How many times have you seen an executive stumble during an interview on CNBC? What about that program you witnessed where the speaker droned on endlessly, failing to make his point?
What causes these communications deficits? The reason is often slapdash messaging. The fact is some executives just don’t plot out what they want to say ahead of time, or they lack the self-discipline to say it.
As former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers put it, “During my years as a press secretary, I developed a powerful internal filter, which worked to strip all things ‘off message’ from my thoughts before they came out of my mouth.”
How can you and your chamber or association sidestep a reputation-draining communications debacle? Craft a magnetic message and stick to it.
Easier said than done, right? Well, to give you a head start, let’s review 11 elements that serve as a blueprint for your organization’s messaging efforts.
- Identify: Target your audience for each specific issue, whether it’s a speech to your members or a public policy initiative aimed at policymakers.
- Construct: Shape your message with four strong legs—or main points—designed to reach your audience with a powerful impact.
- Collaborate: Make sure those with a stake in the outcome are in the room when developing your message.
- Focus: Get your ideas down on paper so no precious ideas are lost during the message development process.
- Examine: Review key issues including your campaign’s goals, your points of weakness, and calls to action.
- Flavor: Spice up your message with stories, analogies, numbers, and more.
- Fortify: Your spokespeople deserve a rigorous practice regiment, both formal and informal.
- Heed: Internal experts lose their clout over time, so don’t shy away from bringing on board an experienced communications training consultant to help with both perspective and discipline.
- Test: Toss tough questions at your spokespeople to see how your message holds up under fire.
- Chronicle: Put your message in writing. Institutional memory is fine, but you need a written record everyone can reference.
- Broadcast: Spread your message via media interviews, speeches, op-eds and other tools as appropriate.
Some of these 11 elements are universal. Others may apply only in certain situations. Your communications team, top executives, and the expert consultants you utilize must make the call on what makes sense when.
Following these practical guidelines can help your chamber or association achieve its long-term business goals and public policy objectives. Make it count, for your reputation hangs in the balance.
This article is based on Ed’s position paper, “Eleven Elements to Mold a Magnetic Message: How to Shape Your Story for the Press, Policymakers, and the Public.”