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Develop your messaging

So, what are you going to say? How will you motivate your audience to listen, to care, and – most importantly – to act? Your messaging can make or break your communication strategy. No pressure.

There are lots of tips out there for crafting effective messaging, most include some common elements.

  • Problem – What’s the problem and how does it align with your audience’s values? You want to make them nod back at you in agreement.
  • Solution – Describes what you or others can do to overcome the problem. 
  • Ask – This is one specific thing you want people to do. The key here is to be specific.
  • Vision – This helps your audience understand the “so what?” What will the world look like if your audience does what you want them to do? It should reflect their values.

Communities we work with like M+R’s 27-9-3 Rule for developing short persuasive messages. The 27-9-3 rule requires you to make your message in...

  • No more than 27 words that can be…
  • Delivered in 9 seconds, with no more than...
  • 3 key points

This is a simple but powerful tool for creating a concise message.

Check out our 20-minute webinar short on using the 27-9-3 rule or dive right into the 1-page worksheet.

Keep what you know about your audience front and center. Mindful Messaging, by Spitfire Strategies, lays out the brain and social sciences behind messaging in a relatable way. We’ve summed up a few key take-aways here.

  • Get to know your audience better. Challenge yourself to understand your audience’s core concerns and barriers. 
  • Identify what’s at play in people’s minds and anticipate their potential responses. If you first think about how people might respond to what you’re asking them to do, you can strengthen your messaging efforts. Consider:
    • What are some potential positive responses and reactions? How could you use them to keep your audience tuned in to your message?
    • What are some potentially challenging reactions? How can you navigate them to keep your audience engaged?
  • Test your messaging. This can be a simple as testing two different messages to see which people respond to or as formal as holding a traditional focus group. It’s not what you say, it’s what your audience hears. Testing your message can give you some insights into what your audience might hear. (1)

NOTE: Sometimes, it seems people are acting against their best interest – this can be frustrating. But it's likely we are making assumptions about what we believe is in their best interest. People have many competing priorities -- their top priority might not be the same as ours. If you feel this happening, stop and ask what you might be missing. Listen for ways to engage in a different way.

If you’re looking for content-specific messaging, check out leaders in the field like the FrameWorks Institute and Berkeley Media Studies Group. They do a lot of testing to be sure messages strike the right tone.

  1. Spitfire Strategies. Mindful Messaging. http://mindfulmessaging.spitfirestrategies.com/. Published 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017.

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