In today’s episode, we’re discussing the importance of clear and cohesive messaging that allows you to easily connect with your audience and decision-makers.
We’re unpacking the difference in approach to refining your message for your audience vs. your decision-makers and providing you with the insights you need to make tweaks.
On the show today, messaging strategist, Kristine Schoonmaker!
If you’re looking to hone your messaging, you absolutely don’t want to miss this!
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Schedule Your Strategy Session with Kristine: www.createwithkristine.com
✅ Clayton Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/clay-christensens-milkshake-marketing
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Read the Transcription 🤓
Taylorr: Welcome to another episode of technically speaking. We’re your hosts, Taylor and Austin and today we’re talking about how clear messaging equals big results. And we’re discussing the importance of clear and cohesive messaging that allows you to easily connect with your audience and decision makers. We’re unpacking the difference in approach to refining your message for your audience versus your decision-makers and providing you with the insights you need to make tweaks today. So, on the show, we have messaging strategists, Kristine Schoonmaker. Kristine Schoonmaker is a creative strategist, collaborator and coach who helps entrepreneurs, speakers, and coaches refine their message so they can connect with their audience and create impact their way.
She specializes in helping clients create compelling experience, whether it’s a keynote, promo video, live event, or product launch that clearly communicate their big idea in a way that resonates and is 100% aligned with who they are and their brand. Kristine has an uncanny ability to help clients get clear on their vision, eliminate idea, overwhelm and weave the big themes into a structure that resonates and inspires with their ideal clients. I am so excited for you all to chime into this show and let us know what you think as always stay tuned till the end for some awesome resources relating to the show and we really hope you like this one. All right. We are live Kristine, welcome to the show.
Kristine: Hey guys. Nice to be with you.
Taylorr: It’s awesome to have you.
Taylorr: So, the very first question we love to kick these episodes off with is how did you get into the crazy world of creative messaging and helping even speakers and experts refine their message?
Kristine: Yeah, funny, probably like a lot of people very much by accident. I have had one of those careers where I’ve done lot… I’ve actually had lots of different careers over the course of the last 20 years. And in lots of situations like most when people, when you’re kind of going through the decision point of really trying to figure out, what is it that I’m good at? You start noticing themes that keeps showing up over and over and over again. I’ve had careers in marketing, I’ve worked at large management consulting companies, I had a coaching business of my own for a while, and even kind of ventured off in another direction with designing and creating products. And I’ve realized over time that what was the common theme in all of those different careers was I consistently was really good at synthesizing information and helping to package the story.
Whether it was helping a client understand the problem, or communicate a new initiative that they were getting ready to launch, or it was me marketing myself and my business or friends that would reach out to me and ask me for help and similar things. I love doing it, I was good at it, it came really easy to me and really just over the years have kind of continued to help people in different applications there. And so, as I was working in my own entrepreneurial ventures and doing my own marketing and promotional videos and product development and all of those things, just different colleagues and such would ask me for help. And so, I really kind of got into that space and especially with speakers, so much of what they’re doing is telling a story, but it’s really hard sometimes to get that clear, all on your own. So, I love collaboration and love helping people kind of sift through those things and I love the creative process and that’s kind of how I ended up doing this. It’s just something I’ve always done.
Austin: Yeah. That’s so cool. I so often I think that the best things in life happened organically and it sounds like that kind of is how this shook out for you.
Kristine: It really is. Yeah.
Auston: It’s a pretty specific skillset and expertise too and one’s that’s very much based in creativity and intuition probably in a lot of instances…
Kristine: Very much.
Austin: To be able to kind of read between the lines and I don’t know if everybody’s cut out for it. Which is also fascinating to me in sort of a separate way, because storytelling itself is like the most primitive means of communication that we have as human beings. For the longest time, that was like the only way that information was transmitted. And so, yeah, but a lot of us struggle with it so it’s cool that there’s somebody out there that can help people out with it. What are your thoughts on that?
Kristine: It’s true, everything is story and there’s so many books and examples of it, it’s in everything that we do. And it’s how our brains are wired to receive information and comprehend things and inspire us and get us to change how we show up or certain behaviors we have or what we think or believe and it shows up in everything. It’s in sales pitches, it’s in your keynotes, it’s in movies that we watch. When you think about the things that really grabbed your attention at the end of the day, the things that they always consistently have in common is they have a cadence and an arc and a structure that allows our brain to process it and kind of assess it against our context and what we believe and think.
And does it make sense? Does it, you know, does it have a pace to it? Does it fit? And how does it affect change with us? So, yeah, completely it’s in everything we do And I think so few of us realize that. Just going about our day is how we connect with people and, and get people to change and respond in ways that we want. And we see it everywhere. If you think about even the environment that we’re in now, not to get into politics too much, but no matter what side you sit on and kind of what you believe so much of it is, how are we packaging our messaging and how are we getting people to buy into an idea that we have/ And so much of that is really how we tell and package that story.
Austin: That makes sense to me we all experience it and I’m curious to hear your take on this. Because we’re all experiencing it, it seems to me that like by default, we would be good storytellers. And I think a lot of us are in specific context. If we’re really passionate about something, generally, I think we’re good at telling stories, but if there’s like a specific point that needs to be made, I think that a lot of people get hung up on how we wrap stories around a concept in order to properly convey the message that we’re hoping to convey. Do you have a specific reason or list of reasons maybe as to why people get hung up on being able to be the storyteller, despite the fact that they’re experiencing it themselves literally all the time?
Kristine: Yeah. I think there’s a few things, you know, one of the things you hit on, which is kind of the first thing that always comes to mind for me is if someone’s really passionate about something. That is one of the things that makes…you’re passionate about a topic or a story you’re trying to tell is what I would say in a lot of cases, 80% of what makes you engaging with the person that you’re telling it to. The challenge that I see a lot with speakers, or anyone that has a passion project or as a purpose driven entrepreneur is, a lot of times they have a big idea and they’re very attached to that big idea. It’s usually come from a very meaningful, personal experience. It’s something that they really, really want to communicate and use to affect change in the world or in their industry or something like that.
They get very emotionally attached to it and in some cases, the things that they feel will convey that story. So, a lot of times that shows up in things like the stories or examples or the data that you want to share in your speech or your conversations with someone. Part of what I think gets people tripped up is not being able to get some of the space and distance from that and really assess how does this resonate? How does this fit in the context of the person that I’m trying to share this story with? And a lot of times, they’ll hang on to things and things just won’t fit and there’s a miss with the person that they’re trying to share that with, because there’s an alignment there that’s not happening. So, a lot of times its people getting in their own way and just being attached either sometimes, like I said, if it’s emotional attachment, sometimes it’s attachment to data.
If you’re an expert in your field and you’ve got years and years of data or examples and the desire to kind of share all of that, a lot of times it’s just too much. And so those are some of the things that I see people get tripped up with a lot. And then I would say kind of another place that also is a stumbling block is just the pressure. I think whether you are looking at like you’re, you’re trying to tell a story and anything that you do, that’s creative, if it’s not something that comes naturally to you and is one of those just sort of natural gifts, that’s easy. I think it’s very easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself and nothing stifle the creative process more than pressure. And we just make things so much bigger than they really are, and really get in our way.
Taylorr: That’s fascinating. You said pressure in it. It kind of made me realize like when we’re at a… because I think we’ve all been through this. I think we were talking just before the conversation here that like we often get in our own ways and we still need somebody to help coax those stories out of us. But it’s funny, let’s talk about the example of like a keynote. Refining that message, we have pressure on ourselves to make sure we’re delivering for that client to refine that story, to make that work. And it’s a different part of our brain that’s processing those anxieties, that’s thinking logically about something versus thinking creatively about something. And it can be really quite the hassle to shift your mindset even if you are naturally a creative person. If you’re tied to it [cross-talk 09:45], if the results are tied to your ability to deliver for your clients, that pressure can almost always surmount the creative energy that you have to pull in it.
Kristine: Definitely. And I think a lot of times it gets wrapped up in getting too focused maybe, not that this isn’t important because I do think it’s an important component of your brand and how you want to show up and how we do provide value to the client’s audiences and the likes, but I think so many times we get very wrapped up in doubting, are we doing it the right way? Am I doing it the way that I want to show up? I have certain things, I’ve worked with clients that my stick is my humor and they want to do it, they want to do it differently, they want to do it their way and provide all this immense value and prove their credibility and demonstrate their expertise and all that stuff. It’s just like, and that layers, layers, layers, layers, and you’re crushing your creativity under the weight of all of that. So, a lot of times I try to help people kind of flip that upside down a little bit, focus really on the message first and trust that a lot of those pieces, will come rather than kind of forcing it by putting so much pressure on yourself.
Austin: That makes sense to me. There’s the old adage that experiences the best teacher, and I think that part of that is because there’s always context around experience that helps solidify whatever lesson it is that we are learning or have learned. And if we get too focused on the lesson itself and not get into the context, and even if we’re the exact point that we’re trying to make is front and center, then it doesn’t really sink in because the contextual information that would go with a really good story let’s say is not there and so it doesn’t set in. But it seems to me, and this is just an assumption, you’re the expert here so you can tell me if you agree with this, but a good story, almost organically teaches the lesson by providing that contextual information that gets to the point organically, rather than forcing the point through a really good factor figure. Am I right about that?
Kristine: 100% No, definitely. And I think that the other challenge is less, is more. So many times, that led to your point, a factor figure. We feel like this one thing at the end of the day is going to really drive the point home and so much of how people learn and how they process and resonate with you and the stories you’re telling is, keeping it simple and clear and kind of clearing out some of those extraneous details. It’s funny, there’s a, there’s a great book called Wired for Story and there’s a quote in there that always resonates with me so much. I think it says something like a great story is real life with the boring parts left out and if you can’t summarize what you’re trying to do in a few sentences, you don’t have a clear story. And it’s very true when you think about it. You go to presentations or different workshops and just think for yourself, what are the speakers that you’ve seen or the anything like that, that you’ve experienced, whether it’s a commercial or, you know, anything I guarantee you it’s less is more and so much about it as more the experience and the feeling and, and clearing out some of the extraneous stuff and keeping it simple and that’s what’s really most impactful. We’re not making…
Austin: I love that. [Cross-talk 13:10].
Kristine: People’s brains work so hard.
Taylorr: This reminds me of a story, and so it’s funny that we’re talking about stories. I’m going to forget the book title but it was written by Clayton Christianson, I’ll put it in the show notes for everybody listening so I can remember after the show that is. But he basically outlines a dilemma that a restaurant was having and they wanted to sell more shakes basically. And they realized that they were getting a lot of traffic earlier in the morning so they just made their messaging, get more shakes in the morning or something to that effect. Those billboards out, those ads out and so on, and they weren’t selling more shakes and they were kind of confused by that because they would think, well for promoting the thing that people are coming in for at a peak hour, 9:00 AM to get ice cream shakes, they would come and buy more of them and that just didn’t happen.
And so, they did a little bit of research and asking questions and poking down the path to try and figure out what those customers stories were, who came in at 9:00 AM. And it was basically because they wanted something filling. They didn’t want something overwhelming in the morning. They wanted something to sit on for their commute to work, and they wanted something calorically dense so that they wouldn’t be starving throughout the morning, up until the time they got their lunch break. And all of a sudden, they changed the way that messaging happened, where it’s like, hey, get your fill now, this morning, let’s say that’s an example and they just adjusted the story to match the feeling like you mentioned of the customer to go and buy that. And then all of a sudden guess what happens? All of those shakes sales increased.
Taylorr: And it wasn’t a matter of buying shakes in the morning. It was simply a matter of fact that they had a commute and they wanted to make it more engaging and they didn’t want to have to eat a burrito on the way to work.
Kristine: Right. You’re nailing it right on the head. It’s the shift. And hear this in everything. It’s the same thing even when you’re looking at how you sell. Focus on the benefits and not the features and mechanics of the product. That’s really it. It’s how are you getting into the context and the mind and the understanding of the person that’s on the other end of the story and connecting it to something that is something they want and can understand it’s connecting to the why. And why for them, not for you.
Austin: Makes sense why people tend to struggle with this too, if they’re in sort of a vacuum of one. Meaning that they’re trying to do this totally on their own and I imagine that this is why you’re successful Kristine, but just having somebody else to echo ideas and see if it’s resonating in a way that’s not just the information data that’s in our own head. That seems to me like that would probably be a really good way to overcome that problem. What do you think?
Kristine: A hundred percent. And incidentally, even though I am very good at this, I think I’m very good at helping people with this, I am terrible at it for myself. I have a base level of competency and because it is something that comes very intuitively and naturally to me, I can typically get most things probably 80, 80% of the way there roughly, but I suffer from the same things. I get too emotionally attached to things; I get stuck in my own head. And a lot of the reason that I really kind of started going down this path and doing more of this work was because I experienced it myself. I had a career and like I said, I worked for consulting companies, I worked for Fortune 100 companies for 10, 12 years, and then I really wanted to do something more fulfilling so I left and went out on my own.
I thought at first that that was going to be coaching, a coaching business, so I started a coaching business. Did that for several years working from home and then I really wanted something more creative, I liked having something tangible at the end of the day, something that kind of drives me, I love the creative process and so I shifted to more of a product-based business. And over the course of those years, probably seven years or so between those two different businesses that I had that I would for the most part, slogging it out on my own. I had partners, I worked with, I had a graphic designer, I had kind of people on my team that supported me in very specific things but when it came to how I was promoting myself and the things that I was, I was working on, I was all of it, which I think so many solopreneurs are.
You’re the CEO and the expert and the salesperson and the office manager and the accountant and you’re wearing so many hats. I think all of that one, it’s exhausting because you’re trying to learn a bunch of different things that aren’t necessarily yours zone of genius, which stifles the creative process. And two, you just get so stuck in it because it’s very isolating. With this situation that we’ve been in with COVID. I think a lot of people have experienced that this year with just different degrees of lockdowns and social distancing, I don’t think we realize how collaborative and social we are as humans until you take that away and I experienced that personally.
And I had some very low points, at a certain point, which is kind of why had to change that model, but I get it. It’s hard to do all of that yourself and there’s that old adage that when you’re collaborating with someone on something one plus one equals three, creativity is very hard to do as a solo person. So really getting different perspectives than when you get stuck in your own head, which we all do, just having another perspective to break that stalemate a little bit, it’s amazing how much that lightens the load and just clicks the thing that you’ve been stuck on.
Taylorr: Yeah, wow. That’s a jam right there and talking about pressure over the last year. Not only do you have to be your own CEO and your own accountant, your own digital marketer, your designer, and [inaudible 18:46] like you add in the pandemic, and then you add in the fact that everyone needs to adapt their business and needs to re-message in order to get into alignment with what everyone needs. What a crazy time for people to be going through repackage how their messaging works.
Kristine: Definitely, definitely. I think everybody has to adjust and it’s hard to do that while you’re going through your own challenges personally. Everybody’s dealt with changes at home and what have you. I think a lot of that is kind of checking in and reading the room, so to speak in terms of the environment, and what’s going on, engaging people that are trusted advisors and people that you feel like, you know, generally are pretty good about understanding a situation or checking in with clients and kind of understanding how is the context changed? How do I need to adjust and letting other people help to guide that? I think a lot of times if you’re pretty intuitive, you can spot some of those trends and you see some of that, but I think even those adjustments are much more on point in terms of how well you adjust to it, if you’re kind of pressure testing that with whether it’s clients, a trusted friend, et cetera.
Austin: Such a great tip. I like that a lot. So, I want to ask you a more pointed question around something that I think people are curious about themselves. What are some common mistakes that you find that people run into when they’re either crafting their message or delivering their message? I’m sure there’s got to be some sort of patterns that you’ve seen over time.
Kristine: Yeah, definitely. Crafting the message, I think there’s a couple of things. One is the desire, constantly questioning themselves. So many times, we all want to believe that our message is unique, we want to show up uniquely, we want it to be powerful and that kind of monkey mind chatter that gets going when you get deep into the weeds of the thing. It’s past that point where you have that initial spark of inspiration, or you get that keynote booked and it’s like, okay, now I’m going to start doing the work and rolling up my sleeve. When you get into the work is usually when all of the self-doubt comes in, you start to question the things you know, you start to question the core theme of your message. You rewrite it 500 times and you get yourself all spun up into it intuitively.
I see that happen quite a bit. And then the other thing in terms of packaging it, where I think is the challenge is you may have a core idea at the beginning, but not having a clear structure to continuously anchor back to and filter what you’re putting together or what your story is against. There’s a technique that I learned a long time ago and I, again, regardless of the application, I just find it to be the most useful thing ever. And it’s kind of the idea of… it’s called headlining. So, before I do anything, I don’t care what it is, whether it’s a presentation for executive, whether it’s a marketing piece, a talk, what have you, I answer a few core questions and I get people to answer a few core questions. The first thing is what is it at the end of the day, what’s the outcome you’re driving to?
What’s the belief you’re trying to change? What’s the action you want them to take. Answer that in one sentence, as few words as possible. That’s your end point. The second question is where are they starting from? What is their context? So not about you, not what you think, but where are they? Where are they in their day? Where are they in how they think about your topic? What do they know? Kind of what’s the basis that they’re starting from and that’s their starting point. And then really focusing on no more than two to three things that are the critical things you need them to start to shift, understand, see, realize that will help them get from where they are today, to where you want them to be and I get people to really just headline those things.
And again, like a sentence, not all of the supporting detail, not all the example, but show your credibility or the great stories that demonstrate that thing. But like, what are those? At the end of the day, it’s like five sentences and I keep that every step of the process. So, as you start to put the structure around it, as you start to build the stories around it and the details, you constantly have something to go back and pressure test against. When people don’t have that structure to create that container for them, you get on a roll. It’s like, oh, well, this other thing is so great and that experience is so great, I want to talk to them about this and before you know it you just keep creating, creating, creating, creating, creating, and then it’s 70 slides of data and examples. And it’s overwhelming and you get overwhelmed because it’s like, well, okay, I’ve got 30 minutes or 45 minutes, and you’re getting yourself confused, the audience is going to be confused and you don’t have that structure. That’s one of the biggest things that I see people get tripped up with. Is not setting strong foundation in the beginning and continuously bouncing up against it.
Taylorr: Like anchoring. It’s…
Taylorr: Like a hot air balloon. You don’t have the anchor to go back to that things floating away and God knows when it’s coming back down to the ground and it’s probably going to be pretty violently, but if you’ve got the string attached, you’re in pretty good shape. So, let’s resort back to that.
Kristine: Exactly. And it’s iterative. It’s a dance, you kind of have to go back and forth because you want to have space to be creative and spitball and brainstorm and it’s kind of like mind mapping. You may come up with all kinds of ideas, but it’s the filter or the sieve that you’re testing those ideas against to see, okay, I thought of 25 things. Does it fit? Does it fit this? Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. So, it’s a dance, it’s going back and forth, but it is important I think, to have that structure, that anchor.
Austin: Visualization. I like that it’s an expansion and contraction process.
Kristine: It is an expansion and contraction [cross-talk 24:41].
Taylorr: So, you mentioned iteration, but how do you know when a message is resonating? And then how do you know when you need to iterate on it? I think the goal when we’re sitting down for our messaging is to have it resonate. But what does that mean? And how do we know it’s resonating? And how do we functionally pressure test it to make sure we’ve got the right mix of the story?
Kristine: Yeah. I think there’s a couple ways to do and I think the other piece that… and this may, or may not be a popular answer. May not be a popular answer because we all want to have the keynote be perfect right out of the gate and get the great from the audience and everything else but I think some of it is giving yourself permission for it to not be perfect every single time. The iteration is not just in crafting it, but then it’s also in the repeat times that you’re delivering it. Because what is going to be your best messaging keynote out of the gate after you do it, 10 times, you’re going to find ways to keep iterating on it and make it resonate more. So, I think there’s places that it’s natural. First check point for me is always how am I feeling about it?
If I’m kind of trying to create a story, am I comfortable delivering it? Are there pieces that don’t fit? Are there places that it feels clunky? Is there stuff that’s it’s not flowing. So that’s, I think one way to kind of just checking. Cause if you’re not comfortable with it and you’re not confident in it and it’s not flowing for you, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to show up in your energy and everything else and the audience isn’t going to respond as well as they could, if you really owned it, owned it. So, I think first is checking in with yourself. Second thing after kind of you feel good about it, or even if you’re not quite there yet, checking with a friend, checking in with the client, checking in with if it’s a speaker bureau or someone that booked you that really understands the audience and having someone that feels safe, that you can kind of pressure test that with.
Not that you’re going do the whole thing, but hey, you know, here’s kind of the arc of what it is that I’m going to be talking about. Here’s a couple examples that I think makes sense. How do you think that that would resonate with this audience? I think that’s always a great thing, another step along the way before the event. And then the best way, although this is hard sometimes is, then how does audience respond? It’s feedback, and recognizing that if you’ve done all of those other things and you feel confident so that you’re going to show up with the right energy and you kind of pressure tested it with a few people along the way and made some fine-tuning adjustments, you will absolutely deliver value. And it will be great.
And as you talk to people after the event, as you see how the audience responds, you’ll find things. I’ve worked with people who they get really attached to delivering something a certain way or, or saying something in a certain way because it worked so great with an audience before, it was, it was one of those lines that just like everybody got it, everybody was raving, they got such a great response and so you would think that that’s gold and then they did the same thing with a different audience and it didn’t click as much. Doesn’t mean that the whole thing bad, but you’re going to get feedback like that. So I think it’s giving yourself checkpoints along the way and giving yourself permission to not be perfect and see where you can continually tweak.
Taylorr: Wow just iteration folks. You heard it right from the source. It’s a common theme…
Kristine: And I hate that by the way.
Kristine: That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn because I am a firstborn child, I’m a recovering perfectionist, I used to never put anything out until it was by my standards perfect. I had to be totally happy with it and I’ve learned that lesson because a lot of times one, I would kill myself to get there, it wasn’t a fun process. And secondly, half the time I still missed the mark because it was just me and what I thought, I didn’t have that feedback from someone else, I didn’t have someone I was pressure-testing it with, or kind of reading the room, so to speak and respond like, oh, okay, that didn’t quite sick. Let me think about how to pivot that a bit or how to tweak that a bit.
Taylorr: Yeah. Just giving yourself the permission to be adaptable with and not being too tied emotionally to everything like you outlined earlier in the show. It’s a golden nugget right there.
Kristine: I know.
Taylorr: So, Kristine as you know, we’re all about providing value for our audience. What are some of the things that you’re working on that our audience could benefit from?
Kristine: Honestly, I just love this process so much and it is one of the things that just brings me so much joy, help people get unstuck. So, I am always available, I love to just offer discovery calls for folks, if there’s something that you’re struggling on again, something that doesn’t quite feel right, you just need a second opinion or just help figuring out where you’re getting stuck, especially in this environment, I really love to start there with people and just be available and be a resource for them. Because especially when you think about things like this, so much of the world is do it yourself and I really try to reinforce the people and break that belief that you have to do it all by yourself. So, I honestly think that the best thing to do is just offering time and offering a different perspective and seeing how I can help people get out of their own way.
Taylorr: Perfect. Thank you for offering that.
Kristine: So, book a discovery call, yeah.
Taylorr: We’ll make sure that’s in the show notes everybody, if you want to book a discovery call with Kristine. To get unstuck and get some clear messaging, to have a bigger impact and hey if you liked this episode, don’t forget to rate and subscribe and if you want more awesome resources like this, go to speakerflow.com/resources. Thank you so much for chiming in. I just wanted to take a second to thank our sponsor Auxbus. Auxbus is the all-in-one suite of tools you need to run your podcast and it’s actually what we run here at Speaker Flow for Technically Speaking. It makes planning, podcasts simple; it makes recording podcasts simple; it even makes publishing podcasts to the masses simple and quite honestly, Technically Speaking wouldn’t be up as soon as it is without Auxbus. Thank you so much Auxbus. And if you are interested in checking Auxbus out, whether you’re starting a podcast or you have one currently get our special offer auxbus.com/speakerflow, or click the link below in our show notes.