Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

I’m not from Missouri. I’ve never even been to Missouri, unless layovers in St. Louis count. Even though I have no relationship with “The Show Me State”, their mantra resonates with me in regards to public relations writing.

There are a few theories about how the state got its nickname, but most people agree on how the phrase became associated with Missouri. When the U.S Congressman from Missouri Willard Duncan Vandiver gave a speech at the 1899 Naval Banquet in Philadelphia he said:

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Too many businesses fall in to the trap of speaking in “frothy eloquence” that will convince and satisfy no one.

Instead of trying to tell everyone that you are the greatest company since Apple, why don’t you show them what makes you the future of the U.S. economy?

When I sit in a messaging meeting, my goal is to be able to write the most important things that you want your customer to remember about your organization. I consider these the “tell me” messages. After I have my “tell me” messages, I will write supporting facts for each one. I keep these in my arsenal as “show me” messages for when I write press releases or pitch editors.

The end result is that instead of telling your target audience that your new BusinessProblemSolver 2000 is the “most turn-key, enterprise-smart, resource-driven, all-in-one, get-er-done solution on the planet,” I can show the product “saves small businesses an average of $40k per year by integrating accounting and inventory software and eliminating unnecessary features.”

Doesn’t the latter sentence show how much more valuable this product will be to your customer than the former?

If you really believe your product is revolutionary, next time you find yourself trying to tell your target audience how great it is, see if you can exchange your “tell” sentence and show them.