The message is…

posted by Brendan Hodgson

In the course of my work, I often find myself perusing pages of ”key messages” drafted by organizations either preparing to launch a new thingymajig, shutting down a redundant whojimawhigger, acquiring a multi-billion dollar whatchamacallit, or perhaps simply answering that age old question of “Why for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?” (disclaimer: closet Looney Tunes fan)

What often surprises me, however, is that these message manifesto’s rarely seem to take into account the unique needs of the individual audiences to whom they’re hoping to communicate. It’s as if we’re simply trying to convince ourselves, and we’re the only one’s who matter or who get it.

In many instances, the actions we take — the launch of a new product, the closing of a facility, a merger or acquisition, for example – impact multiple audiences. And yet, too often, organizations either focus their attention on one audience at the expense of others (ie. investors) or, worse, simply create a “genericised” version of key messages that attempt to speak to all, yet ultimately resonate with none.

Be it laziness or simply a lack of effort to understand the people with whom you’re dealing, it doesn’t matter. There is no forgiveness.  An organization’s story will be viewed differently by different audiences. Motivations are different. Relationships are different. How investors perceive an announcement about a re-structuring or an acquisition will clearly be viewed differently than by employees, communities, governments or others. As such, messages must be viewed from those perspectives also, and delivered accordingly.

Our job as PR professionals is to understand each and every audience that depends upon, or is impacted by the actions of, our clients. To paraphrase Kevin Smith, communications is a subjective experience. “Universal Truths are few and far between,” he writes. How you perceive an organization’s story or message may be completely different from how other perceive it… much like when two people share a common experience such as this… 




Eric Eggertson

That was one of the more disturbing YouTube videos I’ve seen…

Your point about messages is true.  Worse than people who don’t see a need to customize messages to the audience is people who insist on memorizing the messages instead of using words appropriate for the occasion.



Brendan Hodgson

Hi Eric, completely agreed. Overly-scripted sound bites can be as bad as no sound bites at all…

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