Messaging defines the point we’re trying to get across, whether it’s an individual engaged in casual conversation, a political leader making a speech, or a company telegraphing the value of its brand. But often, messaging is too complicated and overblown.
To be useful, messages need to be internalized by those who deliver them. Not rote memorization, but a deep-seated understanding of what needs to be communicated.
Take these five principles to heart when crafting your messages to reach your audiences more effectively:
1. Messages are ideas, not copy.
This is where most messaging falls down. It’s a matter of understanding what a message actually is. The message isn’t the words you use. It is the “sticky” thought you want your audience to remember ten minutes after you’ve walked out of the room.
More importantly, the message should never appear in copy! In the 1992 Presidential primaries, then-candidate George Bush inadvertently read aloud a note inserted into his speech by an aide: “Message: I care.” That aide understood the true nature of messaging: It’s the thought that counts. The language you use to deliver that thought is something else entirely.
2. Keep it simple.
The simpler the message, the more memorable it will be – and therefore, the more useful for you and meaningful for your audience. No one will remember a long paragraph loaded with detail or a complex sentence. Everyone can remember a straightforward idea, expressed simply.
A sales associate should not have to refer to a written guide to remember what should be communicated. Use whatever words are necessary to deliver the thought but keep the message itself as simple as possible. Secondary messaging can be created to support and add dimension but should never get in the way of communicating the pure, clear idea of the main message.
3. Keep it streamlined.
How many messages could you remember if you had to? Less is definitely more. Your set of main messages should encompass what you need to communicate but be flexible enough to carry multiple meanings depending on the language used to communicate the thought.
For example, a message like “We make a meaningful difference in people’s lives” might come through in copy about products, social responsibility, client relationships or the workplace environment. Different words, different audiences, different uses, but the same core message.
4. Make it relevant.
The only messages that will be remembered are the ones that the recipient finds meaningful and compelling. Often, we see companies so wrapped up in their internal structure and culture that they lose sight of the fact that to an outside audience, none of that matters much. Or the message may fall back on meaningless platitudes.
Craft credible messages that those on the receiving end can relate to, with just enough detail to make what you communicate meaningful.
5. Use it wisely.
It’s neither necessary nor wise to say everything, every time. It is, however, necessary to send the message repeatedly and in different ways to make sure it sticks.
Choose the proof points and supporting messages you use to make your point in a way that resonates with your audience. Also, be selective in which messages you send at any given time: If you’re lucky, your audience might take away one or two thoughts, so it’s best to focus and stay on-topic. Trying to get six ideas across will only muddy the waters.