Getting the message right is fundamental to successful communication. Last week, two fine articles on the Inc.com blog examined some of the messages we send and provided thoughtful advice on how to improve them.
Companies constantly send mixed messages, especially to their employees. We ask our call center staff to provide superior customer service – in 90 seconds or less. We ask line workers to produce high-quality products even as we scale back on the high-quality resources to create those products. We ask managers to keep productivity levels high despite cutbacks in staffing. Business transforms into a world of “do as I say, not as I do, and – while you’re at it – do more with less.”
If you follow me on Twitter (@bzhenry), you know that I’ve made content curation in organizational communication a hobby. This blog post highlights the best of what I’ve read in recent weeks.
In “One Employee Message That Should Never Be Mixed,” Jeff Haden concedes that mixed messages pervade the workplace despite a communicator’s best efforts, but he counsels that messages that link to a larger meaning and a greater sense of purpose are the messages that will stand out and inspire.
The products and services you provide are often more than that to your customers. There is an emotional component. They have chosen your product or are using your service for a reason. They want to like you; they want your employees to validate that choice.
When you help employees connect to that emotion, they become more effective. The call center rep who understands that the goal isn’t just to solve the problem – but to make the customer feel good about the solution – will be a better call center rep. Creating a greater sense of mission among employees will create a more effective organization.
Geoffrey James underscores the importance of the emotional connection in “How to Fix Your Sales Message.” To understand why some messages fail, he outlines three generic types of messages:
- The “is” message. This message attempts to create credibility by explaining who the company is, e.g., “We are the world’s largest widget manufacturer.”
- The “does” message. This message explains what your product or service does, with emphasis on features, functions and price, e.g., “We supply high-quality widgets at the lowest price possible.”
- The “means” message. This message explains what your offering means for the customer, e.g., “Inferior widgets will never halt your assembly line again.”
It is the last – the “means” message – that drives effective communications. Understanding what you want to say is only half of the battle; understanding how it will be received is how you win the war. “Know your audience” is the communicator’s battle cry, but “write for your audience” is better advice. Whether you’re making the emotional connection to a greater mission for your employees or transforming your features and functions into benefits for the customer, getting the message right is the first and most critical step.