Many of us are finding this is a good time to go through our lives and clean house—declutter the basement, clear off the computer desktop, donate old clothes/toys etc.

For me, it was the bookshelf that was adding to my quarantine angst: Do we need all this? What can I donate? Or—what could I use during this time?

Through the process of pruning, I’ve come across some business and marketing books with ideas worth mining during this strange moment we’re in. I dusted off “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s fascinating read that focuses on six key components to making a “sticky” (aka memorable) idea, but these three really resonate with me right now:


“It’s hard to make ideas stick in a noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environment. If we’re to succeed, the first step is this: Be simple.”

At first blush this sounds like a relief. Great, I don’t have to come up with something really complicated to move the needle or get someone’s attention. But in fact, the simple thing can be the hardest. The Heath brothers tell us to look at the core of your idea and boil it down to the most important thing, stripping away superfluous, tangential and less-important components. As we find ways to communicate while circumstances change by the minute, simplicity is a solid guiding principle.


“We make people care by appealing to the things that matter to them.”

A sticky idea connects with what our audience already cares about, the book tells us. There’s no shortage of emotional responses during this time, so we have to meet emotion with emotion and show our customers we care about them. Ultimately, what matters to them will and does matter to us. We’re seeing numerous examples of this in the association and event world, where organizations are helping members and partners in ways that go above and beyond the role of an association. These are stressful, difficult times, and we can respond accordingly.


“A story is powerful because it provides the context missing from abstract prose.”

Stories inspire action, say the authors. The emotion piece makes us care, then the narrative brings us to the next logical step of taking an action. In the current environment, we’re seeing stories about the economy, communities, healthcare workers (and much more) play out this way every single day. From companies of all sizes and individuals making monetary donations to people supplying groceries to community members and making masks for healthcare workers.

I won’t spoil the rest of the book, but I do recommend it. It’s a perennial guide to communicating great and effective ideas that I will keep coming back to in my career.

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