In 1961, John F Kennedy the American president had a vision for space travel. This was when the average person hadn’t even been on an aircraft. JFK chose to present this vision by saying ‘We want to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely to earth by the end of the decade’. ‘Man on the moon’, inspired a generation of Americans to work to make it happen, and on 21st July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.
As leaders we would all kill for a ‘man on the moon’ moment, when our communication moves and inspires people to action, that transcends possibility. So here are our top tips for creating your ‘man on the moon’ moments.
First think in bumper stickers. If your message was a bumper sticker what would it say? Hint: You will never see ‘Optimising Synergies’ as a bumper sticker. For inspiration, play with your favourite quotes, current bumper stickers and see how you can mix and match to craft something pithy and that will strike a chord with your audience. A financial planner could take a popular proverb and put a sting in its tail to read ‘Money is the root of all wealth’, when people were expecting to read ‘Money is the root of all evil’.
Second, if you were to write your key message as a headline, what would it say? Remember ‘Dog bites man’ is not a headline as much as ‘Man bites dog’. What is the angle in your message that would grab and hold people’s attention, and use that to craft your message.
Man on the moon, is pure poetry so channel your inner poet. A simple way to start is think in rhymes. Dan Pink in his latest best seller ‘To sell is human’ says a rhyming message is more readily accepted that one that isn’t. Research conducted at Lafayette College showed that groups that were given rhyming proverbs such as ‘Woes unite foes’ rated these proverbs as a more accurate description of human behaviour than groups that were given the same proverb but in a form that didn’t rhyme. Pink says ‘Rhymes enhance processing fluency, and when processing fluency increases, people understand things more deeply and your ideas stick’. Who would have thought the humble rhyme had such power?
Put your message through the ‘T shirt test’. If it was a slogan that could go on T-shirts, what would it say? Nike’s famous ‘Just do it’ works for both a bumper sticker and a T-shirt.
And finally the Twitter test, can you write up your message in 140 characters. Is that even possible? Way before twitter in the 1920s Ernest Hemmingway’s colleagues bet that he could not write a complete story in just six words (33 characters in Twitter). Hemmingway responded with ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never used’. Poignant. The colleagues paid up and Hemmingway is said to have considered it his best work.
Finding your ‘Man on the moon moment’ is distilling down what you want to say to its elegant essence. Then having the courage and chutzpah to find bold words to paint a picture, capture the imagination and inspire action. Just do it.
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