Simplify Your Message, Or Else We Won’t Listen

If you have spent any time online in the last couple years, you are aware of the limited space people have for new content and communication.

As professional communicators, this ultimately leads to needing to pair down what we tell an audience.

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In the world of content creation, and specifically story telling, there is an unofficial “Rule of Three”. It applied to blind mice, bears with houses, and strategic communication. How do you get all of your first contact information across to an audience in just three pieces of information.

To note: you will have more time with them later if you are lucky and the content is interesting to your audience. But for now this is all about what you need to tell your audience now.

When we think of sending a message in a bottle on the tiny scroll of paper, you can imagine how important getting the right information across would be. The reality is we are very limited as to what we can say.


In terms of your brand or service, let’s say you are speaking to an audience that has never heard of you. They understand the product category that you are representing and have a general comprehension around how your service or product works.

Can you tell your story to them in five statements? How about three? In the PR world this three to five statement brief about a brand is called a boilerplate. In the start-up world it is often called the “elevator pitch”.

Ambitiously Verbose
I have rarely met a client that doesn’t start with too much to say.

The ultimate goal of this boilerplate or elevator pitch is to get enough information to this audience that they can make the next move.

Breaking down content into three statements from an audience’s point of view:

  • What do I really need to know about your business right now?
  • What do you make that I can buy, use, interact with, or ultimately make mine?
  • How will this thing and your business add value for me?

All of this needs to be stated using words that resonate with your audience, based on what they know, and how they prefer to be communicated with.

If you are having a challenge getting what you think is your required message down to three things, try taking a much larger list of say ten things and then logically group similar concepts together:

  • Operational statements (what we do)
  • Product or service statements (what we sell)
  • Value statements (why we are rad)

Then test, observe, adjust, and retest.

Actuality vs. Opinion

We can sometimes get caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid. We lose the perspective of the person who has no experience with our company, brand, or approach to fulfilling a specific need.

Sadly sticking with just the actuality of a statement can sound very clinical and potentially boring.

Going heavy on sharing your opinion in your statements can sound disingenuous or “used car salesman-like”.

All of your statements need to add up to creating an opportunity for this audience to trust you.

The next post will be about the order of importance and putting your refined statements into a logical hierarchy for delivery.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

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