We’re all humans, and human attention and memory are fickle. So much information comes at us every day — through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — that we’re only able to focus on a minuscule amount of it. And the rest? It gets filtered out.
When we’re in conversations or meetings, chances are we remember the first and last thing that was said. When our JR Communications team works with our clients on messaging, we always encourage them to start and end with the point that they want their audience to walk away with. This increases the chances that our clients’ messages get across. However, we would love for audiences to remember the messages in between.
That’s why good messaging is crucial. It’s what you want your audience to walk away with after you’ve made it through the obstacle course of information thrown at them each day. Your organization’s communications need to have messaging that is clear, consistent, and purposeful. What do you want your audience to remember, understand, or act upon?
Messaging needs to be the foundation of your communications.
Why is messaging so important?
Building your communications on a foundation of messaging allows you to deliver clear, consistent, and purposeful information to your audience.
First, your audience doesn’t pay as much attention to your communications as you do. Although you may have six pieces that include the same message, only one or two of those may reach each specific person’s attention. By repeating your message clearly and consistently, you increase the odds that it gets across.
In terms of communications strategy, your messages help decide what vehicles to use. Whether it’s a decision about formats, channels, language, or spokespeople, the message informs your choice. Here’s an example. Let’s say your organization is a nonprofit that funds resources for community members who have a disability. To do so, your organization needs donations. Would you use an extensive LinkedIn advertising campaign to appeal for donations? That’s not likely. Instead, a local event or earned media hit featuring an individual who received your organization’s support would be the way to deliver that message.
Additionally, knowing what your organization wants to say and the purpose of saying it reduces the chances of miscommunication. If you don’t have clarity in your messaging, your internal and external stakeholders can get confused. When you’ve identified your messages in advance, you’re able to refer back to them to verify that they’re included correctly and completely in the relevant communications.
How do you make messaging the foundation?
Here’s how you can make messaging the foundation of your communications strategies.
1. Start with your messaging from the get-go.
Before you even start brainstorming different communications approaches, you need to take the time to identify your messages. This can be challenging, but it’s crucial. Many organizations need to turn to an outside agency or consultant for help with this. They will collaborate with you to understand your organization’s values, your goals, and your audiences — and put it all together to craft your messages.
Developing good messaging before moving forward matters because the message needs to be the same regardless of how you eventually deliver it.
Your organization or campaign may have multiple messages at any given time. Prioritize them. That way, you know which messages are the most important to always include, and which can be included when you have the space to do so.
2. Include your messaging in each communication piece.
Then, build each communication piece from your identified messages. This allows you to tailor each piece to the format without losing track of your goal, which creates consistent messaging. It’s also easier to create those pieces because you already know what you want to say — you only need to decide how best to say it based on the method of delivery. At JR Communications, we weave messaging throughout each communications strategy, including earned media, op-eds, talking points, speaking opportunities, and social media.
3. Share your messages internally.
Although messages aren’t included verbatim in external communications, you can include them in internal documents as a resource for anyone communicating on behalf of your organization. For example, you should highlight specific messages with key leaders before events or interviews. This ensures that your messages are incorporated into speeches and interview answers.
4. Get message training.
Another way to ensure that messaging is the foundation of your communications is through message training. Our JR Communications team uses message training to great effect when we work with our partners. Through message training, experienced professionals help your organization identify, prioritize, and develop effective messaging. This includes understanding how to deliver your messages to different audiences. In training, leaders also have the opportunity to practice conveying those messages. Along with media training, message training prepares your organization’s leaders to share your messages successfully.
Communications without a message (or with the wrong message) detract from your organization’s efforts. But good messaging brings your organization closer to achieving its goals. Because every communication will compete with the overflow of information your audience receives each day, your message needs to be clear, consistent, and purposeful — and the foundation of your communications strategies.