Magazine article Communication World

Sticking to the Point: What Makes a Message Adhere like Duct Tape-Or like a Post-It Note?

Magazine article Communication World

Sticking to the Point: What Makes a Message Adhere like Duct Tape-Or like a Post-It Note?

Article excerpt

The simpler the expression, the greater the likelihood of shared understanding, and thus the longer life expectancy of an idea.

Getting a message to "stick"--that is, communicating it so compellingly and unambiguously that it leaves a lasting impression--is the daily stuff of our profession. The most successful messages have lasting power, influencing the recipient to at least change his or her mind, if not take an outright course of action. What are the components of such a message? Can one indeed motivate others through the judicious selection and arrangement of words? How can they be communicated so that there's a shared understanding between sender and recipient?

With Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, brothers Chip Heath, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, and Dan Heath, a Harvard-educated consultant at Duke Corporate Education, discuss the shared traits of those ideas that could be called the stickiest.

A sticky idea is one that is rendered in vivid, concrete, clear imagery. The simpler the expression, the greater the likelihood of shared understanding, and thus the longer life expectancy of an idea. Simplicity, the authors maintain, does not mean the dumbing down of a message; it is instead a regard for elegance and prioritization.

Made to Stick contains a number of examples of effective messages and presents them over a series of six chapters, each named for a trait that makes them sticky: Simplicity, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotions and Story. Taken together, these traits lend themselves to the incomplete acronym "SUCCES(s)."

Much of the content of the book, however, has been said before, in other contexts, and often to a more satisfying end.

The question of how much power an analogy yields begs for thoughtful discussion. The answer given by these authors? …

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