10 Rules of Successful Communication

Here’s a dangerous way to start a post: Love him or hate him: Frank Luntz is right. Not necessarily about this… or this… although this bit from the Colbert Report is pretty awesome. The Colbert Report No. What I mean, as the subtitle of Luntz’s 2007 book Words That Work claims, is this: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. In the digital realm, we might more usefully translate that line: It’s not what you write, it’s what people read. Either way (written or said), Luntz’s is right. How your audience interprets, perceives, and responds to your copy is the ultimate standard of success. And so, since “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” here’s a shamelessly stolen summary (along with a few bits of running commentary) of Luntz’s… 10 Rules of Successful Communication   Rule 1 | Simplicity: Use Small Words “The most effective language clarifies rather than obscures.  It makes ideas clear rather than clouding them. “The more simply and plainly an idea is presented, the more understandable it is—and therefore the more credible it will be” (5). In other words: simple sells. In fact, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article the “single biggest driver” of a …

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The most wildly uncomfortable, insanely productive advice you’ll ever get.

Be warned. This post is gonna hurt. But don’t worry; it’s supposed to. In fact, the more it hurts, the more you can be sure it’s working. Why would I want to hurt you? Because you need it. Here, I have proof… Mortimer Feinberg, PhD, and John Tarrant, in their delightfully titled Why Smart People Do Dumb Things: The Greatest Business Blunders—How They Happened, and How They Could Have Been Prevented, explain it like this: If you are of above average intelligence—and if you have mastered the use of high intelligence to solve problems and achieve goals—it is the premise of this book that you are at risk because of the strength of your cognitive equipment. Disaster can take one of a number of forms. . . . [Whatever the case], the catastrophe is self-induced. You don’t fail because you weren’t smart enough, but because you were too smart. Your brains have betrayed you. In other words, we—or, more precisely, our big, beautiful brain—are our biggest problem. So if it helps, think of this post as a cognitive exercise in “tough love”… emphasis (of course) on “tough.” Enough pussyfooting. Here it is: the most wildly uncomfortable, insanely productive advice you’ll …

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Getting Your Customers to Hold It, Love It, and Give It Money

“The problem,” I politely told Carl, “is that you aren’t showing them the puppy.” “The puppy?” he asked. “Yeah. The puppy. What you’ve got here, what you’re featuring, it’s all custom leashes, organic Alpo, and tips on how to house break in a day. Don’t get me wrong: all that’s great. But nobody buys a pet or anything to do with pets with their heads. “They buy because they saw the puppy. Or because their kids or their wife or their husband saw the puppy. “Whoever it was, somebody along the line locked eyes with a soulful little Labrador and went to pieces. And that, right there, is why they buy.” Carl looked at me, then at the screen in front of us, then back to me. “People buy because of a connection,” I went on. “They buy with their hearts. Sure, you have to give ‘em intellectual justifications or they might bring it back the next morning. “But really, people buy because of a deep down, gut level, all I want to do is hold it, love it, and give it money connection.” After a long pause, Carl finally whispered, “But we don’t sell puppies. We sell gym memberships.” …

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2 Secrets to Sell Anything: Carrots vs. Boobs

Question: What do toddlers have to do with marketing? Answer: Everything! Slice it any way you want, the most basic principle of sales is simple: people don’t buy products, they buy… Promises Experiences Stories Copywriting guru Robert W. Bly describes the fundamental difference between good copywriting and bad copywriting as features versus benefits. People don’t buy features. People buy benefits. Like the old adage goes: you don’t sell the drill; you sell the hole. Or, perhaps better, you sell the happiness your prospect’s family will feel when they see the shinny new photo of themselves hanging on the wall. In other words, people don’t buy with their heads. They buy with their hearts. Bernadette Jiwa over at The Story of Telling puts it like this: Medicine doesn’t sell cures, it sells trust. The lottery sells hope (it might be you) and many brands sell a promise of a better version of ourselves. Tiffany sells mattering, BootsnAll sells non-conformist adventure, Facebook sells belonging and Wholefoods sells nurturing and self-love. You are not selling coffee,concert tickets, books, lipstick, yogurt, entertainment or information. You’re selling a story. It’s never been more important to know which one. So, what’s all this got to do with toddlers? Dr. Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby on …

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Listening and Being Heard

Flint McGlaughlin (MECLABS), On Influence as the Product of Proximity Some of the most important teaching occurs when we are not trying to teach. The teacher should be more motivated by genuine concern than by the content of a curriculum. The object of the teacher’s focus should not be the content; the object should be the person. Sometimes I can teach more by being near than by saying more. Natural proximity is essential. Influence is always the product of proximity (even if it isn’t geographic). And often the teacher can achieve more through (subtle) influence than through (overt) instruction.   Genuine concern, being near, proximity, and simple presence are all deeply connected to listening. It’s hard to capture the role of listening in teaching and overall communication. The emphasis on “(subtle) influence” over and against “(overt) instruction” gets close. Nine times out of ten, what wins or loses the heart of student (or customer) isn’t what you say but how you listen. Listening generates the capital necessary to speak and be heard.

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“How To”… 7 Rules for Leveraging the 2 Most Powerful Words

Image Credit: Hicks A few weeks ago I gave my Intro to College Composition class a handout with the wildly ambitious and (albeit) slightly ambiguous title: Process Analysis: The Most Important Handout You’ll EVER Get… Seriously. The sheet’s opening lines weren’t exactly gangbusters (especially for folks outside the course), but—as hard-won audience analysis has taught me—when instructing on a college campus you either use the textbook or invariably face the righteous indignation of the more vocal students. (I think has something to do with the price of textbooks. ) Anyway, the handout began: Paul Eschholz and Alfred Rosa’s Subject & Strategy: A Writer’s Reader define the “strategy of process analysis” as involving three basic parts: . . . [1] separating an event, an operation, or a cycle of development into distinct steps, [2] describing each step precisely, and [3] arranging the steps in their proper order (223). I know what you’re thinking: “Wow. Way to back up that big, hairy title.” Thanks. But hang in there, because here’s where things get good. At its core, process analysis is about leveraging the two most lucrative, most compelling, and most powerful words in the English language: “How To.” Want proof? Head over to Copyblogger’s Free Membership …

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