Make it Simple, but Significant

Save the long, drawn out mumbo jumbo for the disclaimer. If you want your message to be read, do as Don Draper does—make it simple, but significant. The famous character from AMC’s hit series, Mad Men, is often seen ripping his paper from the typewriter carriage multiple times in order to craft his message. Thankfully, we have computers with a backspace button making our work much easier than it was back in the ‘60s. The technology has changed, but the end goal is the same—keeping it simple.

The phrase “dumb it down” can have a negative connotation, but when trying to keep things simple, that’s exactly what needs to happen. Often times we overthink or try to overcomplicate things because we think it makes us sound or appear smarter. In reality, a really smart person is someone who can take a complex topic and explain it to you with simple, basic language that gets you nodding your head in agreement.

Think of an outdoor billboard. With limited space, the message has to be simple, yet significant enough to grab your attention in the eight seconds it takes to whiz by at 50 mph.

Prior to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2013, we had the task of creating a publication for a client’s customer base explaining the ACA in simple terms. Using avatars, infographics and lots of basic language, we accomplished the goal of taking something new, unfamiliar and very complex and explaining it in a way that had the reader nodding his or her head silently saying, “Oh, I get it.”

Keeping the reader in mind and cutting to the chase will help you make your message simple, but significant. Don Draper would show his approval by pouring you a drink.

Websites and Beyond

It goes without saying that the Internet has changed the way we consume content.

One of the biggest changes in media consumption and usage is how the Internet has allowed consumers of information to engage directly with experts, and with anyone who isn’t an expert but has an idea or an opinion. On the “expert” upside, there are fewer gatekeepers, so organizations and businesses are more able to tell their own stories directly to customers and consumers.

The Internet and its growing accessibility via portable devices encourages customers and consumers to become even more used to getting information quickly – with just the click of a (Google) button. That trend is changing the way health care, an industry we specialize in, delivers information to customers.

Patients now turn to WebMD and medical apps when they start to feel symptoms of sickness. People compare cost and quality of doctors and procedures. Insurance companies prompt members to use online body mass index (BMI) calculators and beyond. More and more people pay their bills online or review their credit history on a mobile app. What are healthcare organizations doing to stay current on these trends?

  1. Creating apps that help manage and monitor health conditions and wellness activities.
  2. Engaging patients through web portals that allow them to request doctor’s appointments, view test results, request prescription refills, and ask doctors questions.
  3. Creating websites that allow people to track everything from calorie consumption to steps per day to calories burned in various activities.
  4. Providing online payment portals that allow patients to pay their medical bills online.
  5. Utilizing social media to develop a more personal brand and relay important information.
  6. Offering text message reminders for appointments or prescription pick-up.
  7. Using tablets and smart phones to share real-time information from the surgical suite to family in the waiting room.
  8. Pushing out e-newsletters and links to partner websites and organizations.

The most effective organizations align their business strategy with these trends and tools, selectively engaging what works for their customers. What about you?  Would your business benefit from some changes in how you leverage the Internet? A website filled with information is great, and it’s just the beginning.  Don’t stop now. 

How to Write from Your Readers’ Perspective

One of the most important — and challenging — aspects of good communications is writing in a way that’s meaningful for your readers. Though it sounds straightforward, the truth is the demographics and personalities of your target readers will likely change drastically for each communication. A magazine audience has a different make-up than an internal employee announcement, for example. How do you ensure you’re making the best connection with your specific readers?

1.       Take the time to know your audience

Where do they get their information? What do they care about? What motivates them? This will help you determine communication channels, key messages and calls to action that resonate with them.

 2.       Write at the right level

Be mindful of which subject matter terminology your readers will be familiar with and which they may not be. Avoid jargon whenever possible, and use reading-level analysis tools like or Writing Sample Readability Analyzer to confirm whether you’re writing at a grade level appropriate to your audience.

 3.       Learn to recognize when you need separate communications

Don’t try to cram all your information into a single piece for use across all audiences. This approach ignores the nuances we covered in Tip #1. Employees are different than business partners; nursing home residents are different than the adult children of those residents. Each audience should receive its own particular communication that emphasizes the information and messages most relevant to them.

 4.       Read what your audience reads

One of the best ways to make your writing relevant to a specific audience is to immerse yourself in that audience – read what they read, observe how others are communicating with them. If, for example, your company is thinking of starting a blog targeted at working moms, research other blogs that cater to the same readers. What works and what doesn’t? Take notes.

5.       Share it and get their feedback

After you’ve worked through the first four tips, your next step is to share a draft of your communications piece with a few people who fall into your audience. They’ll be able to tell you where you’re close, where they still have questions, or where certain aspects of your messaging need tweaking. It’s a great measure of how relevant the piece will be for its intended readership as a whole.