Blog — The Snow Report

Conventional wisdom suggests that getting one’s message out is easier than ever. Anyone can create a Twitter account, for example. But sending a message and actually getting through to the target audience are two different things. When it comes to effective message distribution, companies face several hurdles— including lack of interest, distrust of subjective information sources, competition from other messages, and numerous distractions (Internet browsing, smart phone games, text messaging, etc.). The compacting of message length is a profound issue for practitioners of PR and their clients. A study by Erik Bucy and Maria Elizabeth Grabe, published by the Journal of Communication, showed that the average sound bite for a presidential candidate on the nightly network news is about 7.8 seconds.

If you’re a corporate spokesperson trying to explain a nuanced rationale for a company action that’s under fire, your time slot isn’t much bigger. Moreover, we live in a world where the most common type of message – the text message – is 160 characters. (For why this is so, see here). And while a corporate message isn’t likely to be sent primarily via SMS, the point is that attention spans are getting shorter, not longer, and messagers need to act accordingly. By the way, Twitter also uses the 160 character format, but automatically reserves 20 for the messenger address, so one is left with 140 characters for this potent form of social media.

I realize I’ve already exceeded my allotted 160 characters, but I hope I’m making the case that message quality has never been more critical. So, let’s consider what goes into a good message:

Your message should speak to your audience. It needs to address the issues or values they care about. Too many messages are “inside-out” – they communicate the worldview of the organization looking out at the world instead of reflecting the audience’s perspective. When BP’s former chief executive said, in light of a catastrophic oil spill, that he’d like to get his life back, it made sense from his point of view, but obviously not to the audience he was hoping to address.

Your message should offer a distinct solution or perspective. Too many messages emphasize points that are not special. The law firm that knows business. The printing company that cares about quality. The auto dealer that offers the best deal. These points are really a requirement of doing business. They’re the ticket to the dance, so to speak. Snow Communications developed a campaign for Hormel Foods Specialty Products Division to speak to the many corporate customers that sell Hormel’s food products under their own private labels. Our message, “Brand Spoken Here” speaks to Hormel’s customers’ needs and offers a capability that Hormel can uniquely offer in this space.

Your message should be simple and clear. “Death tax” is a powerful way to characterize an estate tax that primarily taxes people with substantial assets. “Vouchercare” is an equally effective way to characterize the Republican approach to limiting future Medicare costs. Subway’s “Eat Fresh” redefined the fast food market along lines that heavily favor Subway.

In summary, keep your messages short, clear and considerate of the audience’s perspective if you want to make an impact.

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