The usual starting point in any kind of communication is that there is an audience that is interested in that communication. We use this for every kind of communication – whether a simple tweet or a WhatsApp message, or an advertisement or a movie (script).
This leads us to make assumptions about what that audience might like and incorporate those elements to make it more interesting for them.
Instead, how about we start any and every communication with the premise that nobody cares?
This is an absolutely brilliant advice I recently stumbled on in George Tannenbaum’s always interesting blog!
Start any communication (not just writing) with the premise that the audience does not care. That puts the onus on you to think harder and plan your communication to make them care.
This applies to any and every kind of communication, casual or professional. The point is simply this – make your communication (thinking, articulation, and writing) count. Make it stand out. Make it memorable (as memorable as it can be).
The most common mistake we all do is to start with the premise that there is an audience that really cares for what we are going to say.
Your family may. Your dog absolutely does.
The rest of the world? Nah. Start there.
If you start with the premise that the so-called audience does care, that could lead to complacency on the kind/amount of effort you put into it.
The kind of extra care we put in our communication is usually based on how important we think such communication is, which in turn is based on what we are likely to get from that communication.
This is particularly and hugely relevant for public relations, marketing and advertising. People in these functions communicate for a living. Their clients have so-called dedicated audiences. So it is very easy to fall under the trap of assuming that those audiences care. Even if you think they do, start with the premise that they don’t!
I realize that I have been using this technique for the longest time but only now realize it being verbalized so clearly and succinctly. I have taken this to new heights back in the 90s when I had a few pen friends (thanks to Target magazine) and used to write a lot of postal letters, generally – I used to spend time writing the address on the envelope as beautifully and in as interesting a font as I can. You cannot choose a font when you hand-writing a letter, of course – this is left entirely to your imagination and patience 🙂 And I used to hear from people about the beautiful handwriting right at the address level!
Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E (among others) has the same advice, but framed differently: “Make me care”.
This is also the most basic tip offered by public speaking coaches. They frame it as, “Why should the audience care?” and make you, the speaker think of it from the audience’s point of view.