Give your communications supersonic power with “SST”

By Carl Carter

About a decade ago, I issued a news release that was as close to a sure thing as they come. Big, championship golf course. Houses. Resort hotel. Big marina. Waterfront home sites.

I got the release approved, sent it to the reporters and waited for the phone to ring.

And waited. And waited.

Impossible! How can a reporter see a release with that much stuff and not see a story in any of it? I retraced my steps and viewed it like I would have in my days as a newspaper editor. I eventually saw the problem: It was too much.

Journalists — like prospective bidders — are in a hurry, and they can’t focus on more than one or two things at a time. I packed up my photos, maps and other information, hopped in the car and went to visit some reporters to talk specifics.

We ended up with great publicity. Stories ran in media statewide and on the Associated Press wire. But only because I got a do-over after bungling it the first time.

It was a mistake I see Auctioneers make all the time. I got so wrapped up in my own story, I forgot three principles that lead to results. To prevent the same mistake, I’ve since shortened those principles to “SST.”

It’s easy to remember because like the original Concorde supersonic transport airplane, they can help you get where you need to be a lot faster.

The Concorde quit flying in 1999, but this kind of transport still works. To use it, force yourself to make everything you say simple, specific and targeted. It’s harder than it looks, though.

Simple

Nothing matters more than this. If you ever catch yourself saying, “Well, it’s hard to explain,” stop right there. Go back and try again. Strip it down. If you absolutely have to talk about six things, at least find a way to weave them into a single story line. If you have to leave something out, do it. It’s better to successfully communicate one thing than to miss the mark on a mishmash of stuff. There’s power in simplicity.

Specific

Sometimes I want to scream when I see Auctioneers’ ads using vague terms when there’s a perfectly good specific one. One that sends me into orbit is “residence.” I have no idea what a residence looks like. Is it a big mansion with 28 bedrooms? A cottage by the sea? A condominium? A student apartment? Nobody buys a residence! Often, this kind of mushy writing grows out of laziness and unwillingness to choose. It can be fatal to your ad — and your sale!

Targeted

If you don’t have your reader in your mind, you’re blowing it. If you’re selling “something for everybody,” you’re selling nothing to nobody. Picture the most likely buyer and imagine you’re meeting him for coffee. Now tell him about it. Simple as it sounds, this can give us fits. We’re scared to death we’ll “miss” somebody.

But here’s why it works: People like to “listen in.” And the more personal the conversation, the more they perk up. “Psst. Weren’t you looking for a Stickley sideboard? Take a look at this one.” Nobody can resist. So by targeting, you’re not missing the others. You’re getting more of them. And if they want what you’re selling, they’ll come and bid. (Here’s a real-time example: In my first draft, I said they’ll “respond.” But what the heck does that mean? “Bid” is far more specific!)

Give the SST framework a try and let me know how it works. You can email me at carl@newmediarules.com.

Read more from Carter in Auctioneer magazine.

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