How to Make a Memorable Message

One of the key things that Dad and I care a lot about is connecting our message with the audience. A resource that has helped me in creating writing that sticks with people is the book “Made to Stick” by the Heath Brothers. With the subtitle “Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”, the ideas inside the book have helped to keep me focused on ideas that connect with others.

So, what is their advice to make your message stick with people?

In their own words, “Step 1 is to find the core, and Step 2 is to translate the core using the SUCCESs checklist.”

To find the core, I start by asking this question: why am I writing this? And then I try to answer that question in one sentence, if possible. This will keep you focused on the key issues instead of drifting away from the core message you want to share with your audience.

Finding the core translates to the first letter of the SUCCES acronym, keep your message Simple. Here’s the whole list:

S: Simple

U: Unexpected

C: Concrete

C: Credible

E: Emotional

S: Stories

It’s worth underscoring again the importance of simplicity—once you have a really good handle on what you want to share with others, the rest of the process flows much smoother.

The next part is to seek out the Unexpected— is there something that will cause people to raise their eyebrows in shock, an “I didn’t know that” moment?

Concrete: Keep your message grounded in the here and now. Avoid regressing into jargon. Close your eyes and transport yourself back to that moment in time: what did it smell like? Look like? Taste like? Feel like? Channel this as you write; reach out and grab the other person, taking them along for a vivid journey. Show me, don’t tell me is the English teacher’s old adage. Make it so.

Credible: Who are you? Why should I listen to you? Are there statistics or concrete facts that you can show to back up your claims? What resources or citations do you have to enhance your message?

When we feel something strongly enough, we are moved to action. An Emotional message connects with us.  As the creator of a message, if you didn’t feel anything crafting it, how can you make someone else feel something? Put yourself in the thick of it. If you care about your message, it is easier to make others care about it, as well.

Stories: Tell stories. Don’t just throw out obtuse factoids disconnected from everything. Think of the parables of Jesus or Aesop’s Fables or a good joke—what makes them so memorable? They are stories! In addition, a good story is usually concrete and simple to understand; this reinforces the other concepts.

This rubric has helped me out immensely in crafting my messages: find your core and then focus on creating Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional Stories. This will bring you SUCCESs in creating a message that sticks with others.

To get a better understanding of the concepts discussed in “Made to Stick”, you can order a copy here (link to Amazon:

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