Thinkshift recently completed messaging work for several clients, which got me thinking about what good messaging is all about.
Good messaging is credible and exact. It handles the communications task at hand, whether it’s a pithy quote from the CEO in a press release, a boilerplate description of the company, or the brand voice and framework for a report, presentation or website. A messaging document should provide messages that are as close to plug-and-play as possible, with examples for as many contexts as makes sense.
Good messaging gets used. Reporters use it when writing about the company. Partner organizations use it when they describe you on their website. Employees use it, not just in presentations and formal communications, but also on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages and when they talk about their work with friends. For one client, the test came with the release of significant company news requiring media outreach and a new partnership. It was extremely gratifying to see the messaging work take hold and appear in newspaper articles, customer blog posts and on the partner website. Meanwhile, employees used it on their LinkedIn pages and elsewhere.
This doesn’t just happen naturally. We don’t just create messages, toss the client a guide and expect them to get it right away. Introducing the messaging, explaining how to use it and when, showing examples and providing training for written and spoken use are key.
Good messaging is flexible. Messaging should be used consistently, but shouldn’t be rigid. It should grow and change with the organization, and be adaptable to the person using it, the communications vehicle, audience or a other factors.
The key test—and I find this especially satisfying—is whether people genuinely like the messages. They won’t unless the messages are written in natural, ordinary language, so that people are comfortable using them without rewriting. When that happens, employees and others become advocates. They are able to provide the right message and information succinctly.
And that kind of communication brings an organization to life. You can’t do that with jargon, corporatespeak or vague and imprecise phrases.