The human body has more than 200 bones but just one spine. In the same way, a compelling narrative – or campaign – can have many moving parts, but must have a single spine to unite the parts into a whole.

The key to engagement is engaging emotions. The key to that is specificity. It’s specific only if you can envision it in your mind’s eye. It’s specific only if it is something you can see, feel, hear, smell or taste. If you can’t, then it’s a concept.

Lisa Cron, whose pathbreaking book Wired for Story lays out the brain science underlying narrative, says this:

“Abstract concepts, generalities, and conceptual notions have a hard time engaging us. Because we can’t see them, feel them, or otherwise experience them, we have to focus on them really, really hard, consciously— and even then our brain is not happy about it. We tend to find abstract concepts thumpingly boring. “

This is a true story: In 2002, a two-year old terrier mutt named Forgea was abandoned on a freighter that had been evacuated because of a fire. Forgea’s plight was front page news during the three weeks it took to locate the crippled ship and rescue the dog. Not a single fundraising email or direct mail piece or telemarketing campaign went out. But people all over the world, moved by Forgea’s plight and his pluck, volunteered nearly $50,000 to support the rescue.

Specifics move people. Concepts don’t.

Back to Lisa Cron:

“…one personalized story has infinitely more impact than an impersonal generalization, even though the scope of the generalization is a thousand times greater. In fact, it is only via a specific personalization that the point of a generalization is shot home. “

The way to get people to embrace the big picture is to begin with the little picture.

One of a series of occasional rants on writing.