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Mar 21, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Mar 14, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamenWebster.com.

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.


Mar 7, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Feb 28, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Feb 21, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Feb 14, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Feb 7, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


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

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Jan 24, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Jan 17, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Jan 10, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.


Jan 3, 2018

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

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.

Dec 20, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

We all have confirmation bias: we tend to only seek out and remember information that confirms what we already believe to be true. This also means we tend to reframe, ignore, or dismiss information that goes against what we believe. As marketers, sometimes we focus too much on what our audience doesn’t know without thinking about what we’re blind to.

As much as you believe in your product or service, need to disconfirm as much as you can so that you’ll anticipate all of the pros and cons that will be coming at you from the marketplace. Acknowledging and anticipating your audience’s objections will allow you think more thoughtfully around them and develop responses to them, not just in your message but in your product or service itself.


Dec 13, 2017


Find your Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

Whenever there are two opposing truths that we believe to be true, we can’t tolerate the cognitive dissonance for long. In the face of this untenable tension, we’ll do one of two things: change the core fundamental belief about ourselves or change the core fundamental belief about how we see the world. As message makers, if we can create that tension then we can create change.

The Red Thread is structured to create this tension. It sets up three concepts that can be put in conflict: what do you want (Goal), what is the real problem you have to solve (Problem), and what is the fundamental truth that your audience believes about themselves that makes the Goal and Problem inconsistent with that belief? So when you’ve identified the Problem, the next step is to ask: why would that bother me so much? If you can create that tension between the Goal and the Problem for your audience, you can create the Change that you’re after.

Dec 6, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

In all the years that Tamsen has done branding and messaging strategy, the one thing that always been true is that no one is ever happy with the result of a branding or rebranding exercise. The reason for that is that we tend to confuse a brand with what creates it.

When we do a rebranding, we’re ultimately trying pass off the complete ownership of who we are to somebody else. The problem with that is that nobody is as much of an expert in who we are as we are. The only way to make such an effort successful is to find a way to blend your expertise in your own self with a branding company’s expertise in what the market looks like, what messages are effective, and what effective brands look like.

When you step back, you realize something very important: the brand isn’t the baseline of an organization— it’s the manifestation of something else: the Red Thread. It’s the manifestation of why you do what you do, the way that you do it. Figure that out, and the rest will take care of itself.

Nov 29, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

We all have jargon that’s useful in our industry or company, but we also need to make sure that our message is clear. A clear message means there’s a clear meaning, and a clear meaning is what inspires action, so that means we want to make sure that the words that we use to make that message are clear. This is where we run into trouble with jargon because it has a lot of meaning already attached for some of your audience, a different meaning for another group, and no meaning for others.

To reverse-engineer meaning, we need to look for the shared Problems and Ideas of our audience, so that we can find shared Change. Ultimately, we do need to use jargon in some of our messages, but if you ask yourself what a word actually means in your message and lead with that first, you can attach the jargon term to it later and keep everyone on the same page. That’s how you make sure people understand not only what you’re saying, but what you’re meaning as well.

Nov 22, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

One the biggest problems that businesses run into when they try to do business storytelling is that they mistake stories for storytelling. However, if we understand story from the right perspective, we have everything we need to turn anything we have to say into something that feels like a story even if it isn’t one.

The traditional story structure has three acts: a setup, a middle section or build that introduces conflict, and a resolution or payoff or conclusion. The key is to pay attention to how each act begins and ends.

Nov 15, 2017

Find the Red Thread at tamsenwebster.com.

The concept of deus ex machina is a great way to tie up the loose ends of a story, but it’s not such a great way to end a talk. Our audience wants to be engaged in our message the entire way through. In fact, they like to do some work, to be an amateur detective and see if they can guess where something is going. This is why structuring your message around the Red Thread works because it helps you make sure that you’re giving your audience the information they need to get to their own version of your conclusion.

Nov 8, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

If you’re trying to figure out what your Red Thread is all about, start with what you can do better than anyone else. For many people, figuring out what’s going to be powerful for them is easier said than done. Power is energy sustained over time. So, where does our energy come from? And how do we find a way to keep using it regardless of the situation?

There are three basic concepts surrounding energy that can help you clarify things. First of all, there are certain activities that are net energy negative: they drain our energy when we do them, probably because we’re not that great at them. There are other things that are net energy neutral: you might be pretty good at them, but you don’t necessarily feel one way or the other about them after you do them.

What you really need to pay attention to, though, are the net energy positive things that give you energy when you do them. What are those problems that you just can’t stand to see? What ideas get you excited? Energy is a signal of the potential power behind something. Pay attention to where you feel energy coming back to you, and you’ll have the key to unlocking the powerful pieces of your personal Red Thread.

Nov 1, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

When you’re putting together a large message, like an article, book, or talk, part of the challenge is figuring out what to put in between the pieces of your Red Thread. If you’re putting that much effort into a message, what you’re trying to do is get someone to move mentally from one side of something to another. That’s why thinking of your message in terms of trains, stations, and tracks can be useful.

So, using our metaphor, the pieces of the Red Thread are our stations, and the audience is the train, but if there isn’t any track they won’t be getting anywhere soon. The question to ask before each station is: what does someone have to understand and agree with before they’ll go with me there? For each piece of the Red Thread, you can use the previous piece to set them up for what’s coming next, like going deeper into the Problem to explain why the Idea is so important.

Oct 25, 2017

This week we’re looking at Ron Ploof’s work on proverbs and storytelling. Our brains automatically simplify complicated messages. The quote, “Play it again, Sam,” for example, isn’t actually what Humphrey Bogart says in Casablanca. For these messages, our collective consciousness somehow reduces them to what sounds like a proverb. We'll look at how you can use that to make your message stickier, using the Red Thread.

Oct 18, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

There are many times when we’re trying to figuring out how to position who we are and what we do (our Red Threads) for a particular situation: switching jobs, or expanding our business into a new industry. When you’re faced with these questions, you should ask yourself: are you a fox or a hedgehog? This concept was popularized by Isaiah Berlin, based on a saying by an ancient Greek poet, “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one important thing.” The fox has many different ways to try and get the hedgehog, but the hedgehog’s spines are a pretty effective defense, no matter what the fox may try.

Because the Red Thread allows us to tell any story in a way that makes sense to anyone else, no matter what you are you can figure out how to represent your foxy qualities as hedgehog-y ones or vice versa. Whatever you are, remember that you already have a powerful story that you’re already telling. Make sure your Red Thread makes sense to you, and then you’ll find the way to make it make sense to others.

Oct 11, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

A great conclusion is one of the best opportunities we have to make sure that our message really sticks. At the end of a message, people want to tie everything together and have it make sense, which means that all you have to do is recap the Red Thread. To do this, you can use a technique called the Red Thread Storyline:

"We can all agree [GOAL], but the problem is, despite no barriers, [PROBLEM]. In order to solve that problem and achieve our goal, we have to understand [IDEA], which means we’re going to have to [CHANGE]. How? [ACTIONS], which means that when we get there we will have achieved our [GOAL]."

Oct 4, 2017

We spend a lot of time and energy crafting our messages but sometimes an audience just doesn’t “get it,” even though it makes complete sense to us. This happens because of a well-known phenomenon called “The Curse of Knowledge.” Basically, our brains have a cognitive bias that makes it impossible to remember what it was like to not know something.

This is the reason that the Red Thread is organized the way it is: we can’t introduce our audience to Change language before we’ve sold them on the Problem and the Idea because they have to make those same steps of understanding that we’ve made. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and you can turn the Curse of Knowledge into a blessing.

Sep 27, 2017

Find the Red Thread at TamsenWebster.com.

Most of us have certain things that we care so deeply about that we’re willing to take extraordinary measures to defend or advance that cause or belief. The problem is that not everyone shares those beliefs and, what’s more, even people who agree about a cause can’t necessarily agree on what to do about it. Humans tend to judge decisions from their own perspective, so this kind of disagreement can be especially frustrating.

When we are trying to achieve the same Goal, when we have the same fundamental beliefs, it’s necessary that we find ways to weave all of our different Red Threads together to solve the overall Goal that we all have.

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