Advice From Joseph Stalin That Will Change The Way You Communicate

I am currently working with Colorado Children’s Hospital to help them develop their story for their upcoming fundraising campaign. Colorado Children’s is a remarkable facility that has moved to the number three ranked children’s hospital in the nation and the goal for this upcoming campaign is over $300 Million dollars.


How impactful would your communication need to be to raise over $300 million?


As we had our initial meeting I shared a thought that is helping to shape the story and it is an important concept for every communicator to understand if they want to be effective and influential.


The concept comes from a quote from Joseph Stalin. (It may be hard for you to get your head around a mass murderer’s advice being applicable to a hospital that saves millions of lives – but go with me for a minute).


Stalin said,

“One man’s death is a tragedy; One million deaths is a statistic.”


When we communicate, specificity makes us powerful and complexity makes us boring. People connect with tragedy, but disengage with statistics. Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor makes this point clearly when she states, “In communication, the more specific the details, the more universal the connections.”


As I met with the hospital, I asked them the following questions, “Who is the face of this campaign? Who is the child that I can emotionally connect with?

How can you help me see them, know them and connect to their story?”


What they were doing is something that we all do. We go big when we should go small. They were describing the gravity of the problems as large and complex (which they are) but nobody connects with statistics and they certainly don’t act on them.


When it comes to communication – simplicity is hard. One way to cut through the complexity is to focus on one person. One story. Instead of trying to have me connect with a problem that millions of people deal with, tell me about one person in detail. Give me their struggle, their pain, their story. Let me get to know them, fall in love with them and want to fight for them.
This strategy allows for emotional connection to your message and therefore increases your impact. Who is the face of your message, product, concept or idea?


If you want to be an effective communicator, remember Stalin’s horrible yet poignant advice. “One man’s death is a tragedy; One million deaths is a statistic.”


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