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Jun 20, 2018

Just because we understand something doesn’t mean that we’ll actually do it, which is a problem if we’re trying to get someone to make a change or take an action. That means we need to design our messages to accomplish a specific mental outcome: we need to be specific about what we mean by “understanding.” To help us, we can use the model of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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Jun 13, 2018

Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have very different audiences but, as big brands, they have something in common: constancy. Their entire experience revolves around where their Red Thread and their audience’s Red Thread align. Both deliver coffee, but you’d never mistake one for the other because their customers have different Goals.

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Jun 6, 2018

Anytime you’re pitching your idea, there’s one clear hurdle you need to get over in order to succeed: someone else needs to find your idea irresistible. The thing they’re looking for when they listen to you is information, but it’s a certain kind of information that will actually win them over: they’re looking for a Curiosity Gap.

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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May 30, 2018

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Metaphors are powerful because they take one concept and marry it to another one to help someone understand something. They’re a way to create an instantly-shared view of the world. To capture big ideas, you need something big enough to capture both the idea itself and all the subconcepts associated with it, a “meta-metaphor.”

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May 23, 2018

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“Start with Why” is pretty common advice, but it’s hard to follow. It wasn’t until Tamsen had a conversation with Nilofer Merchant that things shifted into place for her. She said, “change doesn’t happen until we understand the context in which it happens.” In other words, our Why is contextual. The good news is that that’s what the Red Thread is all about: making visible the invisible context for your idea and the change that you’re trying to create.

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May 16, 2018

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Why do we still buy diamonds for engagement and wedding rings? Because we want to give or receive a symbol of the commitment that we’re making and, of course, “A Diamond Is Forever.” Behind this simple tagline is a powerful Red Thread complete with a Goal, a Problem, an Idea, a Change, and an Action.

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May 9, 2018

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The conventional wisdom with regards to negotiations is to “argue interests, rather than positions.” The problem is that interests are often so fraught with moral obligations and deep-set beliefs about the other side that we need to go one step further. We need to think about the principles that create these interests.

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May 2, 2018

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Our idea of what people need to make a change is really different from what information they actually need, and the difference is the distinction between curiosity and knowledge. We want people to be asking questions because curiosity is how the audience moves themselves along the Red Thread.

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Apr 25, 2018

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We use the word "story" a lot, but we often mean something else: narrative. A narrative has a lot of things that stories have, like characters and motivations, but the difference is that it isn’t over. It has a hoped-for end, but it’s evolving, and there are any number of individual stories that support it.

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Apr 18, 2018

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We talk a lot about telling stories with our messages, but a common mistake is to tell a story that’s already over. Nonprofits have been talking about stories for a long time because they’re a great way to get potential donors to understand the impact of a gift. However, when Tamsen worked in the nonprofit sector, she noticed that some stories were more effective than others.

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Apr 11, 2018

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Have you ever watched a detective movie and felt like you were just about to put it together right when the detective solves it? How do we get our audience to have that feeling when they’re listening to our message? The thing to realize is that, just like a great detective novel, there are several roles we can play in delivering a message.

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Apr 4, 2018

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We need to reach many different people, but we have only one message. Gretchen Rubin, happiness and habit expert, explains in her book, The Four Tendencies, that there are multiple categories for how we deal with expectations, but she also found that no matter what their actions and reactions were always values-driven.

The core of the Red Thread is all about values: Ideas. We can also keep in mind the tendencies of our audience, specifically the difference between internal and external expectations. We need to explain, for those that care about external expectations, why our Goal makes sense for most people. However, for the contrarians, we also need to show the other side. Building a message that appeals to both groups will make sure that you reach everyone.

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Mar 28, 2018

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When Tamsen first started training for the Boston Marathon, she ended up injuring herself because she was new to running. To train safely, she discovered the Universal Running Cadence of 180 steps per minute, which is the speed the body needs to move to move in its most efficient manner. To keep time, Tamsen created a playlist of tracks that all were at 180 beats per minute: everything from David Bowie to Beyonce to the Beastie Boys.

Putting messages together can often feel like a highly inefficient process, and it can feel like your message isn’t that different from what’s already out there. When you think about the universally true things about how your audience decides to act, lean on the Red Thread to appeal to those universal needs of Goal, Problem, Idea, Change, and Actions. At the same time, keep in mind that, just like all the artists on that playlist, your unique perspective is going to make the universal individual.

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Mar 21, 2018

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In order to close that gap of the Problem and get the audience from where they are to where we want them to be, we need to make sure they have everything they need. To do that, go back to the Goal so you can show them that they have all the tools and that those tools add up to something bigger than they had in the first place. This is the Goal Revisited: the Goal plus the benefit that going through the Change will have for the audience, the bigger version of the Goal. This shows them that not only have they gotten what they wanted in the first place, but something more is possible with the tools you’ve already given them.

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Mar 14, 2018

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We need to give examples to help people take action, but the challenge is that we’re not necessarily giving our audience the specific examples or actions they need. A C-suite member and one of their team members are going to listen to you very differently, so the examples need to match the mindset of those you're speaking. So what do those actions look like? The three that work best are process, category, and criteria.

The process is the most obvious one: you give your audience a series of steps to take, one after the other. Categories, on the other hand, show you the different areas where the change can apply: to your sales team, your marketing team, your customer service, etc. Finally, there’s criteria. Unlike process, it’s things that don’t necessarily have to happen in order but have to be there for the Change to happen. Mix and match these three to take care of everyone.

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Mar 7, 2018

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What is the Change in thinking or behavior that you need someone to make? If we’ve already figured out our Goal of an irresistible outcome for the audience, the invisible Problem of perspective that’s getting in the way, and the Idea that makes inaction impossible, the Change is what it all adds up to.

A lot of times, when you’re working on your Red Thread, you actually want to start with the Change. However, a common pitfall is to focus on the actions you want people to take, rather than the Change you need them to make that drives all those actions. The difference is between plans and intent. Your audience needs to understand what the overall purpose of the Action is if you want them to follow through and be flexible if (for some reason) that action can’t or won’t work for them.

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Feb 28, 2018

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Great ideas aren’t just found, they’re built piece by piece. To make that idea irresistible to someone else, we have to do the same thing: build that idea piece by piece in their mind. This week, we’re looking at the idea behind the Idea, the thing that makes the Problem impossible to ignore but also puts the Goal within the audience’s reach.

To illustrate this at work, we look at Tamsen’s work with Dheeraj Roy on his TEDx Cambridge talk about early-onset Alzheimer's.

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Feb 21, 2018

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We want to put an intractable problem in front of an irresistible goal for our audience because it creates context, but often the context we’re providing is something the audience already knows. The trick is to focus on the Problem of perspective that’s getting in their way.

Resources

Feb 14, 2018

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To celebrate a year of Find the Red Thread, we’re going to get back to basics and spend each of the next five episodes focusing on one piece of the Red Thread. This week, we’re looking at the Goal.

When we’re trying to share our irresistible idea with someone, we need to make sure that they have a reason to keep listening. The idea itself is not enough because our brains are focused on outcomes, specifically, outcomes that will help us. We’re wired to be self-interested. This means we often focus on explaining why our ideas are important to us, rather than why they’re important to our audience.


How do you make sure that you address the audience’s goal? Make sure that you start with something that audience finds wants that isn’t our idea: an irresistible outcome. Something they want that our idea will help them get, the audience’s goal. It’s not what you want for them, it’s what they want for themselves.

Resources

Feb 7, 2018

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When we’re trying to find our way through a difficult time, even when we’re getting help from others, we’re always trying to find new answers to help us change what’s happening. A lot of times, however, the search for the new leads us to miss something that’s been there all along. The muscles that we use the most are the strongest, so if we can find ways to reframe a situation to use the mental muscles we’ve already developed, we can find something that will work for us. We can find a new way of using our “old” ways of thinking.

Resources

EP 018: The Key to Enduring Messages and Brands

EP 037: How to Make the Most of Who You Already Are

EP 045: The Counterintuitive Secret to Creating Change

Jan 31, 2018

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We all need certain landmarks in our messages to help point our audience in the right direction, but are you telling your audience how those landmarks string together? Our audience can only follow us where we lead them, so you need to help them understand why they’re there, what’s important about that, and how to get to the next point. To make sure those transitions between your point are present, Tamsen has developed the TraPIT method.

TraPIT stands for Transition, Point, Illustration, and Takeaway. What happens after you’ve reached a Takeaway? Start back at the beginning and address the next question that your audience has in their heads after they’ve processed your previous point. Start structuring your message in terms of TraPIT blocks, and you can make sure your audience is never lost.

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Jan 24, 2018

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Sometimes when we get up to give a big talk or presentation, the speech that sounded great on paper suddenly falls flat when we say it out loud. Why does this happen? It has to do with how we process language, which we do by taking in information from other people.

This ability to learn from two perspectives, both ours and our audience’s, is called dialogic processing. We also have monologic processing, which occurs when we don’t have that feedback, like when we’re writing our speech.

How do we activate our dialogic processing? The next time you’re writing something, say it out loud, or even better, to another person. That way your brain can get the additional perspective it needs to make your message effective.

Resources

Jan 17, 2018

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According to Goethe, all the rope the British Navy uses, from the largest to the smallest, is made with a red thread woven into it. That means that even the smallest piece of rope can be identified as the property of the crown. What’s great about that story is that it represents a different approach to leaving your mark. A lot of advice revolves around stamping your work from the outside: using a strong graphic identity or naming something in a very particular way. While those things are important, they’ll be even more powerful if the core of something is recognizably yours, if it’s interwoven with the Red Thread.

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Jan 10, 2018

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Kurt Vonnegut had this idea that stories have shapes, but nobody had put it to the test until the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont decided to take a look. Tamsen looks at the three story shapes we should use in our messages, and how they correspond to the Red Thread method’s three types of talks: the How, Why, and What Now.

Resources

Jan 3, 2018

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Here’s the best piece of writing advice that Tamsen’s ever received: after you finish your first draft, go back and delete the first paragraph. Why does this work? Because if we haven’t thought something through before we speak it or write it, we try to make ourselves comfortable first. The thing is, an audience or listener is asking a different question: “Do I care?” If you ramble, the answer will be no.

The Red Thread can help you because it’s about aligning what you say with how people make the decision to act. So how do you start? Think to yourself, “What is the Goal that my audience walks in with that I can help them achieve?” That’s how you get them to keep listening.

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