In 1961, John F Kennedy had a vision for space travel. This was when the average person hadn’t even been on an aircraft. The American president chose to present this vision by saying: ‘We want to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely to Earth by the end of the decade.’
The phrase ‘man on the moon’ inspired a generation of Americans to work to make it happen, and on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.
As leaders, we would all kill for our own ‘man on the moon’ moment, when our communication moves and inspires people to action that transcends possibility. So here are our top tips for creating your ‘man on the moon’ moment:
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1. Think in bumper stickers
If your message was a bumper sticker what would it say? Hint: You will never see ‘optimising synergies’ on a bumper sticker.
For inspiration, play with your favourite quotes and current bumper stickers, and see how you can mix and match them to craft something pithy that will strike a chord with your audience.
A financial planner could take a popular proverb and put a sting in its tail to read: ‘Money is the root of all wealth’, when people were expecting to read ‘Money is the root of all evil’.
2. Think in headlines
If you were to write your key message as a headline, what would it say? Remember ‘dog bites man’ is not as attention-grabbing as ‘Man bites dog’.
What is the angle in your message that would grab and hold people’s attention? Use that to craft your message.
3. Channel your inner poet
‘Man on the moon’ sounds like pure poetry, so channel your inner poet. A simple way to start is to think in rhymes.
Daniel Pink, in his latest bestseller To Sell is Human, says a rhyming message is more readily accepted than a message that doesn’t rhyme.
Research conducted at Lafayette College showed groups that were given rhyming proverbs such as ‘woes unite foes’ rated these proverbs as a more accurate description of human behaviour than groups that were given the same proverb but in a form that didn’t rhyme.
Pink says: “Rhymes enhance processing fluency, and when processing fluency increases, people understand things more deeply and your ideas stick.”
Who would have thought the humble rhyme had such power?
4. Put your message through the ‘T-shirt test’
If your message was a slogan that could be printed on T-shirts, what would it say? Nike’s famous ‘Just do it’ slogan works for both a bumper sticker and a T-shirt.
5. Put your message on Twitter
Can you write your message in 140 characters? Is that even possible?
Way before Twitter in the 1920s, American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway’s colleagues bet that he could not write a complete story in just six words.
Hemingway responded with: ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never used.’ Poignant.
The colleagues paid up and Hemingway is said to have considered it his best work.
Finding your ‘man on the moon’ moment is about distilling down what you want to say to its elegant essence. Then having the courage and chutzpah to find bold words to paint a picture, capture the imagination and inspire action.
Want to create your own ‘man on the moon’ moment? Just do it.