We’ve all had that experience when talking to a friend or a colleague who has misunderstood or misinterpreted what we’ve said. It’s frustrating. After all, you were perfectly clear, right?
In your mind, of course you were clear. But human communication is a funny thing. What one person thinks is clear another finds confusing.
In business, unclear communication can cause confusion and uncertainty at best, and lost profits and lawsuits at worst. In a September 2016 survey of 300 retail and publishing executives, the #1 reason that prevents people from becoming repeat or loyal customers was the lack of consistent marketing efforts/communications, ranking higher than poor customer service!
While communications is often seen as a “soft skill” and not having the prestige of finance or engineering, the power of communications cannot be underestimated. Quite simply, poor communications affects both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, ranging from profitability and fundraising to legislative battles and membership attraction and retention. So how do you ensure your organization is communicating clearly and consistently with its key audiences? By having a set of key messages that tell your organization’s story.
Effective key messages have three elements in common:
They are clear. They are free from industry jargon.
They are concise. Everyone who represents the organization should be able to remember them and rattle them off with ease.
They are consistent. They don’t change based on your audience (that’s what supporting points are for).
How do you know if your organization’s messages are on target? Test them out. Get six executives together and ask them to answer the following questions about the company: who you are, what you do, and why it’s relevant. You might be surprised by what you hear. How the Chief Financial Officer describes the company might be very different from what the Chief Marketing Officer is saying. And both might differ from what the Chief Executive Officer is saying.
By having an effective set of key messages, organizations can help ensure they are communicating clearly and concisely with key stakeholders, reducing confusion and misunderstanding, and ultimately, improving the bottom line.
Does your organization have a set of key messages? When was the last time those messages were developed or refined?