With the avalanche of personal technology available to us in the last 10 years – from Facebook pages to iPhones and GPS systems – “things” are managing our lives, and doing a pretty good job for the most part. But let’s not forget the importance of our humanity.
I remember Sinatra in the 1980s, preening before adoring crowds as if he were still the coolest cat around. But the pipes were rusted and he couldn’t hold a note for very long and he couldn’t fake it with technique anymore. It was painful to watch, though his legion of grey-haired fans didn’t seem to mind because they were in LaLa land, fantasizing about their youth.
When the acclaimed memoirist Frank McCourt died this week, he was lionized for the simple and sad storytelling in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Angela’s Ashes,” which recounted his impoverished childhood in Ireland. But he spent much of his adult life as a high school teacher in New York, where he prodded his writing students to tell their stories, using himself as an example. One former student, who became a writer, said, “He used to sort of recite from memory the stories that became ‘Angela’s Ashes.’ Some of his fellow teachers admonished him for revealing so much of himself, noting he had a right to privacy with his students. According to the New York Times essay on McCourt at his death, his colleagues would say, “Your life, man. It’s all you have.”
A recent book entitled Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, focuses on the six characteristics that make ideas memorable (“sticky”). To be sticky, they say, ideas have to be: • Simple • Unexpected • Concrete
• Credible • Emotional • And tell a story. While it’s kind of hokey that these key words spell out SUCCESS, the authors have hit it on the head in more ways than one; the six characteristics that make ideas sticky make writing sticky too.
How often do you hear a speech, read a blog, watch a commercial, or peruse an email blast and say, huh?? What is this about? Or, what does this have to do with me? Keep that confusion in mind the next time you need to communicate. The point is, you’ll be wasting your time… unless you’re crystal clear, from the outset, about the outcome you want.
My friend Gil has a problem that appears to be typical for these economic hard times. No he didn’t get laid off, but he had to let go several of his creative staff. Gil is a marketing guy – a group marketing director at a consumer products company, to be exact. And while he has talent and experience and understands what he needs creatively, he has relied on his team to develop presentations, proposals, speeches, marketing materials and even targeted email messages. With cutbacks, the work can’t be delegated anymore.