Building Messages that Influence
The Importance of Messaging Strategy
Messaging Strategy can make or break the success of a business, organization or a career. Meticulous planning, sound research, and careful implementation all contribute to a sound message.
So does audience empathy, communication framing, brainstorming and using simple scientific principles of persuasion to ensure your message is received properly by your audience.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is failing to clearly articulate messages to our coworkers, direct reports and superiors. Speaking clearly is the foundation of any influential communication.
Without clear communication, research suggests that your audience will view your messages with distrust and skepticism. In extreme cases, your audience will view your idea as dangerous just because it is not clear.
It’s a psychological principle. When people cannot understand you, they think your topic is not based on reason, which makes them think it is unsound, fraudulent, untrue or corrupt.
What Is Strategic Communication?
The term strategic communication applies to a variety of different communication methods. Each process satisfies a short or long-term goal of a company or person. The foundation of a strategic communication plan is the strategic message.
To be strategic or to have strategy, you must have a plan that creates successful action to achieve a goal. With strategic messaging, the messages convince someone what they need to do.
Strategic communication messaging is strategic because it’s planned and its purpose is to achieve a goal by influencing your audience to take action. It’s not fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants communication; it’s effective communication.
A strategic communication plan delivers a carefully planned and implemented communication message.
Why Strategic Communication is Critical for Business
Strategic communication is crucial for any business. Plus, the benefits of strategic organizational communication are exponential. It helps to improve productivity and boost employee morale.
It also creates a positive presence for the company, both in-house and in the market.
Plus, communication instills trust among employees. It also boosts performance and keeps retention rates high.
But personally, it gives you the ability to get work done through other people.
Components of a Strategic Message
Strategic Messaging gives you the ability to influence an audience through crisp, clear communication. A message should always have a clear call to action. A call to action should be visual, clear, and simple to understand.
Here are three characteristics that ensure you have a strategic message.
The fundamentals of clear communication start with the most basic questions needed to make a clear message.
- Who is your audience?
- What is your topic?
- What is your recommendation?
Your should intertwine elements of persuasion in your message. Determine where you can place influential elements in your message and in relation to your audience.
Building a Plan to Send Your Message
Based on your message and persuasion tactics, you will need to create an actionable plan to get your message to your audience.
Different Types of Strategic Messages
There are infinite ways to deliver a message. But there are only a few ways to construct the actual message. We go through five ways that we have built messages for our clients. We spend most of our time working on the first type of message, because it is the foundation of influential communication.
All of these messages are based on research and scientifically proven persuasion points.
The Supported Message is what we teach in all of our communication skills workshops. The Supported Message is the most basic message that you can create. It starts with a recommendation, has three supporting points and each supporting point has three persuasion point. The message is designed to support your recommendation.
Building it requires you to focus on the basic building blocks of sound communication. We start by clearly understanding what your topic is, who your audience is and what your recommendation is for your audience.
Going through several brainstorms to help you think different, we are able to help you decide how to structure and support your recommendation. Once you go through the brainstorms, you will speak about your idea clearly and in a way that builds trust. Your audience will be able to understand you and be more willing to listen to you.
The thinking is that if anyone challenges or is skeptical of your message, you will be able to back your recommendation with supporting points that are designed to persuade your audience.
The Inverted Message is similar the to the Supported Message. If you have the key messages for one, then you have the key messages for the other.
The Inverted Message is what most technical experts and data scientists use to explain their ideas. They begin with the details, the data, surveys, testimonials or facts about the project. They will explain their conclusions based on the facts and then offer a detailed recommendation.
If done properly, this can lead your listener to agree to the conclusion you want them to on their own. It’s extremely effective.
The drawback, however, is that this type of message takes a long time to deliver. This message is drawn out and requires active listening. The attention span for humans is less than 20 seconds. Your boss probably has an even less of an attention span!
When in a meeting setting or talking to a supervisor who is short on time, this is the wrong messaging framework to use.
The hamburger is taught by therapists and human resource managers when give criticism to someone else. It helps in relationships and when a supervisor must give criticism to an employee.
The formula for the hamburger is: Compliment — Criticism — Compliment.
Be warned, the circumstance are not always available for the Hamburger Message to work. Nevertheless, when building a strategic message, the formula is almost identical.
Liking Principle — Recommendation — Liking Principle.
What is the Liking Principle?
The Liking Principle was coined by Robert Cialdini in the 1980s. The principle states that people are more influenced by people who they like. There are several characteristics of this principle: attractiveness, similarity, cooperation, and compliments. We like people who give us compliments and cooperate with us.
Let’s look at a real life example of how this message is given. I am using the cooperative and compliment characteristics of the Liking Principle.
A client asked me to deliver a 2020 communication plan. I didn’t want to work on it yet. We were in the last quarter of 2019 and they needed help improving their employee engagement survey results. So, I disagreed.
Client — We need 2020 communication plan before we do anything else.
Me — Compliment: Thanks, Larry. You are absolutely right. We need to focus on our 2020 communication plan. I am pleased that you are thinking in such a visionary way and that you are one step ahead of everyone else. Cooperative: I am more than willing to work on that and get you whatever you need.
Clear Recommendation: I also think that we need to get a plan for the next two months so we can improve November’s employee engagement survey results.
Compliment: But like I said, I think it’s great we are thinking about the future and getting ready for next year.
Needless to say, we worked on a plan to influence the scores first.
The Message Two Step is one of the most powerful messaging sequences that exists in business.
If perfectly executed, you will persuade your listener to do what you want. To understand the Message Two Step you must first understand two more principles of persuasion that Cialdini discussed way back in the 1980s.
It uses contrast and what Cialdini calls, “a Moment of Power.”
On Contrast: Sales people use contrast all the time. I see this the on Internet constantly. A business will have a package that has a value of $499. But they are selling it for $27. The contrast is an immediate cue that the thing you are about to purchase is not that expensive and you can afford it.
The second principle is Cialdini’s Moment of Power. This principle is taught in negotiation trainings and is based on reciprocity. Society has been built on reciprocity since the beginning of time. If someone does something nice for you, then you naturally feel obligated to do something nice for them. We learn this from a small age and is a key characteristic of our society.
However, if you make a request to someone and they say “no,” the person feels obligated to give back to you. Cialdini says immediately after your request is denied, you have a small window of power. In that moment, you are likely to get what you ask for if you make a clear and reasonable request.
Here’s how The Message Two Steps work.
Let’s use a scenario to make sure you completely understand.
You want your boss to accept your project, PowerPoint or idea.
First, you share with your boss a draft or message that is not very good or clear. The boss will toss it and say he or she rejects your recommendation.
You begin to ask your boss, “What is wrong with the one I showed you?”
He or she begins telling you the problems with it.
Then you say, “You know what, I think you are right and I thought you were going to say something like that. I had worked on something else and I just wasn’t sure if it was right. But based on what you said, what if we tried this?”
In your moment of power you explain your crystal clear recommendation and why it makes sense.
You show your boss the new and improved presentation that has his or her feedback. You use the Moment of Power and he or she feels obligated to accept. Also, in contrast, they see a better product.