Sunday, September 25, 2011

Old Coffee Doesn't Solicit the Right Kind of Passion

Redundant messages and calls to action are not sufficient anymore. Your young adults, who you want to influence, don't want stale bread, diluted coffee or an over used toothbrush. And in the same way they don't want the same message repeated to them over and over and over, especially when they don't have an accurate or fresh understanding of what it means.

No matter how many times I try to sell my brother on having an old cup of coffee that was left over from yesterday - whether I do a jig and make him laugh, or say it with tears, or ask him pretty please with a cherry on top - he's still not going to want it. He wants coffee. But he doesn't want the old version. He wants a fresh pot but he doesn't want me to change the recipe. In the same way, in your effort to engage the next generation on your projects, efforts, and causes, you might want to consider the following.

I have noticed conservatives and liberals alike are using so many redundant words in their narratives. It's surprising, these terms out of their dictionary still solicit action in any of us. But then, I find myself using the same words that are always used without really thinking about what I'm really trying to convey.

Oftentimes certain terms are so apart of our culture, we've become unfeeling towards them. And how many terms that should solicit pride, shame, joy, etc have completely lost their meanings on us all together?

Never assume your audience speaks from from the same dictionary you do. Based on education, experience and culture, there are different connotations, implications and understandings. For example, I've grown up around terms like "constitution", "freedom", "right to life", "traditional family values" and "one nation under God". But not everyone knows to appreciate these ideas and even those of us who do need to to be reminded, have the importance of the cause polished and  re-presented.

Never use a term so often that it becomes cliche. Continually evaluate if the term you believe so strongly in and want to convey: Does it still invoke reaction among your audience? Do you remember what it means? Is it an expected soundbite? Has its presence in your communication become an accepted norm? And does it trigger further exploration of truth? There is an element that requires repetition, repetition, repetition in order to establish a brand. But when a term has been so over-used, the power of its truth gets overlooked.

So you have a message you want to tell us, you said? Excellent! We want people to trust us, invest in us, challenge us but we aren't looking for a "redundant preacher". If you want to convince us of an idea, we need to see you as a leader who is living out this vision. We are tired of diluted coffee and overused things. We want fresh passion with solid content, and substance.

Here are some overused words that come to mind: discrimination, class warfare, unity, diplomacy, transparency, peace, Reaganism, conservative, liberal, moderate. Never noticed? Try listening to the news tomorrow and not hearing these terms.

If you want these terms (and others) to have meaning to us, to catch us off guard and solicit action and concern: find a new way to explain them to us. Or use a different word that describes the same concept. You can say "constitution" in a casual sentence. Or you could say "the document that our Founding Fathers sacrificed their lives for". Okay, so that's a phrase vs a word but I hope you get the idea. Scenarios that made sense in your day don't in ours. "I had to walk to school 10 miles up hill" may not have the same relevancy on the Millennial generation as it did on the Baby Boom generation. We have no concept of someone not having wheels to get to school. Keep the point you want to make just freshen it up a little bit.

Always remember that every positive has a negative. If I kept pushing my brother's button to drink my old coffee, he wouldn't want it but it might increase his passion of frustration toward me and never want to come near me when coffee is in the room again. In the same way. If you're "harping" on a point with us as your kids or young people you care about, the more you push on an idea when we've rejected it, don't understand it or find it outdated could invoke passion: but not in the right way. So, just beware.

Given all of these thoughts, do you still wonder why we're glassy eyed when you try to charge us to be concerned with what's happening in our country? Would you want to follow a leader who frequently presents bland terms, abused phrases, flat visions and out-dated solutions? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Oh and one more thing, before you roll out fresh words please know where you're leading us to. And be ready to explain why we should come along. It's amazing what impact good, fresh coffee has on us as younger adults. I think you'll find the same to be true when you freshen up the approach on the concept you want to convey. Our response might surprise you.