Developing Key Messages
Transform statistics into key messages and stories and use these in all your communication materials
Use statistics to develop a list of key messages and stories that can be used depending on the target
audience. The messages and stories should support the successes, set out the next steps in your
association’s programs and should be a call to action (or at least, an invitation to act or participate).
If possible use case studies to illustrate the point of your message.
Types of messages and stories that are generally effective
- The problem: Stating the extent and effects of the problem or issue
- Success stories: Showing what can be done
- Human interest stories: Documenting the impact of the problem or issue on the individual to put a face on the issue
Pitfalls in Communication
- Badly expressed messages: Vagueness or murkiness is a common weakness that leads to costly errors and corrections, and the need for otherwise unnecessary clarification. These include: poorly chosen words or phrases; careless omissions; lack of coherence or logical consistency; bad organisation of ideas; awkward sentence structure; inadequate vocabulary; platitudes or use of common clichés; numbing repetition; jargon or use of special terms identified with a certain group or activity; and failure to clarify implication.
- Faulty translations: This refers to failure to put the message into an appropriate framework in which the receiver operates or is understandable to the receiver.
- Loss of transmission and poor reaction: There is a thirty percent loss in each transmission from one level to another. Even written communication accompanied by interpretations is subject to some loss of meaning during transmission.
- Inattention: A common barrier to communication is the failure to read bulletins, notices, minutes and reports. Also, the failure to listen leads to disagreements over otherwise straight-forward material.
- Unclarified assumptions: These are assumptions that underlie messages that are not communicated. This is usually what it means when both parties "get at cross purposes" in communicating. The speaker or writer knows clearly what s/he means but does not say or write it because "it's too obvious". The listener or reader makes her/his own assumptions from what is communicated. Unless these unstated assumptions are both the same, there may be a misunderstanding. If one is presented with a statement where the assumptions seem wrong, then s/he should say, "I don't agree with your assumptions.”
- Insufficient adjustment period: Communications sometimes announce changes with insufficient lead time, adversely affecting participants who aren't given enough time to absorb the message before the changes are implemented.
- Distrust of communicator: This refers to a communicator's lack of credibility.
- Premature evaluation: This means early judgment of the message even when the message has not been fully communicated.
- Fear: This refers to insecurity of the participants during the communication process. They may be afraid of saying the wrong things or having nothing worthwhile to say, or they may be afraid of offending the other party. This leads to suppressing portions of the communication perceived as threatening or distasteful. Often people distort by seeing or hearing only what they want to see or hear (selective perception).
- Failure to communicate: This refers to not sending the message or not communicating anything at all to the other party.