Make your message cut through the social media torrent

publication date: Nov 21, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Stories are the lifeblood of fundraising. We all know that, and most of us practice it as much as we can. Yet stories require the hearer to invest time, attention, imagination - qualities that are scarce in a world where we're bombarded with thousands of messages each day.

The answer, says Bill Schley, is "micro-scripts."

Schley, author of The Micro-Script Rules and Why Johnny Can't Brand - Rediscovering the Big Idea, shared his insights at at ArtezInteraction, a Toronto event held in September that explored social and mobile fundraising strategies.

He's the first to admit that "stories are hypnotic. People forget facts and features, but they remember stories," he explains. The catch is that "today, you have to be able to tell your story in a sentence or less. We're all seeing more messages per second, plus our attention spans are shrinking."

Tapping what Schley calls the ultimate marketing power of stories in these frazzled times requires a revolutionary approach. That's where the strategic use of social media comes in. He describes the smartphone as "the twenty-first century word of mouth machine."

"Word of mouth has changed the dynamics of trust," he explains. "It used to be that if your product worked over time, consumers trusted you. Now they check with friends and influencers through social media. Their endorsements are the most important factor."

Stories for a stressed-out world

Why would we want to distil leisurely, image-rich stories into brief social media messages? Because, says Schley, the brain simplifies in times of stress, such as life-threatening emergencies, because there's no time to analyze data. And today's potential donors are under stress all the time.

In that state of stress, people turn to intuition to make the best decision quickly with little data. They rely on heuristics (rules of thumb) and actually discard data. "Too much data," Schley explains, "can make us dumber when everything's on the line. Our brains are wired to simplify, and we love people who help us simplify."

No matter what message you may be trying to send, all that matters is not what you say, not what people hear, but what people remember. That's why effective microscripts have such a long shelf life. Not only do people remember them, Schley asserts, but they repeat them. "They're packaged the way brains like to think - simple and retrievable."

Here are a couple of his favourite microscripts.
  • Splenda - "It's made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar."
  • "Pork - the other white meat." (Schley was horrified when the people in charge of pork marketing changed their microscript to "Pork - become inspired!" "It's not inspiring at all," he scoffs.)
Where do microscripts come from?

The verbal instant message that is a microscript begins with a DSI - a dominant selling idea. What do you stand for, what do you do better than anybody else? "It has to be a superlative," Schley emphasizes. Capture that, then whittle it down to a short, unforgettable phrase, and you'll have your microscript.

Though microscripts are ideal for social media, it's important to remember that social media are only the tool for spreading the message. They won't help you if you don't have a powerful, memorable message, he warns. But feed the right message into the word of mouth machine that social media has created, and you'll reap all the benefits of endorsement from the friends and influencers your potential supporters trust.

For more information, contact Bill Schley or visit

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List