Three magic message ingredients

Ah, campaign season in DC. Messages floating through the air like pet dander. There have been some confusing messages out of both presidential campaigns recently, which makes one pause. These campaigns have data galore at their finger tips. The little men behind the levers know that pushing the orange lever forward one notch will make their candidate appealing to Hispanic voters; back two notches, and he’ll pick up some midwestern female voters. Yet messages — ideas and facts wrapped up into a package to be delivered to someone — are dropping  with a thud.

If one has all that marketing information at hand, and STILL confuses audiences, how on earth can a message from, say, a small business or mid-size nonprofit get through? What will cause the jaded, over-saturated listener, reader or watcher to pause and say the magic words: “That makes sense. I buy that.”

It’s a bit of wand-waving, but there are three ingredients that can help a message stick. There are much more complicated ways to say this — and many much-costlier consultants who can help you uncover your magic message ingredients — but start with this:

Authenticity. Seems so simple, and yet, and yet…CEOs and other leaders can get wrapped around the axle of political correctness, or fear of boldness, or whatever it is that makes them get caught in the fuzzy. Stop. Listen to what’s in your head AND what is in your heart. Write that combination down. Harder to do the larger your organization is, but a blend for which to strive. And if you’re worried that what you wrote doesn’t say what you mean, test your new core message with a trusted advisor first.

Repetition.  The people you want to reach — if they are in America, say — get exposed to between 500 and 5,000 messages (ads, notices, calls to action) per day. And guess what? That stat is from 2007, light years before Facebook and Twitter. So you cannot say something once and hope that the person who heard you will absorb what you said.  Sometimes repetition is presenting your information different ways (say it on a video, link to that video from Facebook, cut the video into little bits for Twitter, post the whole thing on the blog). And sometimes repetition is just repetition — as in, I have worked this exact piece of information into 16 sets of talking points already. Anyone with a fourteen-year-old is nodding along with me now.

Values.  I’ve saved the best for last: Your audience has values — ideas or world views they believe in and carry with them always. Those values are lenses through which they view anything new. If Jane loves everything historic, you’ll be able to sway her with a “save history before it’s gone” message. If you know John believes in family, figure out the family story in what you’re saying. You need to know what values your audience-members hold dear, and how they align with your values. You are not bending the truth; you are finding the bridge you can walk across carrying the truth. Not simple, but well worth doing.