Creating Meaningful Messages
Meaningful Messages are Memorable Messages
We’re big fans of “Marketplace” on NPR. One reason we like the show so much is because its host, Kai Ryssdal, is an incredibly natural and entertaining communicator. In the middle of each program, Kai takes a moment to quickly rattle off a bunch of numbers about what’s been happening in the stock market. He provides these numbers with cute analogies, but without much commentary. We wonder how many of his listeners understand the meaning of these numbers, or care about them.
As the poet and author Maya Anglelou once said,
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In other words, if what you say doesn’t create an emotional response, people are less likely to remember the message. Every bit of information you put out is a form of communication. The better it relates to or tells a story, the more meaningful and memorable it will be.
This is not to knock Mr. Ryssdal. He has created a phenomenal show. In fact, his interviews and other commentary are always meaningful and memorable. That’s what makes his recitation of the stock figures stand out as ironically the least effective part of a show called “Marketplace”.
It got us thinking about the way organizations put out pro forma communications, assuming all audiences that they will understand them. Often, they make no effort to ensure meaning and understanding with their brand messaging. In our experience, people will not be enthusiastic about something they don’t understand.
One of our clients, Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV), is in the timeshare business. It is a complicated business with many facts and figures about fractional ownership that can make your head spin. It was so complicated, in fact, that the other Hilton businesses couldn’t understand it, and therefore assigned very low value to it. In reality, however, HGV was the highest contributor of profits to Hilton Worldwide.
We helped them explain why Hilton Grand Vacations was so successful. We didn’t use facts and figures, we told a customer loyalty story to create a meaningful message. Membership with HGV is the customers’ commitment to Hilton overall. HGV became Hilton’s “commitment engine”, a much more memorable and easy to understand story.
Meaningful Communications are an Opportunity to Connect
At Marshall, we believe that everything you say and do as an organization contributes to your identity. It can either reinforce, or obscure, your brand promise. Even perfunctory communications are an opportunity to create meaningful messages, connect to your audience, and strengthen your emotional relationship with them. That’s how you build a strong brand.
We recommend every communication should be made meaningful by the following:
- Be relevant to your intended audience. It should affect them in some way.
- Have empathy for your audience, who is probably already overwhelmed by non-relevant communications.
- Be clear, succinct, timely, and beneficial.
- Avoid jargon, specialized words that only a few people understand.
- Entertain them. Your message should be enjoyable, actionable, or transformative, and worth remembering.
Whether you are putting out facts and figures for an internal audience or appealing to your customers, remember that your communications will always be more effective if they have meaningful messages. Engage your audience on the emotional level, and they will be more likely to remember what you’ve said.