It’s time for the penultimate installment in your step-by-step guide to building the Red Thread® of your message or content: all about how to turn your big idea into action.
WHAT ARE THE ACTIONS?
Actions answer the question, “How…?”. Those “How” questions can include questions like “How do I make the Change?,” “How do you help me make the Change?,” “How do I know I’ve been successful?,” and so on.
Because the Actions make the Change concrete for your Audience, they are necessary for the Change to take effect.
The good news? If you’ve already developed your idea into an approach or a suite of products or services, you already have your Actions (or at least one set of them!).
The Actions should fit comfortably into this sentence:
Here’s how [to make the Change]:… [ACTIONS]
They should also meet the following criteria:
- Contain at least one specific element that makes the Change concrete
- Fall into at least one of four types (more on these, below):
- PROCESS: sequential steps your Audience needs to take in order to create the Change; almost always stated as verbs and usually in stepwise order. (E.g., Step 1, 2, 3; Level A, B, C)
- COMPONENTS: necessary elements, including products, that have no prescribed order or hierarchy; usually stated as nouns (E.g., food, activity, mindset; publishing, consulting, training products)
- CRITERIA: qualities of a successful Change; usually stated as adjectives (E.g., warm, sunny, relaxed; relevant, resilient, remarkable, repeatable)
- CATEGORIES: areas (as in departments, levels, phases, etc.) where the Change can or should be applied (E.g., Marketing, Sales, Operations; personal, local, global)
- Tie back to the concepts and language of your Goal, Problem, and Truth
- “…Create simple urine tests that providers administer during their patient’s visits” (Life science startup client UrSure, project: investor pitch)
- “…Use people like ethnographers and user researchers to collect and interpret data that can’t be quantified, like stories, emotions, and interactions” (Client Tricia Wang’s TED talk)
- “…Create a new editorial position of Newsletter Editor” (Nonprofit media company client; project – persuasive messaging coaching to get funding to create a new newsletter)
- “…There are four steps: 1. Identify and deactivate past experiences. 2. Change the language we use in the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening. 3. Reconnect with the enjoyment of being the center of attention. 4. Build capacity to tolerate new, more positive feelings. ” (Client Linda Ugelow; project: drafting keynote)
- “…Offer options associated with different functions or job levels. For example, someone at a more junior level could choose between one day of remote work every month or one additional day of personal time off. Someone at a higher level could choose between three days.” (Client Tracy Timm; project: diversifying message to a new audience)
- “…Buy a diamond engagement ring” (DeBeers — not a client, just one of my favorite examples!)
- “…Conduct Fear Experiments™, which have these components: Focus, Energy, Action, Repeat” (Client Judi Holler; project: revising keynote)
- “…to help your team progress through each of four levels: Contributor, Mentor, Developer, Visionary….” (Client Ted Ma; project: differentiating core message)
HOW TO BUILD YOUR ACTIONS
STEP ONE: Brainstorm your Action types
- DO THIS: To find Process Actions, ask yourself, “What are the steps necessary to create the change?”
- DO THIS: To find Component Actions, ask yourself, “What elements need to be in place? What’s required to make this real, no matter the order?”
- DO THIS: To find Criteria Actions, ask yourself, “What qualities or traits describe a successful Change?”
- DO THIS: To find Category Actions, ask yourself, “What are all the applications of the Change? What are all the areas in which it can or should be applied?”
STEP TWO: Pick your type
- DO THIS: Based on the nature of the content you’re building, decide which Action type you’ll use. As before, keep your brainstorms. You’ll want them for future uses!
STEP THREE: Narrow the choices
- DO THIS: Narrow down your brainstormed Actions to 1–5 options per type.
STEP FOUR: Modify for memorability
- DO THIS: With your narrowed list of Actions, see if you can find a group of description words that work together as an alliterative, rhythmical, or similar type of “poetic” (and thus memorable) set
STEP FIVE: Name it to claim it
- DO THIS: If it makes sense for your desired outcomes or brand, work to find a name for your Action set. Draw from the language you’ve used so far in your Red Thread, relevant metaphors, idioms or other expressions, or even your own background or branding.
MIX, MATCH, MAXIMIZE
As you’re going through and brainstorming your Action types, you may start to notice something: more than one type can apply to your Change. In fact, you’ll often want, or even need, to “mix and match” your Action types.
For example, you could say that to be successful, your Change needs to have three Components. To explain to your Audience how to put those Components into place, you could present a five-step Process.
Or, in another example, you could talk about how your Change works in both a marketing and a sales capacity (Categories). You could then go on to explain the Criteria for making your Change successful with each team… and maybe even the Process for doing that.
The options are nearly endless, but often not necessary. If your message is brief and your Change simple, don’t overcomplicate it!
But if you’re building a message that needs to be strong enough to build a book, workshop, or business on, you may want and need to have the broad, solid foundation all those combinations provide.
Regardless of how you arrive at them, your Actions represent the practical end of your Red Thread®. You’ve moved your audience from their initial question, through an understanding of the real Problem, brought them a Truth that forced a choice, presented a Change that achieved their Goal, and given them the Actions to take to make that Change real.
Next up? Showing how taking that mental journey may have brought them more than they realized. That’s what I call the “Goal, Revisited.” Stay tuned!Because the Actions make the Change concrete for your Audience, they are necessary for the Change to take effect. Click To Tweet
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