In May of 2017, in a chic Los Angeles writing workshop, my communication expertise got an unignorable, permanent upgrade. I learned this easy-yet-blindingly effective approach to crafting emails. The teacher was top writer/copywriter, Alexandra Franzen. Turns out, it’s also an effective tool for preparing delicate conversations and compelling presentations.
After I experienced how well it works, I began to share it with my clients. I’ve taught this tool to executive chefs, scientists, accountants, all sorts of IT people, movie executives, retail leaders and even bankers. Eternally grateful (I am certain!), they use it as a guide in choosing appropriate language, deciding how much detail to share and framing the whole message for a specific audience. That’s why I call it my favorite communication upgrade and now I’m sharing it with you.
But before we get into how this tool works, allow me to briefly remind you that conversation quality is on the steep decline as an unintended consequence of living with a screen in front of our faces. Not content to spend hours upon hours online, we are now multi-screening! Fleas have longer attention spans than ours.
OK, thank you for listening. Let’s dive into my favorite communication upgrade tool ever!
As you’ve probably heard, any message sticks to the brain to the degree that it resonates with the audience. To resonate means it has to strike some sort of emotional chord and make sense to the listener. That does not mean you have to be always be cheerful.
Ta-dah! Before any significant message, pull out a sticky note or scrap piece of paper and write these 3 steps to make your message high resolution:
What do you want your audience to feel about your message?
Maybe it’s excitement about an upcoming change? Or do you have some news they need to take seriously and calmly? Do you need to motivate them to stretch beyond their past achievements and reach higher standards of performance?
Likely appropriate emotions include: enthusiasm, curiosity, confidence, or simply being relaxed about it.
They’re going to feel something regardless. This is your opportunity to choose that emotional reaction. With that decision, you have a clearer picture of what kinds of words and stories to use in your message.
What do you want your audience to know?
Most people err on the side of too much information. Your audience may not want to know every single detail of your systems upgrade. They do want to know how to do their jobs better with the new tools.
Use this part of the process to edit out non-essential information. Pretend you get paid for every word you delete. If needed, you can always make additional detail available through a handout or links for the fans.
Actually most of the time, how much your audience needs to know depends on what you want them to….
What do you want your audience to do about your message?
This is your CTA, or call to action. Be specific. Are you selling something, trying to change a behavior, or simply sharing background information for future reference?
It happens so often. People start looking for alcohol at 9 in the morning because they’ve gotten too many detailed emails with zero indication of what the recipient is supposed to do about them. Is it FYI only? Is it my decision required or is my input desired? Is the writer thinking out loud, or am I supposed to take action? Without specificity here, much time gets lost to these messages lacking clear action items.
Here’s a pro tip for you: in writing emails, put your CTA in the subject line (or hint at it). That sets up the minds of the people reading it in alignment with what you want them to do.
Let’s say you want to justify adding a member to your team, even though you just went through a minor reorganization. You realize the gravity of the situation if the company recently let some people go, but you are confident that hiring a new social media expert will grow the business.
To practice, let’s take this message and upgrade it by using the Feel, Know, Do.
What do I want them to Feel about this proposal? You want your audience, the owners, to feel confident that this is a solid decision.
Consider what do they need to Know in order to do what you want them to do? You want them to know how much value this person will bring to the company. So you focus on spelling out how exactly this new hire will impact the bottom line.
Finally, what is it I want them to Do? You simply want a green light to hire this person. You will take care of everything else.
Bottom line: Any time you need buy-in, any time the situation is confusing (aka always), any time you’re unclear yourself what to say or write, simply go through the FEEL, KNOW, DO and instantly upgrade your communication expertise.