📌 If You Don't Contextualize: No One Will Care

If you want people to care about what you write at work – learn how to contextualize.

Because if you don’t: two unfortunate things can happen.

  1. First of all: people outside of your world won’t “get it.” Your work’s influence will be limited.
  2. Secondly: You’ll only know how to tell strong stories when you have big numbers. And when you don’t – you’ll struggle.

Thankfully, contextualizing isn’t rocket science. Anyone can write compelling business narratives.

👇🏻 Just use these guiding principles:

1️⃣ Leverage shared knowledge.

Messages are easy to land when numbers are either big, or tied to common knowledge bases.

For example:

  • ✅ “She makes a million dollars a year” (That’s a lot.)
  • ✅ “We doubled market share to 40%” (Yes, quite impressive.)
  • 🔴 “This country saw 1M new users come online this year” (Um...)

Is 1M new users a lot or a little? Well, depends on if you're talking about Japan or Jamaica.

That’s the point of contextualizing. Anchor on things that people already understand.

So don’t just say: "Asia has added 1.5 billion new internet users over the last decade."

Instead, also say: "That’s the same as all existing internet users in Europe and the Americas today."

2️⃣ Anchor on indexed figures.

Imagine that you’re located in Asia, and you’re trying to convince your Silicon Valley-based leadership to invest in your region.

You won’t secure attention against the US by trying to find the biggest and baddest numbers.

Think of it this way: even your best business case might be outshined by someone who can pitch a simple feature fix for a huge market.

All they need is to move the needle by 1%.

Don’t play that game – you won’t get anywhere. Instead, consider anchoring on indexed figures.

For instance:
✅ Talk about growth rates.
✅ Talk about product penetration.
✅ Talk about ROI (if it’s in your favor).

Fixing something in the US might bring 10 million dollars but require three months from ten expensive engineers.

Show them why your region might only deliver half the impact – but at only one-tenth of the cost and twice the speed. Show why you can generate the most bang for the company's buck.

3️⃣ Redefine the Yardstick Yourself.

Contextualizing isn’t just about finding benchmarks for revenue, profits, or users.

Sometimes it’s about turning the game on its head, so YOU can define what you deem to be the right “context.”

For instance: If you’re a small but fast-growing market, don’t compete for attention by fixating on absolute revenue or profits.

Instead, talk about things like:
✅ …your contribution to the overall portfolio’s share of growth
✅ …your headcount efficiency
✅ …things beyond dollars, such as product adoption metrics or business rigor

You can (and should) even talk about your value to the business beyond the quantifiables.

For instance:
✅ The best practices you’ve driven
✅ The innovative solutions you’ve developed
✅ The influence you’ve had on global product roadmaps

4️⃣ It’s About Time (Sometimes)

It’s not always about volume and quantity.

Talking about time horizons smartly can help bring things to life.

For instance, don’t just say: “This investment will help us grow X metric by Y%.”

✅ Say also: “It will effectively pull forward our product roadmap by 3 years.”

Wow. Who wouldn’t want to invest and receive the gift of time?!

5️⃣ Create FOMO

If all else fails, talk about the opportunity cost instead. Compete on urgency.

Paint a picture of why something is worth fixing or investing in right away before the window of opportunity closes.

Show them why it’s now or never.

In fact, even better if you can draw parallels to past examples where a decision (or lack thereof) led to suboptimal results.

Show people why this is deja vu and they need to care.

Contextualizing isn’t always about measuring what we can see. Sometimes it’s about what we can’t. What we're missing out on.

And bringing it to life.

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