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Message Development: The Secrets of Creating a Sticky Message


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This popular presentation reviews the fundamentals to developing a message that sticks. We advocate use of the message box and provide plenty of real-world examples so you can see how it works.

Published in: Technology, News & Politics
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Message Development: The Secrets of Creating a Sticky Message

  1. 1. Message Development: The Secrets of Crafting a Sticky Message Kathy McShea 2008
  2. 2. About Us <ul><li>Experience: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chief spokesperson US Senator Carl Levin </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media Director, DC Office, Consumers Union </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer Information Director, Dept of Energy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Clients: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>US Air Force </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>US House of Representatives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World Bank & IFC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FCC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Congressional Management Foundation... and others </li></ul></ul>Emerald Strategies Inc., founded in 2001, is a woman-owned Web management consulting firm that delivers high-impact communications... Our Focus : We make public sector organizations stronger
  3. 5. DOE Message? <ul><li>THEM: This agency is </li></ul><ul><ul><li>not working </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not relevant and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>should be shut down </li></ul></ul><ul><li>US: Put Energy dot gov to work for you! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subtext: DOE IS working, IS relevant and matters to your life ~ Energy is all around us </li></ul></ul>
  4. 8. USAF Message? <ul><li>THEM: I want to control my content and applications on my own site. Information is hard to find. It’s difficult to connect to people. Information is inaccessible when I’m away or after-hours. </li></ul><ul><li>US: Get on the Same Page at the Air Force Portal. Everyone – over 700,000 users. Everywhere – at work, at home, deployed. Everyday - 24/7/365. </li></ul>
  5. 9. Does Navigation Inform Message?
  6. 10. Topic & Audience Navigation These are not clustered; no parallel construction Top nav is org-centric Augment with a new approach?
  7. 11. What is Message? A brief, value-based statement aimed at a targeted audience that captures a positive concept.
  8. 12. What Message is NOT <ul><li>Process or Instructions IS NOT a message </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t need a “quote” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Messages are concepts, broad and general </li></ul></ul><ul><li>An Issue IS NOT a message </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t confuse message with issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Issues can back up messages </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A Fact or Alleged Fact IS NOT a message </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look for one-to-one relationships with opponent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Its not schools it is learning ; its not crime it is safety </li></ul></ul>
  9. 13. Say it Well Be Strategic <ul><li>BE CLEAR: What’s the point? </li></ul><ul><li>BE CONCISE: Less is more… </li></ul><ul><li>CONTRAST: Position with a (+) and (-) pair </li></ul><ul><li>RESEARCH: Chose your words with care </li></ul><ul><li>VALUES: These words make it sticky </li></ul><ul><li>PERSUADE: Close the sale: be action-oriented </li></ul>Requirements for a Solid Message
  10. 14. <ul><li>The Product Era (1950’s) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Build a better mousetrap </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Me too” products create confusion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Image Era (1960’s-70’s) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Branding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knockoffs cloud the picture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Today: It’s All About Positioning (1980’s on) </li></ul>The Battleground for Your Mind
  11. 15. 30,000 books/year = 7 yrs, reading 24hrs/day 10M tons of newsprint/year = 94 lbs each! Sunday NYT = 4.5 lbs, 500K words, 28 hours to read ! Average Supermarket ? 12,000 items! A Traffic Jam on the Mind
  12. 16. Being Over-communicated Means… <ul><li>The mind accepts only what matches prior knowledge or experience </li></ul><ul><li>Once a mind is made up, its almost impossible to change it </li></ul><ul><li>The average person won’t tolerate being told they are wrong </li></ul><ul><li>Sensory overload: beyond a certain point, the brain goes blank and refuses to function </li></ul>
  13. 17. The rules of positioning <ul><li>Use comparatives not superlatives >> Avis, we try harder >> 7-up: the un-cola </li></ul><ul><li>Seek holes in the marketplace – what’s NOT there – use opposites ... </li></ul><ul><li>Get on the same wavelength as the prospect; ignore the sending, concentrate on receiving </li></ul><ul><li>Re-tie connections: don’t create something new, use what’s already there </li></ul>
  14. 18. When Positioning : VALUES Stick <ul><li>MOST AMERICANS SHARE THE SAME PRIMARY VALUES </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsibility for one’s family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Caring for oneself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal liberty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hard work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spirituality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Honesty and integrity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fairness and equality </li></ul></ul><ul><li>… AND A SECONDARY SET OF VALUES </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsibility to care for others; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>personal fulfillment; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>respect for authority; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>love of country or culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>SOURCE: BELDEN, RUSSONELLO & STEWART </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 19. Build Your “Message Box” What our opponent says about themselves ( positive : THEM on THEM ) What our opponent says about us ( negative : THEM on US ) T H E M What we say about our opponents ( negative : US on THEM ) What we say about ourselves ( positive : US on US ) U S T H E M U S
  16. 20. Example... <ul><li>We have given young people a reason to believe, and brought folks back to the polls who want to believe again ... </li></ul><ul><li>We know that the status quo in Washington just won't do. Not this time. Not this year. We can't keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expect a different result </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- Sen. Barack Obama (Feb 12, 2008) Potomac Primary Night, Madison, Wisconsin </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 21. <ul><li>The point we’re making overall is that Senator Obama’s record as a senator and as a public official is thin ...If you’re asking an electorate to judge you on your promises and you break them, and on your rhetoric and you lift it, there are fundamental problems with your campaign. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Howard Wolfson, Clinton advisor </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Washington Post, Feb 19, 2008 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>Example...
  18. 22. 2008 Primary Messages <ul><li>HILLARY on HILLARY </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions/action </li></ul><ul><li>Battle-ready/fighter </li></ul><ul><li>Ready day 1/vetted </li></ul><ul><li>OBAMA on HILLARY </li></ul><ul><li>Cynics </li></ul><ul><li>Same DC game/past </li></ul><ul><li>Polarizes/scandals </li></ul><ul><li>HILLARY on OBAMA </li></ul><ul><li>Promises/rhetoric </li></ul><ul><li>Naive/head in clouds </li></ul><ul><li>Untrustworthy </li></ul><ul><li>OBAMA on OBAMA </li></ul><ul><li>Yes we can/hope </li></ul><ul><li>Time for change/future </li></ul><ul><li>Unites/no baggage </li></ul>
  19. 23. To Stay on Message <ul><li>Talk in contrasting pairs and it is more likely to break through to the listener </li></ul><ul><li>Use value-words as your preferred vocabulary, emotions sticks </li></ul><ul><li>Use facts to back up your primary value oriented message but don’t lead with facts </li></ul><ul><li>Use message box as dance-card to get back on message and steer back to your positive box! Respond to critics, punch to reframe on your terms, and go with a positive message. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t forget the Call to Action </li></ul>
  20. 24. How do you stay offensive? <ul><li>Remember: </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a conversation, with two points of view </li></ul><ul><li>Respond (play defense, answer charges) </li></ul><ul><li>Punch (attack weakness of opponent) </li></ul><ul><li>Pivot (move conversation to your box) </li></ul><ul><li>NOTE: </li></ul><ul><li>Start with VALUES and move to FACTS.... </li></ul>
  21. 25. 4 Easy Steps <ul><li>Pick topic text – analyze primary research </li></ul><ul><li>“ Pick up sticks”: find all the good words </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deconstruct the language of your text top to bottom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Choose only value-laden words with punch and impact </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assign a positive or negative to each word </li></ul><ul><li>Put ‘em in the right box </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be selective; no more than 5 points per box, 3 is better </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Think contrasting pairs and opposites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phrases and short-hand are better than sentences </li></ul></ul>
  22. 26. Control the Conversation IGNORE >> COUNTER-ATTACK ( positive : THEM on THEM ) >> DEFEND ( negative : THEM on US ) T H E M >> ATTACK ( negative : US on THEM ) >> SELL ( positive : US on US ) U S T H E M U S
  23. 27. Control the Conversation <ul><li>POSITIVE BOX </li></ul><ul><li>Listen and validate </li></ul><ul><li>Share values… theirs and yours! </li></ul><ul><li>Talk about your record </li></ul><ul><li>NEGATIVE BOX </li></ul><ul><li>Punch and pivot; always bridge back to your message </li></ul><ul><li>Attack credibility of opponent </li></ul><ul><li>Change </li></ul><ul><li>the subject </li></ul>
  24. 28. Frame the Debate… <ul><li>Step One : Segment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be aware of who you interact with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Customer research: who can say no? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step Two : Target </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Define your markets, our publics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get results by concentrating, not splintering </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step Three : Position </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we stand out? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop policies, practices, programs to satisfy targets </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Last Step : Advertise, Sell, Communicate </li></ul>
  25. 29. Making Connections <ul><li>“ Comparative learning, making connections between one piece of information and another, is a concept from which I derive my first law: You only learn something relative to something you understand .” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>~ Richard Saul Wurman </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Author </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Information Anxiety2 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 30. Questions?
  27. 31. Contact Us <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Kathy McShea Owner & Founder Emerald Strategies, Inc. 202.543.2112 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Web Management & Marketing ~ http:// </li></ul><ul><li>Media Training ~ http:// </li></ul><ul><li>Join my professional network ~ http:// </li></ul>