S.U.P. (Short. Uncomplicated. Pleasing.)

Keep your message short. Keep your language uncomplicated. Keep your presentations pleasing to the eye.

By Chad Quinn, Social Media and Communications Director, Association Management Group (AMG)

Chad Quinn

Chad Quinn

My 9-year-old nephew often sends me a simple text message… “sup” – no punctuation and no extra words. While short, the intent is clear. He’s checking-in, saying “hi” and seeing if I am around to respond.

This simple word… well, almost a word – in this usage it is more slang; “sup” is actually a word that means to “take (drink or liquid food) by sips or spoonfuls” – who knew?… Back on track; this simple word illustrates a key message in communication. Attention spans are short. We live in a world where you could easily reveal your age by how you use caps and punctuation in text messages. A world where many people get their “news” from sound-bites tweeted, or retweeted, in 140 character intervals. A world where our attention spans are – on average, less than eight seconds – less than a goldfish’s. (This is where I should be inserting the grimace face emoji.)

So, how does this shortened attention span relate to your marketing initiatives?

A good rule of thumb to remember, inspired by my nephew, is: S.U.P. Short. Uncomplicated. Pleasing.

Keep your message short. Keep your language uncomplicated. Keep your presentation pleasing to the eye.

Of course there are other ways that this same concept is stated, such as K.I.S.S… Keep It Simple Stupid. But, again being inspired by my nephew… “you shouldn’t say ‘stupid’, Uncle Chad.” Not to mention, my new version is shorter. So… there. Shorter is better. (wink emoji)

Keep your message short. Don’t throw everything at your reader. For instance, if you are highlighting your upcoming conference, there is very likely a lot you could include in an email blast to your members. There is the impulse to throw the whole shebang at your audience; for instance: all the speakers and all of the special events. But, this is overkill. Keep it simple. Highlight one speaker and one event at the most, then drive people to your website for more information – that’s why you built it. Use it. (Not to mention it helps drive traffic and analytics!)

Your website is where you can include all of the details packaged in neat and easy-to-read tabs (especially if the website is responsive and optimized for mobile devices). Keep in mind, most people will view your email on their smartphone or tablet, which means if you have too much text, too many details… too many graphics… they will be scrolling. A lot. And lots of scrolling is lots of “work” and that will lead to a higher likelihood of the reader losing interest.

Putting too much into an email is the equivalent of reverse-FOMO (fear of missing out). You’re scared your audience isn’t going to get all of the information you think they need. In reality, your message is a tease… view it as a way to draw people in. Like a movie preview; show them a glimpse and make them want more.

Keep your language uncomplicated. Write the way people speak; simple short sentences. It goes without saying, don’t string a bunch of big words together just to seem high-brow, smart or clever. Marketing messaging is not academic writing. Unusual words or uncommon language requires the reader to think. Avoid stopping the flow at all cost. Write, then read your text out loud. Does it flow? Ideally, ask a couple of colleagues to read the message; ask them to read it out loud. Ask them for honest feedback. Is the message clear? Does it flow? Is it enticing the reader to seek more information (on the website) or take another action (like registering for the conference!)?

Keep your presentations pleasing to the eye. Just like with text, less is more when it comes to graphics. Allow the message to breathe – allow for “white space.” When I worked in advertising, one of the biggest struggles was getting clients to understand that they didn’t have to fill every nook and cranny of an ad. Some felt like, “I’m paying for that space, we need to fill it with as much information as possible… if there’s empty space, add something!” (facepalm emoji)

In reality, you want your ads, emails, brochures, flyers, posters, etc. to feel light and airy. Too much text, too many graphic elements and too much information is sensory overload. The reader won’t know where to look. They won’t know what the important message is or what action you want them to take (and, neither will you).

So… follow SUP. You’re building connections with your audience – your members, vendors, sponsors, etc. Communicate the way they do. Work to build their trust and make them want to open your emails… even look forward to them… because they are short, uncomplicated and pleasing… like the best of relationships. Well, maybe I should rethink that short part as it relates to relationships – relationships should be long… emails should be short. (shock emoji)