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Amiables: Smile And Say Howdy
Tom Ahern

April, 2006

To communicate effectively (trust me), your materials must address all four personality types, the Analytical, the Amiable, the Expressive, the Bottom-Liner.

In the previous issue, we looked at the first of the four: "the Analytical." The Analytical is that little voice in your head that says, "I doubt it."

This time we look at a far friendlier aspect of your mind: the Amiable.

Call it the "You" factor.

The Amiable is that part of your brain that is glad to see another human face, that is intrigued by other people, that responds to a friendly overture. It may even be that part of you that empathizes with other's suffering.

For the Amiable, other humans mean comfort, security, friendship, community, expanded horizons, maybe even a chance to help someone else.

How do you talk to the Amiable? The best way I know is to use the word "you," over and over. You, you, you, you, you.

I know what you're thinking...but you cannot overuse this word. Well, yes, you could overuse it in a parody. But in normal, unforced, conversational prose, frequent use of the word "you" simply sounds intimate and concerned. "You" is a personality magnet. It attracts the Amiable in your brain every time.

Here's a safety tip: Learn to perform the YOU TEST on important publications, like your donor or volunteer newsletter, and certainly on your direct mail, case statements, and annual reports.

The YOU TEST is simplicity itself. Get out a red pen. Circle each instance where you have used the word "you" or a variation thereof. Study the result. Are there are lot of little red circles...or very few? Too few? You lose.

Don't be complacent. I evaluate hundreds of nonprofit publications and websites in a year. Most of them fail the YOU TEST. Typical example from my files: a nature center newsletter trying to lure volunteers for various positions.. In 400 words of pleading, the word "you" appears twice. This will not work.

The reason WHY "you" works so bloody well goes back to the gurgling days of your infancy. Your mommy and daddy told you, "You're the cutest baby!" Friends and authorities called you by the word "you" ten times more often than they did by your name. This lifetime of programming can't be erased: you WILL respond when you read or hear "you." As my friend and mentor, John C. Meyers, says, "Thank god for cheap tricks."

Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America's leading authorities on how to make nonprofit communications consistently effective. He speaks frequently in the U.S. and Canada on reader psychology, direct mail principles, good (and not very good) graphic design as applied to fundraising and nonprofit branding. He is a writer and president of Ahern Communications, Ink., a consultancy specializing in capital campaign materials and other fundraising communications. Recent clients include a local Boys & Girls Club, a regional hospice in Maryland, a DC-based black HIV-prevention and treatment center, a national agency for low-income elderly housing, a North American Jewish education association, and one of the country's largest community foundations. He has won three prestigious Gold Quill awards from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Gold Quills are given annually to the best communications work submitted by leading corporations from around the world. Tom is also a magazine journalist. His article on the devastating treatments for prostate cancer won a 2001 Sword of Hope Award from the American Cancer Society. He has his MA and BA in English from Brown University, and a Certificate in Advertising Art from the RI School of Design. His offices are in Rhode Island and France.


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