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What Is the Promise You Are Making to Your Audience?

I speak with a wide variety of authors and thought leaders every week; some are amazingly successful, some are struggling and some are just starting out.  I’ve realized lately that  there is one question that I ask them that is an amazingly strong predictor of future success, “What is the promise you are making your audience?”  “What will they be able to do differently or better as a result of reading your book, taking your program, etc?”  It is not often that someone can clearly articulate the promise they are making.  More often than not the promise is painted with broad brush strokes and is not focused. If I hear “my content is so amazing it works for everyone” or “the promise is that their lives will be better as a result of reading my book”  I will vomit on my shoes.  That I can promise.

Just as a great brand represents a promise to a consumer (Think- BMW and The Ultimate Driving Machine; Apple and Think Different, McDonald’s – Clean, Cheap and Fast,  Disney-Where Dreams Come True) you must make a promise to your audience.  When it comes to great content there are a few ways to help you frame what that promise might be.  Think of your content as either a movement or a platform:

Movement– a series of actions or activities intended or tending toward a particular end: the movement toward universal suffrage.

Platform – a body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public.

Obama created a movement with “Hope” and “Yes We Can” as the underlying promise of his campaign.  Very simple concepts, clearly and consistently articulated.  There can be no confusion as to what “Hope” or “Yes We Can” means.  There would have been confusion if he decided to use “Everyone’s lives will be so much better off” and “I will work hard and try my best to serve you”.

In order to be able to articulate that promise you need to know to whom you are making that promise.  Is it an individual?  A team?  An entrepreneur? A global organization?  You also shouldn’t be overly worried about it being sexy, or catchy.  It needs to be authentic, it needs to be something that is aligned with your thinking and your passions.  Tom Chappell, founder of Toms of Maine articulated it best:

“You have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about.’

Whether your point of view is left brain based or steeped in the tenets of emotional intelligence, whether it’s  a sales methodology or a leadership model the promise needs to be clear, it needs to resonate with your target market and it needs to be based on your unique point of view.  While I’m sure that a lot of companies that are losing market share and becoming extinct before our eyes (Hello GM, hello most traditional publishers, you get the idea) may have a great tag line I for one strongly doubt they understand what the promise of their brand means in todays world and they certainly are not living up to what it might have meant when they were at the top of their game.

I’d like to challenge you to be able to come up with what you are promising your audience and to be able to filter every decision you make, every touch point in your organization through that promise.  If something you are considering supports that promise, go for it.  If it doesn’t than realize the impact that will have for you and your brand in the short term and in the long term.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Peter,
    Excellent thoughts on a subject that we all should pay attention to. One other dimension to consider: We should first establish, as Douglas Rushkoff wrote in Get Back in the Box, what need we are addressing. Any message has to start with that positioning. Great post. -Bill

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