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Are Details a Matter for God or the Devil?

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Apparently, the phrase, “God is in the details” came first and was corrupted later with the aberration, “The Devil is in the details.” How perfect is that? In either iteration, you’ve got to get the details right if you want to succeed. We are in the final phase of design for two nonprofit websites, and it’s the details that really matter. Here’s a look at the details that make the right impression.

Break the sound barrier.
Try shutting off the sound and watching a movie or better yet— a TV commercial. Can you follow the story? What impressions do you get? A good film director uses the visuals to tell the story. Directors of TV commercials know this even better, they have less time to capture your attention and a product to sell. They know that most people are not really paying attention and that the sound is often off or not being listened to. What happens if you just look at the photos and images on your website? What story is being told? What impressions do the images make? People will look at photos, captions and headlines…then they might read your paragraph of text or click and progress to see more. The important details are: what do your images mean? How well-crafted are the images? What headlines and captions are supporting the images? How does this tie back to your organization’s mission and call to action? Consider the visuals and messages as if you were directing a TV commercial. When you only have 30 seconds, what would you cut out? Quickly scroll through your website and see what information is being conveyed. Spend your time and efforts by creating a website that defines the vision of your mission in engaging ways.

The Director’s Cut and the People’s Choice Awards
Developing successful content for a website is about balancing what you have to say and offer with what your target audience wants and needs. It doesn’t work unless you address both sides. If you just focus on what you want to sell, no one will be interested. But if you only give your audience what you think they want, then you are not delivering a message—you’re just pandering. It’s important to establish that you have a valuable service or a cause that deserves and demands their attention. The details are in how you deliver this message succinctly. People “don’t read, they glimpse.” This was true back when typographer Lucian Bernhard said it in the 1920s and it’s even more true in today’s oversaturated media world. Cut back your content, then cut it back again. Find the right combination of The Director’s Cut and the People’s Choice Awards by presenting a vision of your organization that is appealing—and meaningful—to your target audience.

You ought to be in pictures.
Who are the people behind your organization? Bios and photos of key leaders and board members are critical in establishing the credibility of your organization. People who are assessing whether to join your cause or send you financial donations want to know who they are supporting. Are your photos professional or merely snapshots? Nonprofit leadership sections often look like a hodge-podge collection of unrelated people.  What you really want to express to prospects and key supporters is your unity. The details are in good lighting, consistent photo cropping, and professional headshots that show how professional and trustworthy you appear. And here’s another detail to consider. Sometimes a big grin looks too happy and silly. Try a range of smiles, and half-smiles and use the photo that looks the most reassuring. Ask someone else to make the final selection, we rarely are impartial judges of our own portraits.

I want my testimonial to reflect better on me.
There’s nothing stronger than a third-party endorsement. Yet getting a good quote is harder than you think. Often the quotes are too lengthy and self-serving. We usually provide half a dozen questions to prompt a good conversation that leads to a powerful quote. And the strongest ones are not slick, perfect responses. They are genuine and authentic. One common issue is that the person spends too much time thanking the organization in general terms. Get specific. It’s important to get to the heart of the matter. Where were you before you got involved? What happened that changed your life for the better? Why should someone else support your organization? How do people benefit from this place? Here’s the important detail: Ask the person if you can edit their quote and send it back for a final review and approval. Have you ever noticed how the New York Times frequently adds a disclaimer to their published interviews that says they have been lightly edited and condensed? People don’t usually speak clearly in good sound bites.

Are you trying to attract history buffs or new members?
For our client, a legacy LGBTQ+ organization, history really matters. They have a lot of “firsts” in establishing a safe and accepted space for inclusivity. We designed a timeline that highlighted their founding, key social breakthroughs and a place on the National Registry. Then they sent our layout to the archives team, who sent back a dozen “historic” photos. They were fun to look at but didn’t tell the story of why this organization was historically significant. They had a lot of people who were deep into the archives and voted for their favorite photos. But they lost sight of the real goal—which is not to celebrate historic photos—but to attract younger people to their historic organization. There’s an important detail missing: Prospective members may want to know about the milestones that make this organization important—but they don’t really care about historic photos. We sent them back to the drawing board. Begin with the content first, identify 6 key events, then find photos that highlight those milestones.

It may be a devil of a job to get the details right, but it’s well worth the effort. We often think that having details means presenting lots and lots of information, but it actually means something much more. It’s about being selective and detail-oriented in what you present. My wife tells me that as a teacher she would see the class period coming to an end and have the urge to cram more content into the students' heads just as the bell is about to ring. Then the students grab their things, exit the classroom, and “throw-up” all the last-minute details. It’s not about cramming more stuff into people’s over-crowded lives. It’s about presenting content in a digestible manner with details that resonate with your key audience.

 

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Langton Creative Group is a NYC communications design firm dedicated to improving the way businesses and organizations interact with their audiences. We were founded as Langton Cherubino Group in 1990.

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212-533-2585