For many people, sharing their message is easy. The real hurdle is how to get people to listen. The fact is, that can be a moving target, but there are some guidelines you should understand in order to craft messages that are heard, understood, and acted on.
The big x-factor in this process is to understand there are two aspects of the campaign to consider:
- What you really want to communicate
- How to get your audience to connect with that message
The first part of step one is to understand your own key message. What is the core of what you want to communicate. If you had to take one thing and say “this is it, this is what they MUST understand,” what would it be? You may want to say “everything,” but that doesn’t get you any closer to where you need to be.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t establish and perfect a Key Message, then you open yourself up to message confusion. You are saying a lot of things, but you need to understand which “thing” is the absolute most important aspect of the message, the fundamental element upon which everything else is based. If you don’t establish a key message, you allow your audience to determine which aspect of what you are saying is the most important. That’s the first step on the downhill slope toward message confusion.
Your core message should be clear, simple, and easy to remember and repeat. You don’t just want people to hear it, you want them to tell others about it without messing up the message. This is why soundbites, which so many people “don’t like,” remain so effective. They are easy to remember and repeat.
Your key message should also create an emotional response. The best way to do this is to use active language. In your message, someone should be doing something. If you want to create a positive emotional connection, the “someone” should be doing a “thing” that directly benefits the audience. If you want to create a negative emotional response (tread lightly here) then you want “someone” to be doing something that somehow disturbs or upsets the audience.
A lot of people will immediately identify these dynamics with political conversation, but it works for a lot more than just politics. Product sales, nonprofit initiatives, worthy causes, countering opposing messages — all of these efforts benefit from active language that creates an emotional response.
Finally, you want your message to plant a seed. That seed may create curiosity and compel the audience to learn more. It may cause a question in their minds that you could answer, or it may call them to take some action. Just don’t give them a message and leave it at that, give them a reason to embrace that message and carry it to others.
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