What Creates Our Messaging
As businesses, the communication we have with our customers is critical, especially during these times. In fact, now more than ever, we are learning more about businesses from their communication which carries both written and unwritten (or spoken and unspoken) messages. However, our communication is not the only thing which conveys a message to our customers. Our actions and what goes unwritten (or unsaid) also send a clear message to our customers. In fact, these are perhaps the greater means of sending a message to pay attention to. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words and actions speak louder than words.
A prime example of this is Oxygen’s performance on Tuesday’s episode of World of Dance. Their piece, from the music, to the choreography, to the expressions on each of the dancers’ faces, is conveying a powerful message using more than just words. Although their music has words in it, it is their choreography (actions) which sends the clearer message and elicits a powerful response from the judges. You can watch their brief performance and the judges’ reactions to it below.
What we say, how we act, and what we’re not saying all play a part in creating a message which either builds trust in and a powerful connection with our business or creates distain for it. Three (3) keys to consider while crafting messages from our businesses which will help avoid creating customer distain and build trust and a powerful connection are listed below.
- The Intentions Behind Our Words – We previously wrote a series on communicating during times of crisis in which we discussed the power words have. In addition to words having power, the intention behind them also has power. What that means is, as human beings we naturally pick up on if someone is being “fake” or if they are being “real.” I’m sure this is not a foreign experience to you as we’ve all most likely had an interaction with someone that just did not sit well because there was something “off” about them. This was our subconscious red flag radar coming to the surface and urging us to not trust this person. The words and way in which we convey them to our customers as a business is no different. If we are simply saying something to our customers because we believe it is expected of us or it is simply something they want to hear, our intentions don’t match the wording. On the other hand, when we truly want to do right by our customers, our wording will match our intentions and come across much more authentically and less hollow. For example, it can be easy as a business to simply tell your customers that you are “Here for them” right now. However, are you writing or saying that because you think that’s what they want to hear or is it because you truly are here for them? If you are, in what way? Tailoring the words to the intentions we truly have and accurately describing them WILL go much further than stock language and build trust and a powerful connection with our customers. On the other hand, if our intentions don’t match our words, we WILL create a distain for our business born from hollow messaging.
What are the intentions you wish to convey to your customers? Pro tip: Expressly writing out your intentions and the way in which you can fulfill them make it easier to craft the appropriate message which will resonate with your customers.
- Following Through on the Interests of Our Customers – It is often said that actions speak louder than words. There is a lot of truth in this statement, especially when our actions contradict our words. For instance, if we promise to change but never do, or if we say we care about someone but choose to not be there for them when they need it. In these examples, our actions are telling a different story than our words. It is no different in the business world. When we state we have the best interests of our customers at heart but take actions which cause them heartache, pain, or frustration, we are showing them that we actually do not have their best interests at heart. A prime example during these times is the safety of our customers, an issue on all of our minds. One great response I have seen to this concern is the clear explanation of and follow through with the safety measures and policies being put into place for their customers in their physical location. On the flip side, a poor response I have seen to this concern is a disregard for social distancing, use of personal protection equipment, and the guidelines for how many people can be gathered together. Our actions are a crucial part of our messaging as businesses because it actually shows our customers that we care about them and will follow through with what we are saying to them. When we align those actions with the interests of our customers, we WILL create trust and a powerful connection to them; however, when we do not take our customers’ interests into account for our actions, we WILL create distain and a detrimental impact on our business.
What actions can you take which DO show your customers you care about them? Pro tip: Now is a great time to implement feedback, requests, and concerns your customers have had! With the deeply rooted basic human needs that have been threatened, i.e., our health, we, more so now than ever, run the risk of permanently losing customers who WILL bad mouth our business if we show them we do not care about them.
- Addressing the Lingering Questions – We currently live in a world with a lot of uncertainty looming over our heads. As a result, we naturally look for answers, asking questions like: “When will we…,” “How will we…,” and “What options do I have?” In the absence of an answer, our brains tend to wonder, make assumptions, and fuel anger from not having a clear answer. As businesses, it is important to take note of what we are not saying AND what message that sends to our customers. For, what we do not address can greatly impact the way we are perceived and send a message to our customers which either builds distain or creates trust. A prime example of this can be seen in the way various endurance event businesses have communicated with their customers during these times. This example is not meant to call companies out and will not use names, instead, it is meant to illustrate the two types of customer responses we are discussing. One endurance event company has had little to no communication with their customers other than notices such as a standard legal disclaimer (e.g., “We are continuing to assess the situation”) and race cancellations. On the other hand, a different endurance event company has sent a survey to their customers for their input on, but not limited to, how safe they feel competing, how their finances have been impacted, when they would consider returning to racing, what safety measures they want in place, and what option they would like to see should the current race date be cancelled. Which of these two approaches builds trust for you, and which leaves you hanging? When we fail to address the questions on the minds of our customers, we WILL create distain and a detrimental impact on our business; however, when we truly care for our customers and take the time to write (or speak to) the questions on the forefront of their minds, we WILL build trust in and a powerful connection to our business.
What is on the forefront of your customers minds that is not currently being answered for them? Pro tip: When in doubt, ask! Asking our customers directly is a sure-fire way of truly understanding what they need and how we can serve them.
The Impact of Our Messages
When we sit down to write a speech, a post, a book, or even think about what we want to say to someone, we typically focus on just that – what we want to say. However, there is another aspect to consider. What impact will this have on those I am conveying it to? This simple yet powerful question can help us truly hone our message to ensure it resonates with the audience we are trying to reach.
Kristy Lenuzza, of Sow to Speak, first introduced me to what’s known as the HAT Trick. This mnemonic is what I want to share with you today. Using it while we write or prepare what we are going to say will help us hone our message to hit home the way we want it to! The three (3) components of the HAT Trick are listed below.
- H: How Do I Want Them to Feel? – Words are polarizing, empowering, and elicit strong emotional reactions within us. Simply put, our messages trigger feelings within others. When we focus solely on what it is we want to say, we can overlook what impact and emotional responses may come from our wording. It can result in “missing the mark,” “turning off a customer,” or come across in a way that was unintended. On the other hand, when we know what feelings we want to elicit and how those connect with our audience, we can write/speak to them, creating the kind of reaction we wish to have from our message. Writing to elicit specific emotional responses within our audience (ones they relate to) will create a stronger bond between us and them. Honing in on feelings we want someone to have while reading our message or listening to it WILL help us create the impact we want our message to have.
How do you want your audience to feel when you write/speak to them? Pro tip: Writing out the feelings you wish to elicit ahead of time is a great help in actually writing/speaking to them.
- A: What Actions Do I Want Them to Take? – From joining our mailing list to enrolling in a program we offer, the messages we write/speak to our audience can be geared towards having them take an action. For instance, have you ever walked away from listening to someone on the radio, a tv interview, or a speaker and felt compelled to take an action? It could have been to buy something, join a club, start exercising and eating heating, or start advocating for change. Regardless of what it was, the message compelled us to do something. Messages can be a powerful tool for creating movements, bringing about change, and building resonance and loyalty with your audience. Knowing the actions we want someone to take from reading our message or listening to it WILL help us create the impact we want our message to have.
What actions do you want your audience to take when you write/speak to them? Pro tip: Writing out the actions you want your audience to take ahead of time is a great help in actually writing/speaking to them.
- T: How Do I Want Them to Think? – Our thoughts play a significant role in forming our beliefs and ultimately the behavior we engage in. One of the first steps in exploring how to create new habits, bring about change, and build confidence is to dive into the way we think. Our messages to others are a great opportunity to spur this exploration and have our audience think about something differently or consider a new perspective. They can also bring an awareness which perhaps was unknown by our audience to create specific reactions designed to spur those thoughts, i.e., “I had no idea that was happening, I want to do something about it” or “I didn’t know they felt that way, I need to change the way I talk to them.” Building our messages around specific thoughts we want our audience to have can move mountains! Understanding the thoughts we want someone to have while reading our message or listening to it WILL help us create the impact we want our message to have.
What do you want your audience to ponder or think about differently? Pro tip: Writing out the thoughts or considerations you want your audience to have ahead of time is a great help in actually writing/speaking to them.
Structuring Our Messages
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end woven together to create a cohesive and engaging experience for an audience. Our messages are no different. A well-crafted message can draw people in, speak to them directly, and ignite a spark within them to feel a certain way, take action, and/or think about something differently. The structure we use to craft our messages plays an important role in how we do this and how well they are received by our audience. Three (3) keys to structuring our messages which will create resonance with our audiences are listed below.
- Tone – Our tone while speaking and writing plays an important role in conveying our messages and how they are interrupted by others. When speaking, this happens through our words, voice, and body language. However, when we write, this happens solely through our words and requires extra planning. As such, the tone of our words is a critical component of how our messages are received. When crafting our words, thinking about what tone, e.g., connotation, they convey can greatly help. For instance, are they talking at someone using “you,” or are they talking with someone using “we?” Do they come across as directive or collaborative? These questions are simple yet powerful! Reviewing what we write, or what we are going to say, though these lenses can help us craft a message which IS well received and resonates with our audience through a collective sense of collaboration and cooperation. Being mindful of our tone WILL help us truly hit home with our audience.
What tone do you currently use within your messaging? Pro tip: Carefully rereading what we write or reviewing what we want to say multiple times will help us catch any tonality we want to change or need to shift.
- Imagery – Whether we are including an image in our social media posts, emails, or blogs, the imagery we use in our messages plays a significant role. In fact, an image is often the way in which we are drawn in. For example, how often are you drawn into a movie, tv show, or book based upon the cover art? We, as human beings, are very visual creatures. The right image can go a long way in our messages to add weight, power, solidarity, and even let our audience know they are not alone! Notably, the image we choose should align with the overall intention behind our message and what we want to convey to our audience. In addition, the colors, the setting, and the people, places, and things depicted within the image all come into play too. Considering all of these factors when choosing an image for our message WILL ensure we align it to what we want to convey AND create greater resonance with our audience.
What image do you feel represents the message you want to convey? Pro tip: Starting with the images, themes, and elements which naturally form in your mind while crafting your message is a great place to start for choosing an actual image for your message.
- Cohesiveness – Just like stories, messages have different parts to them. When they all fit together, the message feels cohesive; however, when they do not fit together, the message can feel like it is all over the place. Taking a moment up front to consider the storied structure, e.g., beginning, middle, and end, as well as the physical look of our messages, from its image to its readability, will greatly benefit the cohesiveness of our messages. In essence, what is the overall theme of our message and how are we drawing our audience in, continuing to keep their attention, and concluding our message in a way that brings it all together? Simply put, are we cohesively telling a single constant story throughout our message? Asking ourselves these questions and including these elements WILL create greater resonance with our audience and make it easier for our message to be heard AND understood.
How are your messages structured currently? Do they feel cohesive or all over the place? Pro tip: Starting from what messages you truly resonate with and how they are structured cohesively provides great insight into where to start for your own messages. In addition, crafting your messages in a way which your audience wants to receive them can boost the receptivity of your message even more, i.e., being short and concise due to being overwhelmed with content.