Ultimately, in terms of communicating an idea, we all know too much information – that’s why it’s good practice, before a presentation or interview, to focus your work down to a few key messages, so that your audience isn’t overloaded with detail.
Before you engage with any of your stakeholders you have to consider what is it that you actually want to say to them? Sometimes the starting point is relatively easy, particularly if you are launching a new product or have a positive initiative to report, but the job doesn’t end there. Announcing your company is now doing XYZ may be of interest to you and your team but communicating the news successfully to a wider audience, and convincing them it’s important to them, is where good message building comes in.
Getting your audience to take action as a result of what you tell them, or at the very least remember that you said it, is the key to effective communication. Unfortunately, too many businesses think that bland marketing statements are messages, and if you can only manage these kinds of announcements they won’t stand out or get you remembered.
While it’s fair to say that an audience of your peers, who choose to come to a presentation you’re giving, will be more open to your news than for example a journalist at a national newspaper, it’s no less important to maximise the opportunity to communicate as well as possible. As such; the message element of our training courses is equally important whether we are teaching a presentation or media session.
So what makes a good message?
The over arching issue or theme is your ‘proposition’ – this is essentially the idea that you want to communicate e.g. ‘we are customer focussed’ – but a statement like this, said on its own, will flounder as there’s no ‘support’ and it sounds like something that’s been said a hundred times before by all businesses. You need to convince your ultimate audience, the viewer or reader (and even if you are speaking to the media, they are there to, hopefully, convey your story – but if it’s not persuasive or interesting enough they’re unlikely to do so) that your message should be believed. This is where the ‘support’ and evidence comes in. The best way to convince your audience is to make your message stand-up to scrutiny; if you can’t then it will just be another bit of marketing blurb. By using; statistics, research, illustration and even personal anecdotes you are well on the way to actually proving that your message is based on fact. The third and final part is the call to action or conclusion – what do you want the audience to go away thinking or to do? This may be to come to you for a product or service, or it may be to change the way they think or act, in either case you have to ensure your message is strong enough to convince them to do this.
You do need to apply the ‘so what?’ test to your message, often the PR team or external advisors will be best placed to guide you on this, to ensure that it’s actually interesting and relevant enough to communicate. The chances are that if you are able to build the message correctly around your theme or idea, then your (appropriate) audience will not only want to hear it but they’ll almost certainly believe it when you tell them too.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – May 2014