How do you get clearer sense of whether you are articulating your “greater story” to your audience? How do you make it easier to more clearly communicate your vision, your values and define your audience?
There’s no question that finding this clarity in your communications can be difficult. But there is a way to make things easier. Easier for you and easier for your audience to understand what you’re all about.
It starts by focusing on one thing
And if at all possible boiling that “thing” down to one word. When you do this it becomes a lot easier to audit what you’re doing.
To give you a sense of how this all rolls out, the good people over at Backstage Theatre Company offered to put themselves up for review. In a highly populated theatre market like Chicago, differentiation is extremely important. This clarity plays a crucial role.
So let’s take a look how the clarity of one word allows you to audit your communications and instantly know whether you’re on the right track.
Finding clarity through your mission
I asked BackStage’s Artistic Director, Matthew Reeder (@MatthewReeder on Twitter) about the mission of his theatre company, his reply:
“We tell stories that explore the complex dynamic (socio-political, cultural and philosophical) of the idea of family.”
Not bad right? The mission has a clear vision of the topic they explore. So we don’t need to go through the process of breaking down the mission. I’d like to see perhaps to what end the mission serves its audience. But overall it’s a good place to start.
For the sake of this exercise let’s strip the mission to its core:
Stories that explore the idea of family
And of course, we can boil it down to one word:
Why bother boiling it down?
Ideally, you want a situation where people immediately get a sense of what you’re about and what separates you from the others in your space. This is especially important online where you literally have seconds to grab someone’s attention.
You also want to make it easy for people to repeat and share your message with others. This all relies on clarity and simplicity. So at this point it’s a question of which is easier for everyone to wrap their heads around?
A) Stories that explore the complex dynamic (socio-political, cultural and philosophical) of the idea of family
B) Stories that explore the idea of family
Simple choice right?
We’re looking for the entry point
We want it to be simple to repeat. As someone who likes to promote artists doing good work “Stories the explore the idea of family” is just easier. Once you attract people with the “idea of family” then you can get into the specifics later.
So one more time, one thing: Stories that explore the idea of family. One word: Family.
Now you have a gauge by which to audit your communications
Take ownership of the word. Make it very clear to everyone what makes you special. This means all communications for BackStage should somehow relate to “family.” When asked people should be able to repeat it back to you.
Take note of something else too, we’re looking for people to connect with the emotional word “family.” We’re not asking them to connect to “theatre.” It’s not about theatre. But that’s for another post.
For now let’s head over to the BackStage Theatre Company website
The first thing people are going to do is orientate themselves with the site. This usually means confirming they’re in the right place. So they’ll check out the header for the name of the company and the tag line.
Let’s look at the tagline:
Now let’s do the audit: Does the tagline reflect family?
You could make the argument that “step inside” is inviting. But if you had to click away from the website, could you tell me what made BackStage special? I could only tell you they were a theatre company.
A simple fix is to switch the tagline to: Stories that explore the idea of family. This puts the mission in full focus. Now I know what they do. It also differentiates BackStage right off the bat. It also allows the story to continue.
The story continues….
Notice what happens now when you get to the next section of the site. Do you know what ties this season together?
Well, the people who know all the plays may see how they tie together. But what about the rest of us?
If I go from the current tagline, “step inside” to this section there’s no tie-in. And I know this tie-in is important because BackStage wants to put emphasis on the thematically linked, mission driven season, rather than on individual productions. I’m not sure the current tagline helps in this regard.
But with the “Stories that explore the idea of family” tagline things become clear to everyone, don’t they?
You have to remember not everyone knows what you know. So don’t be afraid to make it clear.
One word, multiple possibilties
When you get clear about this one word, you surprisingly open up a whole new set of avenues to take your communications. In this case “family” can lead you to really push this theme creatively. Where you go depends on the personality of your company.
But some examples just to give you ideas of how you could explore your one word:
- Family-style photos of your company about page
- Family-style holiday cards to your subscribers
- The content on your blog/newsletters becomes about family themes
- Look for alliances with family related organizations
- Greet people at the door as if they’re entering your home
- Speak to your audience’s worldview of family
For all I know, BackStage could very well do these things. The list is more for others to see the possibilities.
See how narrowing the focus actually makes it easier?
So if you’re struggling to find clarity, create it by choosing one thing. Then narrow down to one word. Let that word inform your choices. Trust me, it’ll be easier for everyone.
P.S. A big thank you to the folks at BacksStage Theatre Company for volunteering themselves as an example for the benefit of the community. If you’re in the Chicago area be sure to check out, The Play About The Baby running through May 8th, 2010.
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