Saturday, February 18, 2012
The book of the week was Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I love this book. I am a big fan of how the mind works and this book has so many answers. The main idea of the book is explaining why ideas stick... aka why they are passed around for years and years and why everyone that tells them remembers all the juicy details. For example urban myths... stories about people having their kidneys stolen, the "fact" that humans only use 10% of their brains, or stories of people poisoning Halloween candy. All of these are myths- there is not a band of organ harvesters that steals kidneys, humans actually use 100% of their brains in a given day, and there have only been 2 true cases of poisoned Halloween candy and both cases were done by the children's own family. The questions this book answers is what do these stories have that we can harness and make our own words 'sticky.'
The answer: sticky stories need to have 6 attributes. They need to be Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and they have to be Stories.
Simple: You have to find the core of the message you are trying to send. This will be your one sentence phrase to get the message across. If your reader only reads one sentence, they should still take away the message you are trying to get across.
Unexpected: Surprise the reader! Your intention should be to hold their attention and the best way to do that is to tell them something unexpected. One of the best ways to do this is to highlight a 'knowledge gap.' You give the reader enough information to know what is happening. The human mind then has an innate desire to close the gap with more knowledge. News casters do this with their 10 second commercials telling you what the news stories will be at the "9 o'clock news"- they will say something like "A gorilla escaped from the zoo and ended up at a children's birthday party, find out more at 9." That is a unexpected tag line that fills your head with enough of the story that you crave the rest. That's what we need to do with our message.... have them hungry for more.
Concrete: Help people understand and remember. Help the reader paint a picture in their mind. Use words that help them see exactly what you are talking about. You can even make them live it, so they remember better. For example: if you are teaching how to add and subtract. Use props, so the students can see what it is to be subtracted and added. If you just write 40 +20... it's too abstract. However, if you have 40 bricks and you add another 20 bricks... it's concrete. The mind has a picture painted and it will retain that information much easier.
Credible: Make them believe. You need some credible details in your story for it to be believable. My favorite way of doing this used in the book is the Sinatra test. "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere"- if you are starting a catering business and only have one previous client, but that client was catering a White House event.. anyone will hire you. Use your credentials to your advantage.
Emotional: Make people care. My favorite way of presenting this was the Mother Teresa principle: If I look at the one, I will act. Here are two scenarios: 1. (a video of the country of Africa) You could help many people in Africa with your donation.. it would go toward food, shelter, and helping education. 2. (A video of a young girl sitting in the dirt) With your donation you could help Cindy... your donation would help feed Cindy, put a roof over Cindy's head, and help send Cindy to school. Between these two scenarios, nearly everyone would choose helping Cindy over having the money spread over the whole country of Africa. You have an emotional connection to Cindy after seeing that video, but you aren't as emotionally invested in the whole country of Africa. Make your message specific and tug on their heart strings to draw in your target.
Stories: Get people to act. Subway has the Jared story. This is a story that gets people to act. They see a before an after picture of this college student that lost a couple hundred pounds by eating Subway. Well, if I was a 425 lb person I would be encouraged to go to Subway after hearing that story. "If Jared can do it, you can do it" is the ultimate message and it works. It's difficult to find these stories, but when you find them you have a gold mine.
This book is tremendous. It is probably the best book I have read in several months. The Heath Brothers did their research and did terrific work. There are so many great stories and insights within the pages. I have learned so much this week and I urge you to pick up this book. I guarantee you will have some massive take-aways. As always, if you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.