Following is an excerpt from the recent position paper, “Eleven Elements to Mold a Magnetic Message: How to Shape Your Story for the Press, Policymakers, and the Public.” We’ll discuss each of the Eleven Elements individually to help you get a better handle on each one. Today, let’s turn to Element One, Identify.
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you. — Walt Whitman
A magnetic message requires, first and foremost, a target audience. Identify those groups and individuals you need to reach and aim your communication toward them. Of course, this target is likely to change from issue to issue. For example, your company may plan release of a new product today while confronting a thorny public policy issue tomorrow. The upshot? Be sure to identify your prime audiences for each message you shape.
Address your audience with a foundation of four strong points, or legs—the main tenets you want to convey in your presentations, during your media interviews, and when visiting your elected officials.
Think of your message as similar to a sturdy, four-legged chair. If one of the chair legs is weak, it collapses, sending you crashing to the floor. So it is with your message. One weak point, and your communications efforts fall in a heap.
The fact is many companies neglect to create formal messages tailored to their key constituencies. Or if they do, the messaging is sometimes weak. Experience shows that the size of the organization makes little difference. I have worked with smaller organizations possessing well-crafted messages and with Fortune 500 companies (and, sad to say, sometimes their PR agencies) who either have not thought things through properly or who are ignorant in message development techniques, resulting in abysmal communication with key groups.
Who lives among your target audience? What vehicles have you used to reach them?