Whatever communication challenges you’re facing, you will always perform better if what you say is based on just the right message for each precise situation.
It’s always easier to look better, sound better and feel better when communicating if you can be confident that you have crafted the best, most useful headline message for your audience to receive at the outset.
Once you’ve settled on the right message, it will guide you towards picking the right facts, figures and examples to bring your message to life in the minds of your audience.
Helping clients determine what’s the right message is in any situation forms a vital part of communications training sessions to improve:
• Your presentations
• Your media interview responses
• The great answers you’d like to be giving to all those tough questions you’re asked in your working world.
So, as a preliminary exercise ahead of your next professional communications challenge, imagine this…
GET THAT MESSAGE RIGHT WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH
You’re walking down your local high street minding your own business when suddenly…
…you’re kidnapped by a ruthless gang of illiterate treasure-seeking pirates.
They’re led by a fierce single-legged sailor called Long John Silver and his wise, outspoken pet parrot.
The gang members have a map showing the whereabouts of a long-buried treasure chest far away across the seas.
But alas the pirates can’t read the exact details written out on the back.
Long John Silver says they’re choosing you to go with them – on a do-or-die basis – because they think you look smart enough to help them.
So they whisk you off in their pirate ship in a quest to locate the treasure.
When you and the pirates arrive at Treasure Island, they force you to go ashore with them to determine the exact location of the chest.
After you’ve succeeded, the ungrateful pirates tie you to a palm tree before they start digging.
They unearth the chest – and open it amidst much celebration over the sparkling jewellery and gold coins of their dreams.
But they prove to be a particularly greedy bunch of pirates.
They immediately start sword-fighting each other to try to get sole custody of the treasure.
The pirates keep killing one another until, eventually, only a severely injured Long John Silver is left alive.
As pools of blood spill out onto the sand around him, Long John turns to his parrot and says: “It’s not looking good.”
“I’m surely dying and we’re on a desert island without any food and with no bird seed.”
The parrot looks distressed as he perches on Long John’s shoulder for the last time.
Long John then staggers across the sand to the tree where you’re tied.
He looks up at and says:
“I’m afraid I won’t be here for much longer. But if I untie you, will you promise to look after me parrot for as long as you live?”
It seems like a good deal in the circumstances, so you willingly agree.
You don’t even bother to correct his grammar.
After freeing you from the ropes, Long John rummages desperately through his kit bag.
“I’ve got an old rum bottle here,” he announces, as he gulps the last drop of liquid to numb the pain.
“And I’ve got a small piece of parchment, a bit of ink and this old pen made from a parrot feather.”
“When you come up with the right message, throw the bottle into the waves and someone might find it and rescue you and the parrot.”
He never says another word.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SINGLE-SENTENCE MESSAGE
“What on earth should I write on the parchment?” you say to no one in particular.
The parrot, jumps on your shoulder, and warns: “We’re relying on this message to save us. You’d better get it exactly right.”
“But there’s only room,” you reply, “for a single sentence on this parchment.”
“That’s all you need for an effective message!” declares the parrot.
Indeed, the wise bird is right.
Sometimes you can place that exact one-sentence message amidst your presentation, in your media interview and within your great answer to a tough question.
And sometimes you don’t need to overtly state the message – but just make sure it’s effectively conveyed by the figures, stories and real-life examples that you give.
Whether you explicitly state the message or not, your job is to make sure the meaning of the message is unmissable for your target audience members.
And with you and your parrot facing starvation, you seek to make this one-sentence message in the bottle as powerful as it can be.
WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE?
So what should you write as your single-sentence message?
You decide that you should feature the longitude and latitude references for the island at the bottom of the parchment, whatever your message is.
Your first message option is:
“Please come and rescue me on Treasure Island.”
“That’s rubbish,” scoffs the parrot.
“There’s no reason why anyone finding our bottle would be motivated to act on that,” he insisted.
“You need to touch their emotions. Make them care and let them see how they can personally benefit!”
You try to follow the parrot’s advice.
Ultimately you come up with an alternative message option:
“I’ve got all the massive treasure that’s here on Treasure Island – and I’ll share it with whoever rescues me and my starving parrot.”
The parrot is happier.
“Now you’re talking,” he says.
“As humans often selfishly focus on the things they want, you need to hit their ‘What’s-In-It-For-Me’ factor every time!”
Is the parrot right???
HERE’S A MAN WITH A MESSAGE
One man who knows how to craft and effectively convey a message every time is the money-saving expert, Martin Lewis.
He normally has all kinds of messages for his enormous fan-base on how they can save money.
But on the hottest current issue in the United Kingdom – ‘How can ordinary citizens cope with the latest surge in energy prices?’ – he has a particularly powerful but surprising message.
Martin Lewis’s message is that the British Government – presently in a rudderless transition between prime ministers – needs to be responsible and provide an immediate solution to the energy cost crisis.
He says this is essential because even he doesn’t have a big enough money-saving energy answer for his followers.
You’ll see how he effectively conveys his message in this extract of an interview he did with the BBC on a day when no specific additional government help was forthcoming amidst news the latest energy price hike.
‘To allow people to stare into the pit of financial doom… without offering them the torch at the end of the tunnel is terrible for people’s mental health’
Money saving expert Martin Lewis spoke to #BBCBreakfast about an energy price cap of £3,549https://t.co/IBYslA1b9q pic.twitter.com/YUJt6u5nQf
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) August 26, 2022
WHERE TO GET COMMUNICATIONS HELP
If you – and/or your team – need help crafting the right messages to put in your presentations, visit:
When help is required to get your messages right for mainstream media interviews go to:
And if you need someone to speak at your organisation’s conference about how your audience members can come up with the right messages – and get them across effectively – check out:
Whatever your communication challenges, you and your team will be in a stronger position when you know how to put exactly the right message in your bottle!