So, you need to draft a message. Sounds simple, right? After all… it’s just a piece of content. It could be an email, or a blog post, or a presentation. So why is it often so hard?
Because a message isn’t just a message.
No, really: a message isn’t just a message. Yes, there are the words that create the message itself, the one you say and they hear. That’s the surface part of the message.
But then there’s what’s behind all those words that dictate what those words need to be.
So what are those things? These three:
Let’s look at each in turn, though you can start in any order. First, Outcome. This is what you want to have happen, both for you and for your audience.
- DO THIS: Write down the action you want the audience to take (like “buy,” “hire,” “accept a meeting,” “support,” etc.) and what result you want that action to produce for them (like, “increased revenue,” “reduced costs,” “less stress,” etc.).
Second, Audience. This is the person, group of people, or type of audience whose action you want or need.
- DO THIS: Write down whom your message is for, and keep it simple, (e.g., “the CEO,” “the sales team,” “meeting professionals.:
Third, Idea. This is your “formulated thought or opinion” on how or why your audience should act to achieve the Outcome.
- DO THIS: Write down your idea. Bonus points if you can write it in 140 characters or less. (e.g., “The best way to drive change is to build your audience’s case for it — the story they would tell themselves about why it’s the right idea.”)
…and somehow that’s just as hard as writing your message. GAH. Why?!
Because, as Agatha Christie so brilliantly wrote, “Words are only the outer clothing of ideas.” Worse? Your idea is invisible.
You can’t see an idea. Or rather, maybe you can, if it’s yours, but other people can’t see what’s in your head. You have to rely on words to give shape to your idea, even to yourself. Even if you can draw your idea, or turn it into a model that helps explain it (as my friend Neen James does so brilliantly), or even produce a physical product from it, you first have to find the words that help you do that.
And words are an incredibly poor proxy for the big, beautiful ideas in your head. We can get close, though, and that’s where your message comes in.
Your message is the clothes you put on your “invisible person” of an idea. They’re the words you need to say to your Audience about your Idea to get the Outcome you want, both for you and for them. Your message is the Red Thread® that connects your Audience’s question (the Outcome they want) to your answer (your Idea)
This leads me to some good news, and some bad news. I’ll start with the bad (since that’s what people prefer to hear first… #Swipefile!): You may have one idea, but you can’t ever have just one message about it. Every time you need your idea to produce a different outcome, it needs to “wear” a different message (just like you need a different outfit depending on whether you want to get a good workout in get a good night out with your squad). Every time your audience changes, or even when the same audience moves closer to acting on your idea, they need a different version of your message — one they can recognize as the answer to the question they have.
So, yeah, sorry startups… and sales teams… and brand managers… there can’t ever be “one deck to rule them all.”
But now for the good news: when you start to build your message from your Outcome and Audience, you’ll always find the right version of your Idea to put in your Message. It’s how you tailor your idea to your audience to produce the outcome you want.
And how do you do that? You use a, or rather the, Red Thread®.
- DO THIS: Take a first pass at your tailored message (and its Red Thread®) with the Conversational Case™.
- When I/we speak/work with… [Audience whom you want to act on your idea]
- They often want to know… [common question your idea, product, or service answers — the GOAL]
- So they can… [Outcome to achieve]
- When looking for that answer, they/the usual answers often focus on… [current perspective or approach — PROBLEM, Part 1]
- More than on… [new perspective or approach — PROBLEM, Part 2]
- Yet I/we believe… [key finding, value, belief, or discovery — TRUTH]
- That’s why my/our answer is to… [your recommended solution or approach — CHANGE]
- OPTIONAL: Which not only answers their question (and achieves their goal), it also… [additional key benefit(s) or “free prize”]
- OPTIONAL: Here’s how to/we do that:… [process or criteria needed to fulfill solution and/or different areas (verticals, departments, etc.) where you work — ACTIONS]
- OPTIONAL: So, would you be open(-minded) to… [first action you want the audience to take, your ask]
Once you have all that, not only do you have a version of your message strong enough to build longer content on (or your business), you have everything you need to capture your Idea in one, 140-character sentence people will want to hear more about.
- DO THIS: Write a one-sentence version of your message that combines what your Audience wants (Outcome or GOAL) with something they didn’t expect (PROBLEM, TRUTH, OR CHANGE).
- From my earlier example: “The best way to drive change [Outcome] is to build your audience’s case for it [CHANGE] — the story they would tell themselves [TRUTH] about why it’s the right idea.”)
Drafting strong, great messages is simple… but not easy. And now you know why: The Message is the tailored version of your irresistible — but invisible — Idea. Your message is simply that “outer clothing,” the words, that turn your Idea into something your Audience can recognize, understand, agree, and act on to achieve their Outcome… and yours.The Message is the tailored version of your irresistible — but invisible — Idea. Click To Tweet
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