Don't Believe the Hype

An image of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

We often talk about tone when it comes to messaging, but rarely do we focus on volume. And when it comes to connecting with your audience, what and how you say something matters, but how 'loudly' you say it can make or break its impact.

Call it the Chicken Little Syndrome. If you're consistently putting out content that's filled with hyperbolic statements, then eventually your audience will tune you out. Not everything can be the 'best'; not everything can be the 'worst' -- most things just are... And it's when we judiciously add volume to our messaging that key messages can be effectively delivered.

I recently received an e-mail from an advocacy group that opened with, "This is an Internet Emergency!" It wasn't. And it hasn't been the dozens of other times they've sent me content that's proclaiming some sort of technological or regulatory apocalypse.

In fact, if it wasn't for my desire to confirm my suspicions for this blog, I likely would have never opened that e-mail. And the reason why?

I don't believe them anymore.

They have become the proverbial Boy or Girl Who Cried Wolf. Their constant doomsday rhetoric has done more than just numb me to their cause; it's actively turned me away.

At one point, I was interested and supported the cause. And while I still think it's valid, the organization and messaging surrounding it is not something I want to be affiliated with.

We see it in business communications all the time. "Greatest," "Innovative," "Cutting/Bleeding Edge," "Industry Leading," -- they're all words intended to convey great things, but they've been neutered not just by overuse, but by inappropriate use.

The reality of our communications world is that we're inundated daily with more messages than we can effectively process. The cheap and easy way to try to cut through that is to be bigger, bolder, and louder -- the Las Vegas Strip of communications methods, as it were.

Unfortunately, that's just empty messaging. And it creates a cycle where too much is no longer enough. You need bigger, more, louder, shinier, more hyperbolic! "Add another dozen adjectives! There's no way they'll miss this message!"

But they will. Not only will they miss the point of it, but they'll be actively avoiding you in the future.

I know it's not the magic bullet that many want and it involves effort, but effective communication and messaging takes time. Providing your customers and potential customers with valuable, relevant information, delivering on realistic promises, and treating your readers with respect will, in the long run, foster far more attachment to your brand, product, or service.

And then, when you actually have something worthy of hyperbole, your customers will trust that what you're hyping is real.

Once in a while, hyperbolic statements (as long as they're rooted in truth) can work. But if it's a repeated and standard part of your communications strategy, well, I think Public Enemy said it best:

"Don't believe the hype/It's a sequel/As an equal/Can I get this though to you?"




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