Powerful ideas don’t need to be complicated

Creating change in your community, your country, or the world is always easier with allies behind you and your cause. It’s important to have people in our corner with a shared passion and vision for the future. And with digital technologies that can connect you to people anywhere, the potential to find new, like-minded audiences can feel limitless.

But add up the tweets, texts, podcasts, emails, and all other messages vying for our attention every day, and it can be hard to break through the noise—especially in a way that shares your ideas with the depth and consideration they deserve. 

So, how can you communicate your aspirations in a manner that inspires people and helps them to quickly understand your vision? 

The strength of simplicity  

The One-Minute Message is the Hattaway team’s take on the concept of an elevator pitch—a message you can deliver in about the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. We leverage communications science and a narrative structure to design One-Minute Messages for individuals, organizations, and issues that create maximum impact in minimal time.

The average American English speaker says about 150 words in a minute. Now, 150 words is just an average, and many factors could influence a person’s speaking rate, including geography, demographics, culture, gender, and whether they are a native or non-native speaker. Aiming for 150 words is a guide to keeping messages concise, which can affect how they are perceived.

Processing fluency theory suggests that people are more likely to trust, remember, and like information that is easier for their brains to process. So, just by keeping your message simple, you can improve how it is received. 

Short, simple messages are also easier to retain and repeat, which is key to reaching audiences by word-of-mouth. People are more likely to trust messages they hear from others in their social circles, especially friends and family. It’s smart to make your message easy to say verbally.

Creating your own One-Minute Message

Our approach relies on a Narrative Framework, informed by cultural studies and cognitive science, which includes the basic elements that people everywhere use to tell stories: 

  • People refers to those whose lives are affected by your issue and involved in your work. Seeing themselves in the message makes it relevant to your audience.
  • Goals share the values we hold and our vision for the world, which are key to motivating people to take action.
  • Problems are what stand in the way of our goals. Knowing there’s a challenge to address also motivates people.
  • Solutions are the product we offer, service we provide, or unique approach we take to overcome the problem. 
  • A Call to Action creates a sense of urgency and lets others know how they can become involved.

You can introduce the most complex ideas and issues in about a minute using this structure, and we have helped all kinds of clients do just that—from sharing scientific research, to explaining  complicated policies, to mobilizing movements for systemic change.

The example below is a One-Minute Message from our work with My Sister’s Place, a D.C.-based organization that serves survivors of domestic violence. They needed a message that would highlight their innovative programming and inspire supporters.

We all want to live in safe, secure homes where our families can grow and thrive. Domestic violence brings turmoil into homes, trapping families in dangerous situations. With My Sister’s Place, survivors can return to normal lives. Our compassionate community welcomes families into a safe environment where they can focus on building a happy and healthy life. Our advocates know each situation is different, so they listen to what each family needs and quickly make it happen.

At our shelters, families have their own bedrooms, a secure playground, and nutritious meals. The staff even hosts birthday parties for each child. An advocate works with each family to set its own goals—and reach them. This partnership continues for life: Staff provide connections to the tools families need, including long-term housing, financial assistance, career development, and art therapy.

Join My Sister’s Place in building a safe, supportive community for all families in the Washington metro area.

Finally, remember that your One-Minute Message is the opening to a conversation—the introduction of an idea—and not the beginning, middle, and end to the discussion. One-Minute Messages are designed to pique interest for audiences to learn more. Once their interest is captured, then you can layer in additional information and stories that bring the ideas to life.