Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Message development: 6 steps to creating messages that make a difference

Message development is an essential step in your publicity planning process and yet, many of us forget to spend any time being thoughtful and strategic about what we want to say when we're interviewed by the press. You've heard the cliche: "Failing to plan is planning to fail." That's especially true with media interviews. How will you make sure you communicate the key points about your project, mission, product, service, book, organization, whatever if you haven't given careful thought about what you really need to get across in your precious time with that journalist?
If you aren't clear about your messages each time you communicate with the media, your publicity will be less effective. Message development for all types of businesses and organizations involves six steps:
  1. Define the issue. Take into account what your audience knows about the topic and what you bring to the discussion. What makes you different, special, better with regards to the issue or topic? Gather any relevant statistics, too -- you might need them to help make your point.
  2. Create draft messages. Brainstorm possible messages, but remember: You want messages that resonate with your audience, not your staff. That's why knowing your audience -- and what they do and don't know about the topic -- is important.
  3. Test draft messages. Don't test them in the workplace. Try them out on people you want to influence. Listen carefully to their responses and take their input seriously.
  4. Refine the messages. What language seemed to resonate with the people in your test or focus group? What language confused them? Where did they get confused? Take all of this into account...and try again.
  5. Test again. The repeat testing is important because you want to be certain that your key messages are appropriate and can influence the behavior you're looking for.
  6. Adjust again. Keep making changes -- and testing -- until you're confident that you're using language that will generate the reaction you want.
As you work on your messages, make sure they:
  • Contribute to your goals.
  • Resonate with the people you want to influence -- even if this means they don't resonate with you.
  • Get used in interviews in some form. If they don't, work on them some more.
Once your messages are final and you're confident they communicate what you want them to, work them into media interviews, press releases, Web site text, social media communications, marketing materials, etc. You might need to massage them to meet the needs of these different communication vehicles, but stay as true as you can to the language because you know it works.

What's the best message you've seen?


Free Book Promotion said...

I think message development is essential because content makes all the difference.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Thanks, FBR. I agree. You'll get more out of every interview if you're more thoughtful and strategic about what you want to communicate.