Book Review: The Art of Explanation
What we love in The Art of Explanation
On a near daily basis, nonprofits and campaigns are trying to explain things to supporters, potential supporters, target audiences they want to educate, and those they want to persuade. Yet, as many of us practitioners know, we often miss the mark for two key reasons: We have the wrong audience or our content doesn’t connect. While this book has been in print for six years the core concepts are as useful as ever.
This invaluable resource is so important we reference it in our book The Digital Plan. This invaluable resource is so important we reference it in our book “The Digital Plan.” “The Art of Explanation” is not just a book you’ll want to read once and toss aside but an important resource in you strategy library that you’ll want to reflect on every time you create a video, landing page, or issue explanation.
Our big 3 takeaways
1) The explanation scale will make you better at connecting with audiences.
2) Using their explanation formula will make your explanations better.
3) “Right medium for the message” tips will make your content planning better.
Summary from the publishers
- Plan: Learn explanation basics, what causes them to fail and how to diagnose explanation problems.
- Package: Using simple elements, create an explanation strategy that builds confidence and motivates your audience.
- Present: Produce remarkable explanations with visuals and media.
Takeaway #1 Explanation Scale
Simply put, the explanation scale helps you think about and communicate with your audience. They do a great job of going in-depth and helping you understand how to think about the scale and the audiences across the scale.
You can replace customers with supporters or target audience and think about how you are going to better reach people.
With thorough explanation, we can understand both how to think about people across the scale but also how the explanations themselves fall across the scale and when we need to tell the story of the forest before jumping right into the trees.
Takeaway #2 Content Formula
Lee LeFever has helped explain concepts like Dropbox, Google Docs, and RSS to non-digital people using this detailed but easy-to-implement formula which he refers to as agreement and context. Using this formula you can better explain issues and connect with people. Expand the images to get the breakdown but we recommend the book for full context.
Takeaway #3 Right Medium
Similar to the concept of what we call the 3 Rs to connect with people (Right Ask, Right Time, Right Audience) their section on picking the right medium is invaluable. Too often in digital strategy, folks not well-experienced in content strategy try to link the wrong content or tactic with their goals.
Finding the right medium to put the right explanation into and how to do it is crucial. The book takes an approach of clear advice on when to use which medium and expands with examples to make the right medium for explanations clear. Layering the explanation scale, the formula, and the right medium is a recipe for more engagement no matter what no matter your message, audience or goal. This is why we think this book belongs in every stategists toolbox.