20 Jul

Think small

I read, a couple of days ago, that Jupiter now has 79 moons, following the discovery of 12 new ones.
Firstly, I couldn’t get my head around ’79 moons’. I can just about get my head around the fact that Earth has one moon, and that moon affects things such as ocean tides.
The next thing I couldn’t get my head around was the fact that the reason these 12 new moons hadn’t been seen before is because they’re ‘so small’.
One of them is ‘only two miles wide’, which is considered ‘tiny’.
How can something that’s two miles wide be ‘tiny’?

The point is, the article was talking about things that your Average Joe/Jo – in this case, me – can’t comprehend: things that are so large, so vast, that they seem unfathomable. You find yourself unsure what to do with that information.

Well… the same applies when you drop figures / stats into your copy or content which are so large that they seem almost incomprehensible to your audience, and they’re left thinking: ‘well what do I do with that figure?’

If you tell an audience of potential donors / fundraisers / individual givers that ‘1.5m children in the UK are neglected’, then fixing that problem with a single donation seems unfeasible – they’re facing insurmountable odds in trying to help that many children. It’s too great a number. A donor could easily ask themselves; ‘how can my £50 possibly make a difference in respect of that many children facing neglect?’
However, if you simply tell an audience that ‘with your help, we can step in early, to stop abuse and neglect’, then you’re giving them something to hang on to: then it becomes worth them donating / raising £10, £50, £100, or £1,000… because their donation, along with others, can help to make a difference.

Similarly, if you’re trying to sell a role to a candidate, then telling them that your company operates in 40 different countries, with 70 offices, employing over 200,000 staff – this gets to the point where it’s unimaginable to that candidate, so it just gets put to one side, as ‘a piece of information’.
It’s also irrelevant if they’re going for a single role, in one city/office, and won’t be travelling to the other offices.
Better to tell the candidate the size of the team they’ll be working in, which other departments they’ll need to work with, and the type of work they’ll be doing.

If you’re selling people into a product, then telling them that ‘Britain could save energy equivalent to filling 4 million baths’ is pointless. I can’t even picture that many baths, let alone filling them – can you? Who, in their right mind, thinks in terms of ‘millions of baths’?
And I don’t care about ‘Britain’. I care about me: my bath, my home, my energy usage.
Tell me that I could save energy equivalent to boiling the kettle 50 times, or charging my phone 70 times, and I can relate – they seem like figures that fit into my world.

If you’re plonking figures into your copy / content, then have a think why you’re doing that and how you want your audience to feel / react.
Using figures so large that they’re impressive yet incomprehensible will simply baffle people: they’ll skip past the figure, see it as irrelevant, or see it as proof of insurmountable odds against trying to change something.
Break things down into small, manageable chunks and you stand a much better chance of getting through to your audience, and getting them to respond in the way you want them to.

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