Taking the Time to Keep it Short: Reducing Clutter for More Effective Communication
by Fred Gaede, Chief Creative Officer
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” You’ve likely heard this quote before. And while its origin may be under dispute, its underlying truth is not. Keeping your communications short and to the point takes effort and it takes additional time. This is true for copy as well as for design. While you may need to sacrifice a bit of style, keeping your messaging free from unnecessary distractions offers great benefits.
According to one study, the average attention span of a modern human is about 8 seconds. When it comes to digital marketing and effective communication, I would say that it is far shorter. Your audience simply does not have the time or patience for fluff and flourishes.
To be certain, in the early stages of the creative process, nothing should be left off the table. Clever turns of phrase, unique visual approaches, unexpected analogies and the like are valid and they should be explored, but that doesn’t mean they all make the final cut. As the process advances, if something doesn’t help with clearly communicating your point, it should be eliminated, no matter how clever! This means that you need to allow for the time needed to refine and distill your solutions.
It’s all about the audience! Know your audience, respect your audience and write (or design) for your audience. Losing sight of your target and their particular needs can take you on creative side trips that use up time and will never make the final cut.
Stop grooming the pets! You’ve hit on a brilliant idea and want to explore it further. You like it so much that you begin to tweak and polish it. The problem is, you like your pet idea so much you lose sight of the other, equally valid solutions and waste unnecessary time focusing on just one. Be willing to step away from pet ideas and treat all concepts equally.
Walk away! While working on a project, especially when under a tight deadline, it is easy to become consumed with working out the solution. Knowing that time is short, you chain yourself to your keyboard and just keep working away. While the idea of taking a break may seem like a waste of time, it can actually be a time- and a lifesaver! Stepping back from your work to grab a coffee, chat with a co-worker or walk around the office, helps to clear you mind. When you return to your work, you can evaluate what you have done and more quickly weed out the ideas that simply do not work.
Finally, believe in miracles, but don’t expect them. Don’t waste time by waiting around for some miraculous “spark of genius” to hit you and solve your problems. This is yet another waste of time up front that you will need at the end of the project to refine your idea down to its most vital elements. It is better to get to work, applying the skills you have developed and insights you have learned and not waste time hoping for a miracle.
Time is a precious commodity, especially in marketing and communications. We need to use it wisely to create more effective communication. There is more I could say and add to my list, but I’ve used up enough time keeping my blog this short.