Recently, I came across a entertaining TED Talk where Sebastian Wernicke describes his thinking behind winnowing 1000 TED talks to 6 words or less and the process he used to do just that. A word reduction that may challenge Twitter devotees.
A few days prior to that I was reminded of a marketing talk given by Sally Hogshead about some research that showed, as marketers, we only have 9 seconds to make an impression.
Then there were all of the sound bites coming from the Republican Primary, like 9-9-9 to explain one of the most complex pieces of legislation in the U.S., the tax code. Really?
So, what is the message? To me, the message is that our world has become permanently sound bite oriented. It is as if we are becoming hard-wired so only the snappy sound bites cut through the clutter of millions of boring, undifferentiated messages. Slashing through advertising , media, email, Twitter, Facebook clutter has always been a monumental task for marketing, but more so today. To make an impression, to get a click, a head to turn or an ear to cock, we need hard-hitting sound bites to describe the essence of our business, for our profiles, for our lives. This trend forces us to think about exactly what we are doing, saving, supporting, offering, selling.
This isn’t a new trend. Tag lines for products and businesses have been around for a long time…but technology, the Internet and particularly like Twitter and Facebook have seemingly speed up, expanded the concept and made it mandatory. Not only is the sound bite mandatory…but it also has to be really good. Milk toast sound bites won’t cut it.
This reduction of words is not a bad thing. It gets us to become laser focused and to work at differentiating ourselves from the pack. Frankly, this is just smart marketing…the kind of marketing all businesses, including small business should be doing.
Yeah, I know coming up with the snappy sound bites isn’t everyone’s forte’. But this less-is-more task is not insurmountable. It just requires focused thought. Here is a suggested process.
1. Sit down and write a 100 word description about your business, yourself, your professional career., your proposal..whatever it is that you want to create a sound bite about. Be descriptive in your writing by using words that described your emotions, your feelings, your reasoning your passion.
2. Go through the piece and select the three key points…just three points.
3. Distill these three points into six words or less. What words would you use if you were to describe these three points to a 5 year old? Keep winnowing down the verbiage until you hit the core thought.
Examples: In the TED Talk example, Sebastian shared the results of having some of the presenters distill their TED talks into 6 words or less. Marketing guru Daniel Pink‘s distillation was particularly brilliant.
Drop carrot. Drop Stick. Bring Meaning.
Not only is this an excellent example of a sound bite, but it is exactly what your sound bite has to do…it has to bring and communicate meaning. Another wonderful 6 word reduction was Jill Bolte Taylor’s presentation on what it was like as a brain scientist to experience a stroke:
Two halves st(r)uck in one brain.
You may not reach your ideal sound bite at first, but keep working on it. Play with it in your head and make certain it really describes the essence of you, your business, your career, your life, your meaning. Then tell it to the world.