(Put it another way. If you can grab and keep the attention of a distracted six year old, then everyone else is a breeze.)
The excitement. I remember my mum driving me to school and, when an ambulance or fire engine siren went past, she would immediately divert from the school journey to follow it. And there we’d go, in the clapped-out old Morris!
Tim Cobb, MD and owner of Cobb PR recalling how his interest in journalism began when he was still at primary school. His mum was a reporter at the Eastbourne Herald. She had an intriguing habit. If she spotted an emergency vehicle during school pick-up or drop off, she’d smell a story. So she’d chase it.
Tempt that elusive audience
Tim told me this in front of a group of business owners. They’d just enjoyed a nice meal and glass of wine. As audiences go, I’d say they reached 6 on the ‘Richter Scale of Receptability’.
Now, try telling this story to a six year old (my daughter). Like her peers, she is prone to heckling. (“I’m BORED”). She votes with her feet when she is subjected to parental marketing. i.e. she wanders off when I am jollying her along.
Jolly voice. “Let’s tidy your room”, “Let’s brush your hair”, or, “Please let’s use the toilet before that four hour car journey…”
She’s not that interested in the fact that her mother interviews the movers and shakers of the great City of Brighton and Hove in public. Until Tim’s tale of derring-do.
Give your story staying power
Tim’s tale was different. In the space of a few sentences, it had several elements of what Dan and Chip Heath call ‘stickiness’.
It had the concrete images of police cars and ambulances. They tapped into my daughter’s senses, with their sirens blaring.
It triggered feelings of excitement. Would a little old car ever keep up with the men in blue?
It also had an element of surprise. It revealed that parents don’t always play by the rules. That kept the supplementary questions going for at least a week.
“Did Tim get told off by his teacher?” Pause, as the full shockwave was felt. Eyes big and round.
“Did Tim’s mummy get told off?” (Oh yes, this reached 9 on the Receptability Richter Scale).
Not surprising then that my offspring abandoned classics such as Milly-Molly-Mandy and My Naughty Little Sister. Instead she wanted Naughty Little Tim and His Even Naughtier Mother.
When I told Tim this, he was delighted. “What an honour. Book at Bedtime!”
More bedtime reading, if you want to know why stories ‘stick’.
Stories like Tim’s have staying power when they use concrete images, trigger feelings and have a dash of drama.
If you want your message to linger in the mind of your audience, use stories.
If you want evidence, read the classic Made to Stick: How Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck.
I read this book a year ago. It was good to discover that what I’d loved doing for years – finding and shaping stories – really worked.
The book has a formula (‘SUCCESs’) for sticky communication. It includes the elements of Tim’s ambulance story – ‘simple’, ‘concrete’, ‘emotional’.
Don’t let them wander off! Perhaps your audience is a bit distracted. You’d like to give your stories staying power.
Let’s have a chat. Call me on 07456 416 475 or drop me an email.