The lovely folks at the Pacific Education Institute are smart. Wicked smaht. They have great, big brains. Generally speaking, that’s a good thing. But when it comes to using language to increase your impact, big brains can get in the way. That’s because smart people tend to use big words. And big words tend to make the rest of us tired. Because we have to think really hard about what the smart person we’re talking to is saying. It’s hard to ask questions and engage in a conversation when you’re not quite sure what the other person is saying. And who wants to say, “I have no idea what you’re saying”? No one, that’s who.
In addition to being brainiacs, the PEI crew suffers from the Curse of Knowledge. This means they know everything there is to know about their subject. They know it inside and out. Frontwards and backwards. Up and down. We all suffer from this curse to some extent. Whether you’re curing cancer, fighting hunger, or using technology to make the world a better place, you know a lot about your thang. This is great in terms of your mission, and terrible in terms of your messaging. You tend to tell people everything there is to know about your work, rather than breaking it down into digestible, bite-size bits. If someone is interested in the essence of what you do, you’ll have the opportunity to tell them your everything. If you start with your everything, they remember nothing. (So sad.)
So, knowing what you now know about Pacific Education Institute and their great, big brains and their Curse of Knowledge, here’s their super-smart pitch before we worked on it:
Before: The future of our planet relies on the ability of today’s children to visualize and manage an environmentally healthy world that sustains life. By connecting students with local environments while engaging them in real-world project based learning, we are working towards a solution. Pacific Education Institute (PEI) is a nonprofit 501(C)3 that creates and delivers frameworks for students to learn more effectively and helps teachers through rigorous academic FieldSTEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) increase the number of students that understand the complex relationship between the environment, economy and human needs. We take K-12 school kids outside, anywhere, and challenge them to drastically improve their thinking skills so that they are able to solve the real-world environmental and economic problems facing our communities
That’s heavy, dude.
I asked PEI what the one thing is that they really wanted people to know about their work. After churning through a few options (many of which included scrabble-worthy words), they landed on their one thing: that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors. Everything else flows from that core concept. They proved years ago that learning outdoors improved student success. Is it more complicated than that? Why yes, yes it is. But, in simple, straight-forward terms, that’s the one thing they want people to know.
With that core concept firmly in hand, we turned our attention to creating a sentence that was easy-to-say and interesting enough to remember. Here’s where they landed:
After: We’re the ones who proved that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors.
Bam! PEI got rid of all the jargon and complicated concepts, and came up with a sentence that is remarkable—meaning someone might remark on it to someone else.
It’s easy to envision a conversation that goes something like this: “Have you heard of Pacific Education Institute? They’re the ones that proved that students succeed academically when they learn outdoors. Pretty cool, eh?”
Figure out which knowledge you’re cursed with and then figure out how to chunk out that knowledge into short, easy to understand statements that will guide someone from knowing you, to understanding you, to engaging with you.
Thanks to the Pacific Education Institute for being willing to use their great, big brains to come up with messaging that’s as compelling as their work.
Looking for more free resources to help you fix your pitch? Check out Claxon’s Messaging Toolkit.