3. Be real

You’ve heard that in this day of social media, you’ve got to keep it real. Speak with a human voice. Be authentic.

Be you.

You also hopefully know that social media hasn’t changed the fact that it’s about them, not you. In fact, it’s more about them than ever.

How do you make that work? What makes a premise real to the right people?

First of all, your premise must be highly relevant to your intended audience. Without relevance, you can’t inspire meaning. And it’s meaningful messages that inspire action.

Meaning is a function of what people believe before you find them. As we discussed earlier, what people believe is how they view the world, and your premise has to frame that view appropriately to be effective.

As a function of belief, the meaning is derived from the context in which your desired audience perceives your message.

From there, your premise has to provoke a desirable reaction before inspiring action.

Even with relevant meaning, many messages still don’t create the kind of instant understanding that a great premise seeks to create. That’s why they don’t convert at a high rate.

What’s missing?

Your message must communicate meaningful benefits that are also tangible.

This is the second important aspect of an authentic premise because it’s so critical to understanding.

In this sense, tangible means real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary. This is the aspect of your premise that is express, meaning the part where you tell the story in a way that concretely injects certain information into the prospect’s mind in a specific way.

Copywriter Clayton Makepeace is one of the best at expressing tangible benefits. He uses the example of the Total cereal ad from the lat1980s’s to teach tangible benefits. Remember that one?

“How many bowls of YOUR cereal to equal one bowl of Total?” they asked.

Then they showed you stacks of cereal bowls with various competing brands, in one case reaching 28 bowls high.

Instead of saying something pedestrian like “Total has 25 times the nutrition of the leading brand,” they showed you a tangible expression of benefit. But it doesn’t need to be done with actual visuals to work. Words are plenty powerful.

The book Made to Stick gives us another example with the case of Art Silverman, a guy with a vendetta against popcorn. Silverman wanted to educate the public about the fact that a typical bag of movie popcorn has 37 grams of saturated fat, while the USDA recommends you have no more than 20 grams in an entire day.

Instead of simply citing that surprising, if dry, statistic, Silverman made the message more tangible. He said:

A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined!

You’ll note that both examples contain the element of unpredictability and simplicity. But it’s the relevant and tangible expression of the premise that creates instant understanding.

Make your messages as real to people as possible, and you’ll create the kind of instant understanding that all truly great premises contain.

But there’s one more critical element to a premise that works.