Messages are the words that deliver your strategy. I spend a lot of time with organisations helping them to figure out what they want to say about their sector, policy or company.
Sometimes it feels like an art but there is a system we can apply to structuring the messages that we want the outside world to read, hear and take notice of.
I bring thinking from my background in marketing communications – the practice of organising and refining our ideas is the same as used by corporate marketers who are trying to sell us lots of stuff. It’s a practice that works for the policy wonk world of Brussels and its institutions.
Here are my reflections on a way forward to refining your messages. There are steps we can follow.
Step 1. Understand your target audiences.
Before you start, be clear as to why you need messages and who you need to influence. The starting point of any message development is to think carefully about your target audiences. Take some time to ask yourself lots of questions about the people we wish to influence.
Who are they? What do they care about? What do they think now and what you want them to know? What is close to them?
Step 2. Identify the problem that your audiences respond to.
I keep seeing tweets and LinkedIn updates that shower me with “SMART cities”, “innovation”, “circular economy” and so on….
Are these good things? I’m sure they are (and I’m only asking), but I am not sure what I am meant to feel about a “SMART city”. Unless you make the case to me in clear, simple terms with language that I can understand. I live in a city that isn’t particularly SMART, but I’m ok with it until you make me feel otherwise (just sayin’).
Step 3. Frame your idea as a solution
Make your audiences care and understand what bothers them most. What can you and your organisation, initiative, campaign do for them?
Step 4. Get your audience to move
Without movement communications are pointless. Effective messages move your audiences to think differently or do something. Awareness raising campaigns can only be the start of strategic communications.
Be clear – what do you want your audiences to think? What do they need to do? What’s the call to action? Join the campaign, sign up, separate your rubbish into recycled, plastic and paper.
Step 5. Explain what difference it will make.
How will you be different? How will we be better? Give your audiences a vision. Don’t tell your audiences what you do. Explain what is in it for them.
Next – throw your ideas onto a grid.
Here are some principles – and by the way, these come from marketing communications best practice. Now we need to arrange our brainstorming with colleagues, policy officer teams and organise a system for structuring our words.
And last – don’t overthink – at this stage. We have plenty of time to refine.
The process of developing messages does carry some creative push but it is more about being business focussed and strategic. We need to use a message grid to put all our ideas down.
If you would like further details of the message training we organise and the message grid we use please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org