I have this joke I use to make a lasting impression when I first meet people. Instead of saying “I have dyslexia”, I say “I have sex daily”. I say it with a totally straight face, which makes people unsure of what I just said.
“You have what?” they ask.
And with the same straight face I say, “I have dyslexia. You know: difficulties reading, a short attention span, mixing up words…”
Most of the victims think it’s funny and do not forget me easily.
Having a short attention span is not always a disadvantage. It actually helps for storytelling, and allows me to get straight to the point and skip all the superfluous information.
It forces me to talk to the right side of the brain in emotions or images, instead of feeding the left side of the brain with information.
In 2002 I started interviewing brands and my first question was, “So, what’s your story?” The vast majority of interviewees started giving me a long official account or even showing me PowerPoint presentations. Which for me with my short attention span was of course hard to process.
A few years later it struck me: brand representatives have trouble telling their story for two reasons. One, they know too much. They want to show you all aspects of the brand and therefore can’t distinguish between want to be complete and do not want to leave anything out.
Second, they aren’t dyslexic. They assume everybody has an attention span of 45 minutes or more, so they keep talking and think the information is being absorbed.
“Haven’t they ever heard of information overload?” I asked myself. “People
don’t want more information, they want your story!”
And besides, most people have a genuine distrust of top-down messages and corporate jargon. People trust information from friends and family. Something like 70 or 80% of all purchases are influenced by peer-to-peer communication.
In 2009, I decided to stop interviewing brands and go into third-party storytelling. I will tell the story for the brand. The tone of voice is horizontal, like in peer-to-peer communication. The story is written in a narrative way in which I engineer the main message. The stories are fun to read, easy to understand and easy to transmit.
Ready for word-of-mouth.
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