What’s in it for me?

fraction of selection model schramm

I read the latest newsletter from Ann Wylie this morning. (If you aren’t familiar with her, you need to be – check out her site.)  In our daily life, messages and information bombard us constantly. As communicators, our goal is to get our message heard, and remembered. Ann shared Wilbur Schramm’s Fraction of Selection model.

He says readers make the choice on diving into our information by asking themselves: “What will I get out of this?” and “What do I have to put into it?”

According to Ann, this means the harder it is for someone to understand your writing, the less likely they are going to spend time reading it. You’ve also got to give them a reward for investing their time with you.

What’s a reward for reading? It’s you, delivering information to makes the reader’s life better or it’s entertaining to them.  It’s even better if you can do both at the same time. I’ve been trying personally to be more intentional with this in my own writing. It really makes you think about the concepts and ideas you are putting on the page. Will someone benefit from the idea? Will it help them achieve a goal? Will it make things easier? If I can’t say yes to those questions when I write, it’s time to delete and try again.

Professionally, I’ve been incorporating more video into our communications. I think this medium allows us as communicators to hit that target easier. People are relying on their phones and tablets more and more to get and retrieve information. Using video allows us to tell stories not only with our words, but with visual images that capture the attention as well.

Being strategic with our storytelling is vital. According to Hubspot  information paired with a relevant image is retained longer by the viewer than those reading the information without one. Hubspot also noted in 2017,  74% of all internet traffic consists of video content. Just using the word video in your email marketing increases the chance someone will open the message.

Schramm’s communication model is even more effective in today’s digital world. As we compete against more and more messages, it’s up to us to create content that provides our followers, readers, and viewers with something real and relevant. Using video is a great way to get noticed. The “what’s in it for me” messaging is key to getting heard and remembered. By pairing the right visual, with information showing real benefit, we’re increasing our chance of successfully delivering a message creates action.

Creating shareable content

create shareable content

Before you can start creating shareable content, you need to understand what it is and the psychology behind it. Shared content can be many things –  useful and helpful information, entertainment and inspirational material.

It will always answer one of the following needs though.

  1. Provide social validation. People have a strong desire for approval. We all like to be liked. And we like to pass along information that others have liked to prove we are just like them.
  2. Entertainment.  People like content that creates emotions such as  happiness, surprise, excitement, disbelief, anger and more. We don’t tend to pass on information that causes sadness.
  3. Value. If the post is informative, it stands to reason people will share it. “How-to” content particularly meets this need.
  4. Causes. People share to show who they are and what they care about. They share to show support to causes and issues they care about.
  5. Incentives. People will share rewards, discounts, chances to win and contests to enter.

Shareable content isn’t the same as viral content.  Viral content doesn’t create long term relationships with you and your readers. Shareable content creates a long term relationship.Ready to fire up those social channels and create some content your followers?

Keep these topics in mind when you are planning your content and you’ll be on your way:

  • Take it informative and about what they care about.
  • Make it easy to understand and present in a way that is digestible.
  • Give them incentives for sharing (but check contest rules because they have changed a lot).
  • Capitalize on trending topics. You can research trending topics and piggy back stories or content that ties your business with them. Focus on utility and value.
  • Don’t be afraid to have fun and be conversational.
  • Trigger emotion if you can.Use info graphics , quizzes (there is free software to create these), lists, Q&A, FAQs, answer what it means to me, show behind the scenes, pros and cons, glossaries, takeaways (quick bullet point analysis), and surveys.

Most importantly, when you post, be prepared to respond. That connection is a two-way communication.

Shareable Content

Has fact based reporting met its demise?


The last few months, I’ve had the privilege to learn about civic health and social connectedness as part of our leadership group. Civic health encompasses social connectedness, community involvement, political action and the level of confidence people feel in institutions such as schools, media and corporations. I’ll have more to say about social connectedness in a later post. 

I wasn’t surprised to learn that media falls out low on the trust scale. That’s extremely disheartening to someone who wanted to be like Walter Cronkite when they were young. However, even I find it hard to take anything I hear from a “new source” as fact. I generally look into topics on my own and make my own opinion. 

There’s a general distrust of all public institutions now. The media and politicians lead the pact on the distrust meter though. We now assume everyone (politicians, news media, etc..) are going to lie to accomplish their goal. We see all lies as the same. We don’t just think of them as exaggerations of information. Most people feel like they only receive select information – not the whole story. That select information is provided to move you to a certain viewpoint, not move you toward the truth. 

When I was getting my journalism degree, we were taught to look at seven key values to determine if something was newsworthy. 

  1. Timeliness – is is happening now. Think of news like bread. Everyone loves it hot and fresh out of the oven, but no one wants it stale and moldy. 
  2. Proximity – People want to read/learn about things that are close to home. Local news always has more impact that national or foreign.
  3. Impact or consequence – Will the information in the story change your life? Does it matter? How many people are effected? How many lives will be influenced? 
  4. Novelty or Reality – Is it unusual? It’s not a story if the dog bites a man, but it is if the man bites the dog.
  5. Conflict – Everybody loves conflict. A good fight at the city council meeting will always get air time whereas everyone being nice to each other might only rank a column inch. That’s why most of the news you hear/see seems negative. Good news isn’t news because people don’t respond to it. 
  6. Human interest – People like to read about other people. 
  7. Prominence- Famous or infamous people make people take notice. You may say you don’t care what celebrities are doing, but viewing patterns show a different story. 

Today, what’s news is much less defined. 

It’s a dangerous road we are headed down. While news has always been a business, at one time there was a clear line between news, editorial and advertising. That line is becoming harder and harder to determine. Editorial content shows up outside the editorial pages of newspapers now. Anchors provide opinion pieces as part of general newscasts. Space can be bought and content set to look like regular news stories. 

Ethics in media can be hard to determine. Add in the Wild West of social media and it’s no wonder people have a hard time deciding what is true and relevant. 

It’s becoming more about getting a video and speculation about an event out before the competition and less about providing accurate information on what has happened.  Social media has driven that. We are all content curators now. Everyone has a camera in their hand today. Every phone is equipped with everything a person needs to record an event and broadcast it for others to see. 

What we’re getting now is speculation without confirmation. We are bombarded with “news” 24 hours a day. There is no news cycle anymore. Sometimes it’s 2 or 3 days after an event occurs before the truth starts showing up. By then, you’re lucky if the story is still even a headline. People who don’t take the time to dig into the information are left without the true facts. There’s hardly any correction or retraction made at this point. Everything is a crisis; at least until the next story takes over. 

How information is framed is vital. Be careful where and who you choose to trust for your news. Be diligent and take the time to research what you heard. Remember, the first information is likely flawed and filled with speculation. It’s up to you to be a fact checker.