A Tutorial on Messaging from Derek Jeter

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To honor the start of another season of Major League Baseball, and my family’s impending visit to Tampa, Florida, to catch some New York Yankees spring training games, I thought I would start this month’s blog on messaging with a tribute to legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera from his teammate, the equally legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (below).

In January, Rivera became the first player unanimously inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Think about that. The. First. Player. Ever. That caused Derek to write:

Credit: MLB.com

I heard a stat the other day and it blew my mind:

In human history, more people have walked on the moon than have scored an earned run off of Mariano Rivera in the postseason.

Sounds crazy, right? But it’s true.

According to NASA, 12 people have had the privilege of walking on the moon.

According to Baseball Reference, 11 people have scored an earned run off of Playoff Mo.

And while no statistic could ever truly encapsulate Mariano, I figure this one is as close as we’re going to get. Because I think it really gives you a sense of what sort of greatness we’re dealing with, when it comes to Mo. It’s hard to compare him to other closers — in fact, it’s hard to compare him to other pitchers.

Mariano is just on another level.

Credit: NJ.com

Jeter, no slouch himself, could have cluttered his tribute to Rivera (right) with a lot of extraneous data and facts. For example, that the Baseball HOF has 323 members, and that throughout its 80-year history there have been over 1,000 candidates voted on by the 425-member Baseball Writers Association of America. Or that he was the MLB saves leader (652) or that he won five World Series with the Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002). Or that his devastating cut fastball was responsible for breaking over 1,000 baseball bats. Or that Mariano was the fifth Panamanian-born player to be inducted.

 

The Yankee captain could have further effused that Mariano was given an honor no other player, no matter how terrific, had ever received. Bob Gibson? Nope. Babe Ruth? Nope. Nolan Ryan, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Cal Ripken Jr. and Sandy Kofax? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope. Until Rivera’s unanimous election, no player had received a “yes” vote from every single member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Communications tip of the month: Powerful messages are short and sweet. Don’t clutter yours up with facts and data that, while true, distract from the point you’re trying to make.

But such a fusillade of data and facts would have diluted the impact of Jeter’s tribute. It would have let the facts get in the way of a good storyline.

 

Jeter’s tribute is particularly effective because he related an extraordinarily rare achievement in one field with an equally rare, and widely recognized, achievement in another. It’s like saying, “The last time we raised electric prices, World War II had just started.”

 

Jeter’s tribute is an excellent illustration of the principles of effective messaging as laid out in Made to Stick.

 

Credit: Random House

The authors of Made to Stick say effective messaging consists of:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility
  • Emotions
  • Stories

Jeter’s tribute to Mariano Rivera touches all those bases.

So as the Boys of Summer get to work and another baseball season is about to begin, I’m going to challenge utility and electric cooperative communicators and marketers to match the Yankee Captain’s elegant and effective messaging.


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