The Art and Science of delivering a Truly Frame-Breaking Message
Ahh, behold the power of the perfect message:
It says just the right thing.
It’s said at just the right moment.
It’s delivered in just the right way.
It informs, persuades, calms, motivates, sells, energizes, enlightens, inspires, encourages, educates and disciplines all at once.
How does it do it? What makes it ‘perfect?’ Is it expensive? Is it, like, a nutty zen thing that’s going to require a thousand hours staring at the space between my toes and thinking about the meaning of ‘me’ because, well, frankly, I’m busy and I have a deadline.
No, communicating perfection is easy.
But first, let us frown at communicating imperfection:
The telemarketing call that arrives just as you’re sitting down to dinner. CLASSIC!
The “Let’s get acquainted!” introductory direct-mail piece from the pharmacy you’ve patronized for the past 10 years. Why, thank you for pointing out how truly little you really ‘know’ about me!
The email with the ever so helpful subject line: “Hi!” Ugh, BYE!
The voice mail message delivered with the speed and cadence of a real-estate auctioneer, making the call-back number sound something like “dig-dig-dig-dig-diggity-TWO.” A personal fav!
Now, consider the following vignettes from the real world:
You’ve returned home from a Saturday afternoon outing with the family. There is a message on the answering machine from the pastor at your church:
“Hi, it’s Pastor Phil calling to let you know what’s happening at church this week. We’re continuing our discussion of what it means to be a disciple and we’ll be getting an update on our work on the new town food bank.
“Also, Bobby Thompson will be speaking about his experiences this past year as a missionary in South America.
“We look forward to seeing you at church!”
You know young Bobby’s dad. You’ve been looking forward to hearing about his boy’s mission trip. Now, you’re sure not to miss it.
* * *
You’re a volunteer for the local Food Bank and you’re expecting to spend this evening helping to sort and box food deliveries. Suddenly, your cell phone beeps. It’s a text message from the executive director of the Food Bank:
“Great news! Last night’s packing team stayed late and finished everything. So, tonight’s work detail is no longer needed and has been cancelled.
“Enjoy the evening! And, as always, thank you so very much for all that you do for us!
That timely message didn’t simply tell you that have a free evening to enjoy.
It also saved you the 40-minute roundtrip drive to the food bank.
And, it reminded you how much that organization values you.
* * *
A critical vote is coming up in Washington. You get a special call from your congressman inviting you to a special conference call:
“Hi, this is Congressman Paul Smith calling to invite you to a virtual Town Hall meeting that will start in just a few minutes.
“If you would like to participate, please press ‘1’ and follow the prompts and you will be transferred into a special conference call, where you will be able to ask questions, get answers, express your opinion, and hear those of other residents of the district.
“If you are concerned about the budget vote, but don’t have time to participate right now, you can visit www.congressmanpaul.com, to learn more and to share your views.
“I care about what you think, and I look forward to hearing from you.”
What makes those examples of communicating perfection?
And, wait a minute! What does “communicating perfection” really mean, anyway? It seems a little in-specific, doesn’t it?
Here’s what it doesn’t mean: Perfect Communication.
That, my friend, is a fool’s pursuit. Not only is it darn difficult to achieve, it is, for all intensive purposes, unnecessary.
You see, no matter how hard you try or how much you pay, your communication will always be marred by something. A typo. A grammatically misplaced comma.
Or, someone writing to scold you for not knowing that the actual phrase is “for all intents and purposes,” not “intensive purposes” you illiterate boob!
No, communicating perfection is something altogether different from “perfect communication.”
Communicating perfection means saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.
Let’s consider our examples again. What if the executive director of the food bank had sent out the news about the cancellation of the work detail by email? That may have worked. But, some people don’t read their email every hour. By sending a text message to personal phones, he was ensuring that recipients would get the cancellation notice right away.
What if the pastor had sent out a weekly postcard to remind his congregation to come to church? That would have been okay, but it wouldn’t have been perfect. Why?
Well, hearing the voice of your pastor or rabbi is so much more personal than reading this little card with notes about the upcoming church service and, hey, they misspelled Presbyterian on this thing for heaven’s sake! I really should start thinking about finding a better church.
See? So, the next time you have to communicate something, spend as much time thinking about when to say it and how to say it as you do about what to say.