If you're cringing, you know just how daunting this question can be for anyone. I mean, how many of us can really define the core essence of who we are?
Well, here's how Turner responded:
"Slate is your smart friend that you want to stand next to at the party, who’s always saying the most interesting stuff. Slate is illuminating, fun, lively, venturesome, good company, playful, argumentative but in a joyful way, and not in a pedantic, angry, or ideological way."
She tossed in a few too many adjectives at the end, so the answer lost a bit of coherence. But what she did marvellously well in those 20 seconds was to evoke an emotion within the listener.
Let's break down how she did it.
First she situated us in a scene - a party - that most of Slate's target readers and Long Form's listeners would be intimately (if not soberly) familiar with: a party.
Then she positioned Slate in the scene as a person that you’d love to have there. As a result, Slate instantly gains keg-loads of cool and credibility, and becomes ultra-relatable.
- She didn't say what Slate was or did, like "Slate is a premier online magazine that provides timely and intelligent commentary on current affairs."
- She didn't give you a mission statement, like "Slate is about realising a world of more reasoned and intelligent conversations..."
- She didn't throw stats or accolades at you, like "Slate is an online magazine with 20 years of history with 100 million readers and 150 awards and prizes on our shelf"
She did none of that. Instead, she told you how to feel about Slate.
It was all emotion.
How do we apply this?
Let's think about how we might use this to introduce our organisation or ourselves.
First, identify a scene that 1. Your audience would be intimately familiar with, and 2. You or your company could play a pivotal role in.
Second, define your role in the scene, in a way that triggers positive emotions.
Let's take an example - an awesome company that my buddies Nick and Zona are running in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, called InBetween.
A standard introduction might call them a co-working space or a creative hub, or even mention that they organise events.
But apply the above method, and we get something like this:
Setting the Scene: You got dreams and goals right? But often you're not sure how to get there, and there're people are tellin’ you it's impossible, just forget it...
Define the Role: Well, InBetween is that friend who steps in and says “You can totally do this”, then sends you a humongous list of resources and goes "Let's make it happen!"
30 seconds, tops.
Now, the intro contained no specific or concrete details, because it wasn't meant to. It was meant to generate emotions and not knowledge.
To paraphrase the incredible Cal Fussman: you target their heart, then their head (and once you have both, you have a pathway to their soul, he added).
Once they feel you, they'll ask you for the specifics.
*Caveat: Obviously you gotta pick something that fits. If you rep the government tax authority, and you say “The tax office is like that bronze-colored bikini model who winks at you on the beach of Copacabana…”
That won’t get you anywhere except viral shame.
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