In 1992, James Carville refocused the Clinton presidential campaign with a battle cry similar to “It’s the message, stupid!” Today, 20 years later, we have witnessed unfathomable growth in the average person’s use of technology, and wholesale change in the most basic methods of communication. In the course of two decades, email has gone from barely a gimmick to being an indispensible – and legally binding – tool.
The beauty of Mr. Carville’s phrase, and what we tend to forget in our social media-focused world today, is that “It’s the economy, stupid” was a powerful and strategic message. It was clear, it was concise, it had a purpose … and it worked!
So, while there is merit to our continued discussions about best uses of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the app-of the-day, we cannot forget that the delivery system is not the message. If you don’t understand your goal, know your audience and craft your message to your desired result, the method of conveyance won’t make it any more effective.
Solid communications are pure, convey knowledge and give us the ability to influence. They also support, or diminish, our credibility. So let’s review some basic elements to help ensure our communications work for us, not against us.
Be clear. From the moment we wake each day until we close our eyes at night, we are bombarded with news, music, texts, phone calls, email, social media, personal conversations and visual stimulation, keeping us at the limits of our processing capabilities. Which means most of those messages aren’t processed, because we are too distracted. Avoiding complexity increases the chances that your message will be received and understood.
Be concise. We sift through thousands of messages every day. Don’t waste time and risk losing your audience for the sake of flowery or self-serving prose. Would you be motivated to purchase running shoes from a company that states: “Regardless of the number of excuses you generate for not leading an active lifestyle, we strongly recommend you ignore them and do what is best for your health and longevity”? I think it’s safe to say “Just Do It” accurately states Nike’s position in a shorter and more memorable manner.
Know your purpose. Every message should have a specific purpose – purchase, donate, attend, support, oppose, worship, think or act, in some manner. So make sure your message delivers a reason to perform that action. If the purpose is to motivate people to vote, make sure the message explains that purpose, supports it with necessary information and includes a call to a specific action.
Know your audience. There is no such thing as the general public. To make your message effective, you must know exactly who you are targeting and craft your message accordingly. Think in terms of what do they want to know? What information is important to them? Is there a political, social, religious or demographic angle that may affect their perception of your communication? Missteps here can be costly, not only in terms of effectiveness, but also for your (or your company’s) reputation with that audience. Make sure you think carefully about your audience before you communicate.
These four points may seem basic, but, as digital tidbits become a staple of our daily communications diet, it becomes even more important not to waste our messaging opportunities. Good communications not only help us inform, persuade and connect with our clients, constituents, customers and peers; they build and support our businesses and reputations.
Set yourself apart from the noise and get your message delivered by applying these basic rules of good communications.