There’s an age-old rule of thumb used in almost every industry – both private and public – having to do with the power of three. There’s a brilliant simplicity contained within lists of three that is both stabilizing and influential.
When crafting messaging to constituents, colleagues, and superiors, it’s important to remember the power of three. Boiling things down to basic ideals of an issue or concepts helps you and those you communicate with retain that messaging, it also helps strengthen your conviction (ability to influence).
Too often we think more is more – more data, more bullets, more rational. However, our audiences have complex lives and less time. This means shorter attention spans that lead to an inability to listen, grasp, and retain information and strategies you share with them.
Let’s apply this concept using three random communication examples of work you might do as county officials:
Addressing Three Needs Instead of One Outcome
When citizens band together to request that a park be built, they aren’t simply looking to create that specific outcome – they are looking to fulfill certain needs. A safe place to walk their dog, hold family gatherings, or take their kids. Regardless of the community issue, boil it down to three basic needs citizens want fulfilled instead of just one outcome. Then as you think of the issue in terms of needs instead of an outcome, you can adequately address that issue that perhaps results in a different and even better outcome than what was originally proposed.
Three Places Citizens go for Information
Where are citizens gathering information about issues you are engaged in? How can you best reach them? I think we can all agree today’s county citizen is not looking to one exclusive source. Constituents are likely getting their information from a variety of sources, but you can probably boil it down to three main areas and address your communication needs more quickly.
Personal connections (through social media and in-person contacts), the Internet (Google), and probably the mainstream or traditional media (TV, Radio, Newspaper). The order of your list may vary, or could even include something different. What ever it is for you, that identification can help you address it.
The Top Three Misconceptions About Your County
Why do we want to know about the misconceptions citizens have about our county? Here are three main reasons: first it impacts an elected official’s ability to stay in office and change the misconception; second, we live here too, we all want to live in a community where our government is respected; and three, discontent slows progress, even in un-related areas.
Understanding what the misconceptions are is the only hope of ever changing them. If the public thinks the county doesn’t listen, do you want them to ALWAYS think the county doesn’t listen? If you do, you shouldn’t. We should always care and we should always work to understand ‘why’ so we can address the ‘why’. But it shouldn’t be a massive list of everything everyone shares in a community poll or focus group. You can start with that, but you have to narrow it down to the three core misconceptions, then go to work addressing each misconception with three main strategies.
The power of three can transform your communications and even impact your policy. But more important, it can instill a higher level of confidence in your messaging, ability to influence, and the overall difference you make as a community leader.