JTPR

Focus your message for greater impact and success

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, Nonprofit Communications on July 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Sometimes, getting your message out there is easy. You know what your organization does and you can sum it up nicely.

When it’s not easy, the problem usually isn’t finding a message. More often, you can’t decide which message to put out there. You do so many things, in so many ways, how can you possibly narrow it all down to one succinct statement?

That’s the dilemma I was trying to address when I put together the slide above for my recent participation in a “Developing Effective Messaging” webinar conducted by Achieve for its nonprofit clients.  I admit it’s a pretty crude, inelegant illustration, but I hope it makes the point: Put too many messages out there, and they’ll get lost in your own clutter, confuse your team, diffuse your impact and, every now and then, crash a couple of metaphoric planes together.

 Why is it so hard to focus the message? Often, it’s because every time you choose to communicate one message, you’re choosing not to communicate others. And every time you choose not to communicate something, somebody says, “Yeah, but …”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped a client focus its message – defining objectives, wrestling words, sharpening syntax – only to have an executive or department head come in at the end of the process and say, “Perfect! Except it doesn’t say anything about our … [quality control, customer services, longevity, etc.]. Can you add that? And maybe something about … [cost-effectiveness, environmental awareness, fun culture, etc.]?”

Here’s the deal: I’m not suggesting that an organization can’t have a lot to offer, or that a company can’t provide a bunch of benefits. I’m simply saying that, when it comes to communicating, simple is best. Forge your primary message, and communicate others as appropriate.

How do you choose? By asking yourself a couple of questions:

  • “What are we trying to achieve with this communication effort?”
  • “What message will help us achieve that objective most efficiently?”

Other messages might be true, but if they won’t help you reach your objective, they simply create interference.  

Remember the old Miller Lite “Less filling! Tastes great!” campaign? I can almost guarantee that someone at Miller wanted to add “Incredible bargain!” “American-brewed!” and other messages. But “Less filling! Tastes great!” made the point that needed to be made and nothing more. As a result, it worked.

Choosing is hard, but not nearly as hard as watching a communications effort fail. Make hard choices, focus your message, and you’ll be a lot more successful.

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