7. Clarity: The principle of “Clarity” is simply the amount to which your message is easily understood. If your target audience is a broad one, then clarity will link every demographic within it towards a common purpose. The father of clarity is brevity. Most slogans which are easily understood and remembered are short yet impactful. A perfect example is “A diamond is forever.” Up to the 1820s, there were two kinds of people who owned diamonds; royalty and pirates. That’s about it. However, with the discovery of substantial diamond deposits in South Africa (at the time a British colony), the state-owned DeBeers corporation was able to consolidate 90% of the world’s diamond mines. For the next 200 years, DeBeers embarked on a relentless campaign depicting diamonds as the ultimate symbol of love to the point where diamonds are now part of the marriage process itself.
However, the principle of clarity is not limited to phraseology. It’s equally important to capture the intention of what it is you’re trying to convey. A stunning example is Lee’s order to Gen. Ewell on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. Most people believe that the battle was lost at the conclusion of “Pickett’s Charge”. Although dramatic, by this point the battle was already lost due to severe miscommunication on Lee’s part. The Union Army entrenched itself on “Culp’s Hill”. At the end of a bitter fight on day one, Lee ordered Ewell to attack and seize Culp’s Hill “if practicable”. Ewell’s corps was exhausted and would have to advance through a virtual kill zone in order to get to the hill, so taking Culp’s Hill would be anything but “practicable”. However, it was doable. Both men knew that if Culp’s Hill fell, Lee would’ve had a straight shot to Washington D.C. and been able to deliver terms to Lincoln and a war-weary North.
Information must be managed. Clarity is further compromised when you attempt to deliver your message through other means such as a subordinate, memo, or email. “Custer’s Last Stand” is an incredible demonstration of why, when it comes to life altering or significant events, we have to be the ones to say what must be said. When Custer’s column (c. 200 men) encountered approximately 10,000 braves, he sent his messenger, Trooper John Martin, to contact his subordinate, Capt. Reno, for reinforcements. When Trooper Martin was asked for clarification, all he could say was that the Indians were “skeedaddling”. John Martin’s real name was Giovanni Martini, who had recently emigrated from Italy to the US, and had a very poor command of the English language. With no elaboration on Custer’s intention and having suffered a recent ambush, Custer’s reinforcements were unable to assist their commander to make an organized withdrawal.
8. Conviction: At Mastery Coaching we’re convinced that when someone who is ordinarily competent and trustworthy gives a command which is not easily understood, chances are that individual is insecure regarding their decision. Robert E. Lee had given hundreds of commands prior to Gettysburg which resulted in the humiliation of the Union Army for almost 3 straight years. Custer was decorated for valor and skill during the Civil War. But in each instance, what they were asking of their men was a gamble, and they knew it. When someone wholeheartedly believes in what they’re saying, they find a way to get their point across succinctly and sincerely. They may change their tune later, but if you’re motivated by something higher than yourself, your inner truth will come out with no need for packaging or “spin”.
Of course, your conviction must have a fertile environment for it to take hold. It must last once you leave the podium. What we’re talking about is resonance. If what you say sticks in people’s minds, then you can be assured you’ve hit your target. Pre-WW II Germany was not a nation of psychopaths driven by bloodlust. They were a people who had to conclude WW I by signing a humiliating treaty which a) demanded crippling reparations to the Allied countries and b) contained a clause wherein Germany had to admit that it started WW I (which was false). The first demand ensured that Germany would starve while the rest of the world experienced “The Roaring Twenties”, and the second demand ensured that the next generation of Germans would be eager to “set the record straight”. This is not to excuse the German people of their deeds. This is simply to illustrate that anyone, if held down and humiliated (via their own perception), will buy anything, even rage and disgust. Mussolini is still revered in some parts of Italy because for once “people slept with their windows open and the trains ran on time”. It’s amazing what people will trade in for a sense of security and stability.
It’s not enough to “know thy audience”. It’s not even enough to know what their wants and needs are. You have to ensure that what you stand for and what they want is congruent. It’s no use trying to convert a buyer if they don’t want to buy. However, if your gut tells you that they just need reassurance, then find out what that reassurance would be, such as stats, comps, referrals/testimonials, whatever it is, be prepared to provide it and also explain it. It’s ok to change your tune, as long as you’ve changed your mind along with it. And, chances are, if you say something quickly and clearly, you’ll also say it convincingly.