Keep it simple to be remembered

Maybe it’s because I’ve recently been reading Made To Stick, that I couldn’t help being puzzled at the strategy behind touting 17 policy points used by one of the candidates at last night’s mayoral debate.

After an hour and a half of debate, not one of the candidates left a ” sticky” idea behind. Sticky= Understood + Remembered

This morning, I went to the web site of that prime number loving candidate to look up his 17 point economic development plan. Interestingly enough, they were grouped into three key and much more sticky ideas: retain, recruit, reform.

(By the way, I had to count the bullets underneath these three headers and I swear, I’ve counted three times now, that there are 18 points, not 17. Maybe he’s giving us a baker’s 17 — one extra thrown in? )

The 17/18 points failed to meet the very first requirement in the book for making ideas stick: simplicity.

Maybe this candidate is thinking that voters will remember that he has a plan with 17/18 points.¬† Maybe 17 is supposed to sound very comprehensive. I do have to say, this morning I am definitely remembering he had a 17/18 point plan. But I can assure you I’m not going to base my vote on the number of bullet points in his plan.

In a debate, you’ve got very little time to get powerful points across. Remember the Clinton campaign and its relentless focus around one concept: “it’s the economy, stupid.”

How much more memorable would it have been if this candidate, when asked his strategy for economy development, answered this way:

“Our city needs more jobs. Period. I’ve got a pretty straightforward plan: 1.Retain the businesses that are already here. 2. Recruit new ones, and 3. Reform all those annoying procedures that make it hard to do business here. Here’s an example of what we’ll do…”

I was keeping to the alliterative R framework. I know with a little more time, I could make the whole concept even simpler. With a compelling story that makes the whole idea more concrete, he’d have hit elements #1, 3, 5 and 6 of stickiness. (Simple, concrete, emotional, story. The others are unexpected and credible, which, with the right story, he could nail as well.)

For those of you in public charities, even though you can’t go near candidates in the sense that you don’t want to do anything that remotely smacks of electioneering, you can certainly learn from their campaigns. Candidates especially have to make their ideas (or impression of themselves) stick as they’ve got very little time to reach us before it’s time to pull the lever.

Okay, no levers anymore. Before we have to ink in the missing part of the arrow.

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