Welcome to the third installment in your step-by-step guide to building the Red Thread® of your message or content. Now that you’ve established what your Audience wants (their Goal), and shown them what’s really getting in the way (the two-part Problem), you need to give them something that makes inaction impossible — and your idea irresistible.
To do that, you have to engineer what storytellers call a “moment of truth“: that moment where your Audience has to choose between what they want, what they believe, and what they’ve been doing as a result. (To go to the next post in the series, click here.)
WHAT IS THE TRUTH STATEMENT?
The Truth Statement describes something about the Audience or the world that creates an internal conflict in your reader, viewer, or listener.
It follows your Problem Statement, which fits comfortably into this sentence:
While there are barriers we all know exist, the real problem is… [two-part PROBLEM]
Similarly, your Truth Statement should fit comfortably in this sentence:
Yet we can agree it’s true that… [TRUTH].
All together, this is what your Red Thread® looks like so far:
We can all agree we want to know… [GOAL].
While there are barriers we all know exist, the real problem is… [two-part PROBLEM].
Yet we can agree it’s true that… [TRUTH].
It should also meet the following criteria:
- The Truth Statement needs to be a self-evident value, belief, fact, or discovery, something your audience would readily or easily agree with
- To help with that, it needs to be something your Audience can validate without you (i.e, through their own experience or via some kind of third-party validation like published and/or peer-reviewed research)
- It should be something that already exists in your audience’s belief ecosystem or readily would
- It must explain why the Problem is such a problem and do it in such a way that it makes that problem impossible to ignore
- It must explain why the idea you’re going to introduce (your Change) is the only one that really makes sense given what you’ve outlined so far
- It contains no “prescriptive” or directive language that tells your Audience what to do; it simply describes the way things are
- Ideally, it is a neutral statement that could be interpreted both negatively and positively
A quick note if calling it a “Truth” makes you uncomfortable (so, hello, scientists!)
I work with a lot of scientists and those with scientific training, and for them the idea of something being a “universal truth” is almost existentially uncomfortable. If that’s you, then here are two things that might help. First, I call it the “Truth” because it’s faster and easier than saying the “Moment of Truth Statement.” Second, if even that is still uncomfortable, consider (or even call) your “Truth” an “agreeable insight” — a finding, realization or discovery that your Audience would be likely to agree with. That agreement can result either from your ability to defend your “Truth” with published or peer-reviewed research, or because your Audience can somehow validate the insight through their own experience, intuition, or research.
Yet we can agree it’s true that…
- “…seeing is believing” (life science startup client UrSure; project: investor pitch)
- “…the greatest risk comes from the unknown” (client Tricia Wang’s TED talk)
- “…the more people who see our content, the more impact it will have” — (nonprofit media company client; project: persuasive messaging coaching)
- “…experiences leave imprints — fear leaves physical traces in our bodies” (client Linda Ugelow; project: drafting keynote)
- “…people are what make positions work ” (client Tracy Timm; project: diversifying message to a new audience)
- “…a diamond is forever” (DeBeers — not a client, just one of my favorite examples!)
- “…you’re an everyday improviser — every day you have to figure out how to handle something you didn’t plan for” (client Judi Holler; project: revising keynote)
- “…leadership is learned” (client Ted Ma; project: differentiating core message)
HOW TO BUILD YOUR TRUTH STATEMENT
STEP ONE: Find the core concept of your Truth:
- DO THIS: Ask yourself, “Why is the Problem such a problem?,” or even “Why is the new perspective so important?” (Keep your brainstorms, you use them later!)
- DO THIS: Draft a statement that meets the criteria listed at the beginning of of the chapter
If that’s not producing clarity quickly…
Start on the other side of the Truth, with your Change (your idea or solution):
- DO THIS: Ask yourself, “Why is my idea the best way to achieve the Goal?”
You can also dig deeper with the Five Whys exercise:
- DO THIS: Take your answer from the core concept or your “Change” brainstorm, and ask yourself “Why?” about that answer (E.g., “Why is doing X the best way to achieve the goal?”
- DO THIS: Keep repeating that pattern of using your previous answer in your next “why” question until you arrive at a “root” cause — a Truth Statement that meets the criteria above
…or find the Truth with “message math”:
- DO THIS: Solve for the Truth as you would a missing variable in a math equation — ask yourself what concept or concepts must the Truth add to your Goal and Problem so that your Audience will see your idea as a logical conclusion?
…or in Science:
- DO THIS: Brainstorm generally accepted principles of science and the natural world that speak to the same core concept as your Truth (e.g., gravity, “a body at rest stays at rest,” etc.)
- DO THIS: Use the principle as-is or modify it with your language
…or in common quotes and sayings:
- DO THIS: Brainstorm quotes, proverbs, and other generally accepted social truths that speak to the same core concept as your Truth
- DO THIS: Use the saying as-is or modify it with your language
…or in your own published research:
- DO THIS: If you or your organization has done relevant research on the topic, look for possible Truth Statements in the conclusions of your published research
STEP TWO: Once you have your Truth, simplify it…
- DO THIS: Starting with your best version of your Truth, edit it to sound as much like a proverb as you can (keep your longer version though, you may need it later!)
Like with your Problem Statement, your Truth Statement can often be difficult to articulate at first. It’s not because you don’t have one, though! Usually the Truth Statement is hard to spot because it’s often so fundamental to your worldview, such a baseline assumption, that it doesn’t even occur to you that it needs to be articulated. Without it, though, your Audience may understand the link between their Problem and your solution, but they won’t be compelled to change their thinking or behavior.
Now it’s your turn: I’d love to see what Goal, Problem, and Truth statements you’ve come up with for your idea or business! Send them to me! I’m happy to give you some quick feedback on what you’ve come up with!The Truth Statement is hard to spot because it's often so fundamental to your worldview that it doesn't even occur to you that it needs to be articulated. Click To Tweet
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