5 ways to captivate your audience
by Lissa Cowan
A few words
I’m Lissa Cowan, co-founder of Go Small or Go Home Communications, author, blogger and communications expert. Did
you know that the way you communicate about your business is key to whether your business fails or succeeds?
Our“go small”approach helps you get clear on your business and communicate that vision to your target markets. We in-
spire you to take your communications to a higher level by helping you home in on your unique story, and tap into hidden
or unexplored resources that further your ability to spread your influence. We do this through developing the right content
for your narrative, tailoring communications programs to your business vision that energize consumers or target markets
and help them to see themselves in your story.
Check out our top-5 list and put your best message forward!
Principal, Go Small or Go Home Communications
A big part of your business success is identifying the reasons you’re in business in the first place. Once you identify‘why’
then it’s easier to craft your narrative and entice customers. Why do I say this? Well, because when you have passion and a
clear vision for what you do, your customers sense it and will want a piece of what you offer!
• Develop well-considered responses for why you do what you do
• Work in focused teams because creativity thrives on synergy
• Reach out to customers through your website or using social media tools (ie., Twitter or Facebook) to discover why your
clients use your product or service. The responses might surprise you!
Define your story
Stories are powerful tools to engage customers, help them better understand your organization and get behind what you
do. Take Nike’s Just Do It slogan or Dove’s self-esteem campaign for girls. Although you might say these companies are just
selling running shoes and soap, the story behind their products goes much deeper. Build a fresh story or rework an old one
that transmits excitement and interest for your product or cause, and reflects your uniqueness and values.
• Answer the question, Why should your customers care about what you do?
• Use old-fashioned pen and paper or marker and whiteboard to hash out a story that really resonates
• Express who you are and what your product or service is about with passion, creativity and spice
Bill Gates’ “content is king”adage describes the new economy where real money is made in the virtual marketplace (aka the
internet) through the sharing of information and entertainment. This means offering your audience content-driven value
that’s consistent and engaging.
Yet rather than create content from zero, take an inventory of existing resources you have such as newsletters, speeches,
course materials or books to see what to recycle for the greatest value.
• Re-source tired though worthwhile content from traditional media for a new e-newsletter, video, or blog post
• Use local celebrities who championed your cause in the past as central figures for your next YouTube video
• Another savvy form of re-sourcing: Use real-time events to stage a social media event online thereby reaching customers
through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
Sweat the small stuff
Whoever said not to sweat the small stuff couldn’t have been a communications strategist. Ad man Rory Sutherland talks
about how we always think big problems require big solutions. Yet, oftentimes, simple solutions are what’s needed more
than flashy fixes. Fact is, if you DO sweat the small stuff then the rest is, well, a piece of cake.
As an example, one of the first questions consumers ask themselves before buying a product or service is,“Why would I use
it?”Yet many organizations skip over this step and go right to product execution.
• Remember that you measure a product’s true value by the everyday interactions someone has with it
• Engage in conversations with your customers-online and off
• Brainstorm simple solutions rather than throwing a bunch of money at something with little thought behind it
Don’t be afraid to go deep to really understand the true value of your product or service. This involves considering your pas-
sion and vision and making sure it’s aligned with those of your customers.
Or, in the words of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey,“If you want to build a product that’s relevant for folks, then you need to
put yourself in their shoes and write a story from their side.” Taking this idea one step further, with the democratization of
social media tools, today’s business stories are collaborative devices through which to engage the consumer or co-creator.
• Incubate ideas with your team to uncover the real passion and vision of your organization
• Make sure you have one impactful story and that your communications and the product or service are in line with this
• Allow your customers to be part of creating your brand and building its success
Lissa Cowan is Principal of Go Small or Go Home Communciations. For 15 years, she has collaborated
with not-for-profits, companies and governments as a communications consultant, social media strat-
egist, writer, PR consultant, creative advertising copywriter, brand strategist, project manager, coach,
translator, publisher and magazine and book editor. She’s written several books and currently writes
When her clients aren’t teaching her cool and amazing stuff, you might find her running, practicing
yoga, gardening, checking out a new restaurant or arts event in her newly
adopted city of Toronto.
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A good story moves the heart first, and the head will always justify the heart.
-Michael Littrell, cultural mythologist, friend and a brand strategist for President Obama’s“Yes We Can”
presidential campaign, 2008.