It has been a tough two months for me, having attended three funerals and a wedding – a real emotional roller-coaster – but I have learnt something valuable that I think is worth sharing, writes Art Halai.
Don’t be afraid to use emotive language to bring your material to life.
The most recent funeral was my grandfather’s; he was 87 and a much-loved father of seven, with 24 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren! I was asked if I could say a few words at the start of the ceremony but capturing the essence of the man and telling some of his story in a short timeframe was going to be a challenge. I had a day to pull it together and just three minutes to say what I wanted to.
To combine fact with emotion and cut to the heart of who he was meant capturing the right information from my uncles and aunts. I then had to be ruthless with the material I had gathered, after all the message had to be clear and it had to be right.
Here comes the first lesson – it is better to say less but bring to life the material using descriptive language and sensory experiences. Emotions drive people and send faster neuro signals to the brain than logical statements.
So, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed with too much content and everything seems in a swirl? Lesson number two is to latch on to the facts as a starting point and use them as stepping stones to get your message across. By using some basic facts, I could weave in elements of my grandfather’s character and highlight key things about him:
- He was strong and courageous, making his first journey from India to Kenya on a boat in the early 1940s
- He made his home in three different continents during his lifetime.
- He was determined and progressive, having arrived with so little in Kenya he went on to build a successful construction company, doing all the calculations in his head – accurately! The electronic calculator had not yet been invented.
And that brings me to lesson number three, share what you have written with others before it goes to press. Problems can arise when we become too close or attached to our work. Look out for their initial reaction both verbally and through facial expressions. Are there any questions? Did you achieve what you set out to do?
If you think writing something so personal and touching is not the right approach in the world of PR, I would say think again. After all, aren’t we all about making long lasting impact with messages that sear in the mind and touch us in some way?
Follow me on Twitter @artihalai
Arti Halai is one of the founding directors of Fleet Street Communications