Being a planner in the agency world for over 20 years, one of my key responsibilities has been to marshal the measurement of campaigns, and tell people what has worked (and what hasn’t) in our communications; feeding that information into the planning process in order to make even more effective communications next time round. And I have had many attempts at trying to convince people of just how successful our agency communications have been by writing and editing a number of effectiveness papers for various awards.
On the other side, I have also sat in on many presentations and debriefs, and had the great privilege of judging prestigious effectiveness awards – listening to or reading the arguments put forward.
All of which has convinced me of one thing above all else: you can have all the data in the world at your disposal, but if you can’t deliver the evidence in a clear, simple and compelling way, then you won’t be able to convince anyone of effectiveness. The way you tell it is as important, if not more so, than what you say.
So, when trying to convince people of communications effectiveness, don’t just be an essay writer, be a storyteller.
1. PLAN THE STORY
Good stories have a strong narrative flow. I would strongly advise people to start with the new interactive framework being proposed by AMEC – it can provide the simple structure for your story.
One of the most common flaws in effectiveness papers is the “data dump” – chucking all the stats at you at once, in no particular order. Human brains find it difficult to absorb that sort of information easily. Following the framework ensures you naturally break down your information and data into digestible chunks.
It takes effort to break down your information. On the face of it, it can be quite confusing as to the difference between an “output”, an “out-take” and an “outcome”. But it really isn’t that difficult when you apply a bit of time to it, and follow the simple definitions provided.
The framework enables you to make step-by-step connections between your communications, attitudinal and behavioural change, and the commercial or social effect. This is the biggest challenge for any effectiveness story: “how can you prove it was communications what did it?” The framework is designed to make the links easier to see.
Once you’ve got your foundations and the narrative flow, then add some sparkle.
2. ADD SOME SPARKLE TO THE STORY
This is all about making the story interesting and engaging, lifting it beyond being dry information.
Give your story a title. For inspiration, look to the very best ‘TED Talks’ – many of them have a simple headline to grab your attention; a headline that might be bold, inspirational, counter-intuitive – whichever way, it’s something stimulating and provocative that makes you want to listen or read on.
From there, get to a one minute version of the story – the equivalent of the book dust jacket that wants you to read more; back it up with an extended five minute version with the headlines from each section of the framework, and finish with the full twenty minute version of the story. This process forces you to prioritise your information and data at each section. What’s the most impressive output, out-take and outcome you have?
And finally, go for humanity and emotion to make stronger connections with the audience or reader; avoid weird marketing language or overly complex theories that might sound clever but often distance people.
If you can get a strong narrative structure, and then add some sparkle, your effectiveness story can be well told, and become far more compelling and persuasive as a result.