Does your mother understand what you do for a living?
When I was a young professional, most moms were moms and homemakers only. That your mother didn’t understand your job was pretty much a given.
If you’re younger than I am (pretty much everyone is), your mom probably works outside the home. She probably has more education than my mom did. She may have a professional or managerial job.
But does she understand your work?
If she works in your field, she might. Otherwise, probably not.
That’s what makes the Mom Test such a good tool for your communications. When you craft a new webpage, email newsletter, blog, article, or report, ask yourself:
Would Mom get this?
If your mother does work in your field, or if you’ve taken the time to walk her step by step through your job, then substitute the Dad Test, the Aunt Nadine Test, or the Grandpa Test.
The point is, are you getting the point across to people who don’t live and breathe your work the way you do? Mom or Grandpa are simply stand-ins for your intended audiences.
Remember, it’s not up to your readers to be in the right place to “catch” your message. It’s up to you, the communicator, to pitch your message to where they are. Using someone specific, like Mom or Grandpa -or, better yet, an actual customer, donor, patron, or whatever – helps keep you honest.
What does it take to craft communications that pass the Mom Test?
- Assume nothing.
- Explain step by step.
- Use simple, familiar language.
- Use examples.
- Tell stories.
Once you’ve drafted your piece, the best way to make sure it passes the Mom Test is to test it! Get someone in the target audience (or Mom) to review the piece and give feedback. This step is indispensable for one-time high-stakes pieces like event invitations and annual reports.
Testing isn’t practical for every new webpage, blog, or report. In such cases, you may need to fake an outsider perspective.
- Ask a colleague who is good at pretending not to understand what you do.
- Put the piece aside for 24 hours so you can look at it through new eyes
- Use an audience persona to help you see where a potential buyer, donor, or client might need help understanding
- Pretend you’re your mother!
Or you could skip all these steps by hiring me to develop content for you.
- Does your mother (or anyone in your birth family) understand your job?
- Would you ever ask your mother to review your work? Why or why not?
- How do you check to see whether your communications are understandable to the intended audience?