In a conversation today about how to best reach people, one author noted that she tries to be as general as possible to reach the widest audience. Here’s the funny thing about that – I’ve found that the opposite is true. The more specific you are, the more you reach people, at least in storytelling. Let me give you two examples.
In 2006, Ze Frank talked about brand as emotional aftertaste. He gave the examples of Grandma’s cookies (as a generic brand) that elicits an emotional reaction, and then old people’s cookies (as an even more generic brand). Which would you rather eat?
If you haven’t watched the episode, it’s brilliant.
Second example. I could talk about comfort food generically, but there’s a funny thing about people. The more detail you give into your own experiences, the more others can relate to them. There’s a dish my grandmother used to make, a Czech ham and noodle casserole called flicky (pronounced fleech-key). Nana would make it in a deep casserole dish, and it was always an amazing dinner. The noodles at the very top of the dish would get golden brown, crispy on the edges, and the ham & noodles inside would be deliciously creamy, served steaming hot. It was a cardiologist’s nightmare, I’m sure, because it was made with ham, eggs, cream, real butter, and egg noodles, but if there was ever a comfort food dish that you’d want on a cold, rainy November afternoon in Queens, New York, it was Nana’s flicky.
Reading that, did any of your own experiences, your own favorite comfort foods spring to mind? Did you think back to your own past, to the things that reassure you and comfort you? I’d guess at least a little bit yes.
The phenomenon of specificity reaching a wide audience and eliciting responses is something from esoteric mind science traditions. That’s how the highest level teachings are transmitted – through storytelling that elicits memories and original experiences in your own mind, which have the most weight and power to influence you. Nothing is more powerful or persuasive than your own mind.
If you’re looking to reach people, to influence them through your writing, through your stories, there’s no better way than to tell your own story as deeply and as humanly as you can, sharing your experiences good and bad. When you do, you’ll find that you and your audience have so much more in common than you think.
Oh, and I intentionally left out two ingredients from Nana’s flicky. Anyone familiar with Czech cuisine can probably guess what they are, but for everyone else, sorry. That’s a true family secret 🙂
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