Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Clean up your messaging: Little things, big impact

Because so much communication pours into my mindspace in any given day--articles, e-mails, books, journals, blog posts, tweets, RSS feeds, phone calls, Facebook posts, and what-have-you miscellanea--and because it's my business to pay attention to it, I have been noticing how often people and companies (and people on behalf of companies) inadvertently include communication disconnects in their messaging. I include a quick list of some of the biggies I'm finding often these days (would be glad to elaborate if anyone is interested):

  1. Contradictions. This is a big one: contradictions are everywhere. Your message won't ring true if you start your message by promising that energy conservation is your big, number-1 focus and then end with the huge award trips you just gave to your top salespeople (yep, drive the Focus, Marge).

  2. Exaggerations. People really don't do anything in droves. And I'll bet they're not really "climbing all over each other" to get your product, unless you have the newest version of Tickle Me Elmo. Tone it down and say how much--and why--your customers really do like what you have to offer. Then you're just saying what's true, without hype...and without the disconnect.

  3. Implausible examples. A made-up example sounds, well, made up. If you want to tell a customer story and you wind up mixing three or four stories together to make it sound more interesting, okay, but tell your readers what you're doing. Otherwise they will sense that something just doesn't ring true--and they'll be right. And that's a disconnect for your credibility.

  4. Invisible but invoked research. Lots of people say "research shows" in their business communications, but as a reader/recipient/potential customer, I want to know that's not just smoke. Anybody can say it, but not many people show it. Include a link, a citation, or something to show me where you're getting your facts. I may not look it up myself, but it means a lot to me to have the option.

  5. Head-and-heart disconnect. This is a tough one for people who aren't comfortable writing to the inner person, but that's where all real motivation begins so it's a good thing to learn. It is very, very common to find communication that speaks either to the head or the heart, but a really compelling, exciting, motivating (as in, "Yes, I want your product!") message does both. That kind of whole-person message makes the inner me want something good (heart) and then shows me (1) why it's in my best interest to get it or do it (facts) and (2) how I can get it easily (process). If you've got those points covered, I'm sold. Show me you know something about who I am as your customer, and then give me the goods on how your product or service will help me be even more fabulous than I already am. I'm joking...a bit...but remember, head and heart together; not one or the other.

  6. Take me somewhere, will ya? When you provide any kind of messaging, your customers expect some kind of leadership from you. If they take the time to read what you've written, they want to understand your point; they want to know what you expect from them; and they want to have something clear to do. If there's no focus in your message, it will fall flat or worse: leave your customers confused (which doesn't make them happy and translates to a ding in your credibility rating). In other words, if you're sending out an update about all the cool programs you will offer this summer but you don't provide a link for registration or tell me clearly that you're counting on me to be there, I'll just zone out and press Delete. Sorry.

  7. Something's missing (or, "What aren't they telling me?) We live in a skeptical age, and that's okay with me. I think we should be thinking critically about things, weighing things out, discerning who means it and who doesn't. Realize that your customers may be resistant and skeptical and plan for that in your messaging. Be transparent, consistently; go the extra mile to explain why you do what you do; welcome your customers into your process; provide a mechanism for answering their questions (and publicize that, so they know how to ask); and be prepared to ride out a few bumps and challenges. It's worth the ride on the rapids to do the hard work and nurture honest, caring relationships with your constituents, because in the long run, those relationships really matter.

I hope these ideas are helpful! If you have a pet disconnect to add, send it in or add a comment below. Happy spring! :) Kathy

1 Comments:

Blogger Gayle said...

Nice post and yes, helpful!

I'd add "Buzzword Bilge" where text is gratuitously loaded with the corp-speak faves of the moment, with no real substance behind it...certain words always raise my antennas. Some I hate right now include solutions, passion/passionate, robust, sustainability, world-class,ad nauseum...

7:45 AM  

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