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Tell your story. Then tell it again.

May 22, 2011

Consistency of message. Most of us have this mastered by the time we turn three years old. In fact, our abilities generally peak in our childhood, when we realise that asking for something over and over and over may, in fact, mean we get it.

The Simpsons’ Mt Splashmore episode captures it perfectly.

A similar level of repetition is needed in business communication. That’s because your audience won’t see every media clip, read every discussion paper or watch every corporate video. (Quite frankly, they’d be a little weird if they did).

So you need to define what you want to say, ensure it aligns with your business objectives, and then say it a lot of times in a lot of different ways.

For example, one of my clients is on the acquisition trail: planning to  grow by merging with smaller organisations. That’s not unusual for its industry, which is in a consolidation phase.

However, my client has firm views on its approach to the process. It’s looking for collaboration – not to simply swallow up a rival. It wants a merger that makes sense culturally as well as financially.

Moreover, it wants to get this message out to potential targets.

So we’ve developed a ‘story’ around this issue. We include it in all of the industry positioning we undertake. Last week, we had a satisfying moment where we made an announcement about the latest merger, at the same time that an opinion piece (written much earlier) appeared in print, discussing the CEO’s view on mergers.

While they appeared in a range of outlets, they all told the same story, with the same messages. (The CEO was chuffed, by the way).

So, here are some hints for achieving a consistency of message in your communication:

  • Don’t be afraid of repetition. Your audience is a bit like my husband when he’s watching TV: I have to say his name about eight times before he listens.
  • Define the story at the outset. The story must be linked to your objectives – which means, of course, that you need to define your objectives too. “Increase sales” is too vague; “build awareness among potential merger partners” is more definite.
  • Use a range of channels to tell your story. Don’t just stick it in media releases – it needs to be an underlying message in speeches, articles, videos and face-to-face discussions.
  • Use examples to bring the story to life. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to understand what you’re saying. Examples and/or case studies are essential.
Of course, the more interesting the message, the more likely people will listen. Say, for example, it involves a giant waterslide like Mt Splashmore’s  H2WHOA.
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2 Comments
  1. And then you get married, and one party refines and achieves mastery over the repetition strategy. But usually only one party, it seems.

  2. Heath and I actually discussed whether nagging was a good example of consistent messaging, but he said it wasn’t. That’s because, apparently, I change topics too much, and have a broad range of nags. A point which I deny. Of course.

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