’s one of those things which are annoyingly true. Below are his 10 rules of effective communication:
- Simplicity: Use small words. Avoid words that might force someone to reach for the dictionary, because most Americans won’t.
- Brevity: Use short sentences. Be brief as possible. Never us a sentence when a phrase will do.
- Credibility Is as Important as Philosophy. People have to believe it to buy it. If your words lack sincerity or if they contradict accepted facts, circumstances or perceptions, they will lack impact.
- Consistency Matters. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
- Novelty: Offer something new. Words that work often involve a new definition of an old idea.
- Sound and Texture Matter. A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds.
- Speak Aspirationally. The key to successful aspirational language is to personalize and humanize the message to trigger an emotional remembrance.
- Visualize. Paint a vivid picture.
- Ask a Question. A statement put in the form of a rhetorical question can have much greater impact than a plain assertion.
- Provide Context and Explain Relevance. You have to give people the “why” of a message before you tell them the “therefore” and the “so what.”