Back when we were talking about making your message measurable I suggested you answer one question about every message or piece of content you put out there:
What does this particular message need to do?
Ideally that outcome flows two ways: there’s a benefit to you (why you’re creating that content or message in the first place) and a benefit to the audience (what they’ll get as a result of doing the thing that has a benefit to you).
It can be easy to forget that the audience has to perceive a benefit before they’ll act. They won’t act just because you want or tell them to. In fact, telling them to do something is often the fastest path to them doing the opposite… or nothing.
So, to help you stay out of that trap, there’s a way to refine that question even further. Ask yourself,
What should the audience be *able to do* afterward?
This is my very favorite-est question to ask before creating content, and for two reasons. The first reason is that it tends to focus your answer more on those action verbs I’ve mentioned before. When you focus on what you’re empowering your audience to do, you tend to think more in terms of strong action-oriented words like “apply,” “diagnose,” and “plan.”
The second reason is that it tends to change what you put in your content. Imagine for a moment you’ve set a less action-oriented outcome for your content, such as “understand the benefits of approach x.” Now, imagine what you’d put in your content to achieve that outcome. The temptation is super strong to start listing out those benefits, right? (And you know that’s not your most persuasive approach, right? I mean, if you don’t know why you need something, no amount of features and benefits is going to convince you, at least not long-term.)
But imagine instead that you’ve set the outcome as “evaluate the potential impact of approach x in their organization.” Ooh, feel the difference? Do you see how you’d need to go beyond just telling them about the benefits? How you’d need to give them some concrete tools that show them the benefits, too? (Things like a question to ask, a calculator to try, or an assessment to do.)
That, my friends, is what is known as an “actionable takeaway”! It’s also a measurable one, as, depending on the tool, you can track what people do and use. And now you know how to draft one (especially if you make sure it meets the STAR test).
Here’s why it works: that action, if your audience takes it, shows that the process of change occurred. What is that Process of Change, you ask? There are lots of different ways to think about it. One of my favorites is what’s known as the “Ladder of Inference.” Essentially, it’s a way to think about how our human brains take specific steps to process information and then decide to act on it.
At its simplest you can think of it as three steps: Understand. Agree. Act. People have to understand information — and agree with it — before they’ll act on it.
So, when you set an audience action as an outcome for your message, you’re ultimately helping yourself make decisions on how you’ll go about making sure you’ve accomplished the “understand” and “agree” parts. You’ll ask yourself questions like:
- What can I do to show them what this means? (Understand)
- How can I frame this in a way that’s least likely to raise their objections? (Agree)
- What will reduce the risks of change in their eyes? (Act)
Is it a bit more mental work than just sitting down and writing (or talking)? Yes, it’s a bit more work before. But if taking that step is more likely to drive the outcome you want the first time, it likely means less work — and better results — overall.
Wouldn’t you agree? 😉Asking yourself what your audience should be able to do after receiving your message will help you adjust your content to be more action-oriented. Click To Tweet
Like this content? Be the first to get it delivered directly to your inbox every week (along with a lot of other great content, including my #swipefiles). Yes, please send me the Red Thread newsletter, exclusive information, and updates.