Naturally, we receive feedback all the time from Anthill readers. Much of it is helpful.
But, sometimes, the feedback contradicts what we know to be true, based on the cumulative behaviours of hundreds of thousands of site visitors.
Rather than provide a polite but meaningless response (like, “Thank you for your feedback. We welcome and respect the views of all our readers”), I often try to explain why it is that we do things the way we do.
Today, we received the following piece of feedback, prompted by an auto-responder email that is triggered when a new email subscriber signs up.
Feedback Form [#399]
General feedback and not specific to you as I’m a new subscriber.
We are all running our own businesses. All very busy, and no one has enough time in the week!
* Keep to the point.
* Facts, facts facts.
* I don’t want to have to read a half page of creative writing before I get to the point and facts of the story.
* No time…. I want to know what’s going on and fast.
And here was my reply:
Welcome to Anthill and thanks for your feedback. Before I respond to your suggestions I want you to stop for a moment and indulge me:
Imagine that you are in bed.
It’s very early in the morning and suddenly you wake up.
You don’t know why you woke up.
But here’s one thing you do know…
It’s eerily quiet.
You are alone.
You push aside your bedclothes and gently lower your feet to the carpeted floor.
Ever so cautiously, you walk to the door and listen.
You push the door open, and it barely releases a squeak.
At this slightest of noises tension grows in your chest and you suddenly notice your heartbeat.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Once outside your bedroom door, you see a staircase. It leads down to a lower floor.
At the foot of the staircase you see a note — an ordinary piece of A4 paper folder in half.
Suddenly… buoyed by unexpected energy and unbound tension, you spring to life!
Grabbing a banister, you bolt down the stairs, three at a time, shattering the silence with each step.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
You grab the note with one hand, before you can even catch your breath.
You pull it open, in one rapid movement, revealing the message inside.
“There was nothing remarkable about this story. It contained no facts. Rather, every thing in it has happened to many people before.
However, you would have never discovered the lesson I’m about to reveal, if my anecdote hadn’t exploited your own human desire for anecdotes.”
Facts are very important. And, after nine years of watching competitors launch and fail, building a media business on a budget without the aid of large multinationals or a big fat development budget, there is one thing that I know for sure.
Education requires engagement.
Here’s our modus operandi. Engage… then educate.
It might not be to everyone’s taste, but here’s the other thing that I know for sure (thanks to Google Analytics and split-testing).
Often what our readers think they want doesn’t play out in their behaviours.
And here’s one final fact.
You are still reading. 😉
So, you might now hate me. But you will always remember me…
And the lesson of the factless anecdote.
Did I miss the mark?
The feedback was clearly meant to be constructive and the person had, most likely, not yet been exposed to our ‘in ya face’ editorial style.
Okay, I was cocky.
But the message of the note is something that I do, indeed, feel passionate about. I wish that more people would attempt to engage before rushing to ‘educate’ or simply present the facts.
Or, perhaps, in a digital age there is no room for the creative introduction.
What’s more important to education; storytelling or facts?
What do you think?
Image source: Izismile