The current global health crisis provides yet another opportunity to see the power of clear, consistent communications. On 10th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the UK regarding the first, tentative steps in loosening the lockdown the country has been in since 23rd March. Afterwards his address was widely criticised for not being clear enough in describing how people should behave. Comic actor Matt Lucas’ tweet lampooning the PM has already been shared by hundreds of thousands of people.
— realmattlucas (@RealMattLucas) May 10, 2020
The right messenger…and the right message
The PM’s somewhat ‘unique’ style is more suited to a fiery House of Commons or a debating society than a TV address. This combined with the fact this health crisis is also a political event, means he was probably setting himself up for this kind of criticism by disseminating the message this way. But the message itself is also important. It replaced something that seemed completely clear:
- Stay at home
- Protect the NHS
- Save lives
With something far more ambiguous:
- Stay alert
- Control the virus
- Saves lives
This immediately raises questions as to what we should stay alert to and why; it is not surprising then that both the message and the messenger received so much criticism.
The importance of messaging
Messaging has a special place in the heart of our consultancy. We will not start working with a client until that client has signed off on a messaging document that articulates what they wish to say, to whom and with what consequence. It is a rule we never break. We also use messaging to measure our campaigns. If our message is getting through you will see it in the media coverage we achieve. This is a smarter way to measure activity than on media coverage alone because media attention with the right message is far more powerful than just media attention for no purpose. Additionally, we carry out messaging workshops and create messaging documents for companies of all sizes as a one off piece of work. To make sure your messages can cut-through the noise and resonate in the media, and with your target audience, they need to be woven into the wider narrative. We use messages to tell stories – and if someone remembers the story, they will remember the message.
The master of the message
There is a quote that encapsulates this perfectly for me. It is from Steve Jobs: “It is an increasingly noisy world and we are not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So, we need to be clear on what it is we want them to remember about us.” Apple regularly tops the charts for most media exposure, which makes the quote even more powerful.
It is a lesson for every company: know what you want to say, keep it simple, keep it relatable and repeat, repeat, repeat.
If your company does not have a messaging document or you need help refreshing your messages, get in touch. We’ve helped hundreds of companies articulate their messages more clearly. We can help you too.