header image of butterfly for almanac blog Be Specific

Be specific


My goal for the work we produce at Almanac is simple: use our time and talents to create more connection and understanding in the world. I guess you could say, that’s our “Why”.

Nothing gets me out of bed in the morning like the opportunity to change the perception of mental health, help a hospital save more kids, or highlight for adult learners a path to achieving their goals.

So, when we kick off a new project, I start by asking how this website, campaign or new brand will connect with, and move, the intended audience. One of the ways we build connection with a targeted group is to be specific.

What do I mean by that?

Episode 6 from Malcolm Gladwell’s hit podcast, Revisionist History, featured a little gem about this very idea. In it, Gladwell compares the generic language used in the song Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones to the emotional, descriptive, specific language used in the catalogue of hit songs by country music songwriter, Bobby Braddock. Both are about loss, but where the Rolling Stones keep the language pretty general, Bobby Braddock’s music lyrics cite specific people, places and emotions.

“Country music makes people cry because it's not afraid to be specific.”

Malcolm Gladwell, Author, Host of the Revisionist History podcast

The benefit of being specific is that it forces you to focus. You must understand the needs and motivations of the actual recipients of your communication effort. If you’re afraid to get specific, it means you need to narrow your audience. And if you’re speaking to “all audiences”, well then, you’re not marketing.

So next time you’re putting together a digital campaign to recruit new students to your university, tell a specific story about a specific student and their unique journey in selecting your school. (Better yet, let them tell the story). Instead of leading off your Give STL campaign with statistics about how many children experience food insecurity on a daily basis, tell that one story about a real kid who went to bed hungry most nights until receiving assistance from your organization.

Let me know how it goes!