In the last post, I talked about how successful communications gives your audience a series of small wins. In this one, I’ll show you a technique to help achieve that outcome.
You’ll recall that in the last post, an order form could be constructed to give users either a series of losses or a series of wins. This was referring to a relatively new area of psychology that shows how seemingly minute actions contribute to a successful or unsuccessful overall outcome. A form that was easy to design – a small win for the designer – could be frustrating for users. The upshot: Do the hard work to keep users happy and engaged.
When you write, design or do other creative work intended for a successful business outcome, you’ve got the same goal. But rarely can you just sit down and craft just what’s needed. Part of the problem, in my experience, is that you’re trying to satisfy the requirements of at least three separate parties:
- The person who assigned you the project
- The target audience
How do you keep them all straight? You don’t. You take it three steps, giving yourself a win at each step. In this way, each party’s needs get its requisite attention.
First, create for yourself. If you’re at all excited about a project – and if you’re not, that’s a problem – you probably have some creative spark that may or may not go over well with the person who assigned the project or for the target audience. It could be something small such as a quirky way of labeling categories or something big, like an entirely different platform or a new campaign. Of course, this is not necessarily what you are being paid to do, so you’ll need to keep this first phase relatively short. If pressed for time, just jotting down some ideas will suffice. By putting it down on paper, you have – for lack of a better term – honored that muse.
Second, create for the person who gave you the assignment. This is all about making the person with the money delighted with your efforts. Reread the project’s requirements. Maybe even recast them as a checklist for yourself. If the assignment is to write a 400-word success story and you’ve got 460 words, figure out how to jettison those extra 60. A small loss for you, a small win for the person with the check.
Third, create for the target audience. Wait, you say: Shouldn’t the assignment already take into account my target audience’s needs? Yes, it should. But you don’t want to leave all the thinking to somebody else. If you realize during the process that the audience would be well served by some element not part of the assignment, capture that thought. Then figure out how to negotiate for it with your employer. If it’s a minor thing – a link to another article that’s pertinent – that’s one thing. But if it means going in a very different direction, that’s going to require a serious discussion.
Notice the sequence. First you quickly get out of your own way so you can concentrate on the assigned task. Once you’ve completed that task, you see if you could go beyond the assignment – not for your sake, but for the end-user. If time doesn’t allow – and often, it doesn’t – at least you’ve done the assignment. If you know you’ll have a series of reviews before the project is complete, you can advocate for the end-user after the first draft.
This can be easier for writers because we can salvage a lot of our earlier work as we go. Designers sometimes have to commit to a course of one action or another and can’t adjust as easily. That’s why designers often will spend far more time than writers at the conceptual stage instead of the execution.
If you’re a seasoned writer, you likely do this in some fashion, even if it’s just a quick series of thoughts as you begin the project. But newer writers and their employers sometimes get into trouble. The young writer may have trouble telling his muse to be quiet; the employer may fail to recognize the younger person’s need for a win that differs from the employer’s win. If you’re in either of those positions, perhaps this process will help you both get the wins you deserve. And beyond that, you may find new ways to work together to give your audience a bigger victory.
Source: paper helper