The Enemy of a Message

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on May 10, 2010

How many times have you heard a great television commercial, but then later on, you can’t remember what it was really about?  How often have you read a press release twice because it wasn’t obvious what the point was?  How many times do you have to sit through a 50 slide presentation to hear the conclusion and then you still can’t figure out what the conclusion really was?

Unfortunately, great messages are an endangered species.  Not because of media clutter.  Rather due to benign neglect.  Many of us just don’t seem to understand what it takes to create a successful message.

Today, a great message is lucky to have enough time and space to tell its story.  When it is done well, a great message, like a great brand is compelling, clear and it makes you want to take action. Its impact may not last as long as a great brand, but it is just as powerful in its prime.

The enemies of a message are well known, but just as well hidden.  In fact, a great message often has so many people out to destroy it that it has little chance for success.

Committees are message killers.  They like to surround the message with 5-6 other messages so everyone is happy and the team can reach consensus.  Guess what…consensus only feels good in the conference room, not in the marketplace.  Customers like clarity.

Individual communicators and marketers often know which message makes the difference, but they aren’t sure they can prove it…and with a lack of hard proof, our courage evaporates and the message becomes diluted. And yet all we have to do is look online and our customers are telling us exactly what they care about….reality-based quantitative proof is ready to be used.

Many of us are smart and we like to show that our education was worthwhile after all, so we write in language that would probably impress our parents (especially if they paid for our education), but consumers could care less and they tune out.  We’re not using the online language of our customers, which is available via search analytics.  Our customer’s words should be our words too.

And, perhaps the biggest enemy of all is a combination of boredom and old school measurement.  Once we launch a campaign, we often do one of two things wrong.  We tire of our message and change it, based on availability of the next creative idea, rather than market-based research.  That happens occasionally.  More important is our measurement technique.  Brands often measure traffic to their website and then evaluate the message impact, but the thinking stops here and that is the problem.  What you really want to measure are how search habits are changing, how sharing of content is increasing or decreasing of your content, if recommendations are occurring and how people are signing up to build a relationship with you long-term.   Or you may find complete silence related to your campaign and this is equally revealing.

The good news is that you can see if your message is working quickly in the online world.  The question is then about your agility.  Can you adjust your campaign if it is not working or can you increase your spend if it is right on target?

It’s more important today than it has ever been to be clear, focused and to create a single message that penetrates the clutter.  And to know when it is happening.

A great message utilizes the language of your customer and helps educate and answer what they care about.  Great Communicators and Marketers are also realizing one other thing.  As our online world gets more complex,  our messages should become more simple.

Is my message clear?

All the best, Bob Pearson

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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  1. Tweets that mention The Enemy of a Message | Common Sense -- linked to this post on May 10, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Corey duBrowa and Bob Pearson, Lisa Pearson. Lisa Pearson said: RT @bobpearson1845: My latest blog post: The Enemy of a Message […]

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