How to master your message.
We‘re talking about impact, unpacking what that means and how to put together a strategic communications strategy around your message to make your project a huge success. So how do you master your message? What are the elements you need to think about before you get started?
If you’re about to embark on a new project you might be unsure how to get it in front of the right audience? Or you might be concerned that you’ll do all this work crafting a beautiful and moving story, but then no one will see it? Or perhaps you just don’t really know where to start but you know that your message is really important. So, how do you weave that message into your project to make sure it’s heard and understood?
These are all very real concerns for anyone at the starting blocks. Mike Hill and I have worked through all these problems when launching into new impact film projects. But, most importantly, after crafting impactful messages for over a decade we’ve learned a lot about what works. As a result, we know what you need to know, right from the start to put you on the path to success. We’re motivated to share this knowledge with you because it comes down to the old adage.
‘If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it- did it make a sound?’
And, we know there’s a lot of work that goes into film-making. So set yourself up to get the results you need from the start and don’t let your message be that silent falling tree.
This article is part of the Moonshine Moonshot series where Mike and I discuss the seemingly impossible and how how to make it possible. You might also be interested in our episode Who Is The Messenger?
If you don’t feel like reading, you can watch this episode below or listen to the podcast. You’ll gain some super useful insight into how to craft a really effective communications strategy. Join Mike and I to discuss how to take your big idea and get to the end goal?
There are a number of steps in the communications strategy.
Working out who your audience is for a start. You can easily fall into the trap of saying ‘a broad general audience’. But this won’t really help you clarify your message. You need to think about where they live, what do they care about? How old are they and what sort of education do they have? Are they male or female? In marketing terms, the ideal audience is often referred to as an avatar. You might get so granular that you’re defining one single person. How deep you go really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. To clarify, if you get to a clear sense of the demographic you’re targeting, it means you can think about what they are most concerned about. Or rather, what is their world view?
So, why is their world view important? Well, if you want people to take an action after connecting with your work, you’ll need to trigger an emotion in them. In order to do that you need to know what they care about. There’s no point asking someone to join your movement if it’s not something they care about. They need to care at least a little bit.
So, unless you’re extremely good at persuasion, it’s more helpful to meet people with an interest in your message and then encourage them to become more engaged. Otherwise, you might find yourself shouting into a void. Remember the silent tree falling analogy?
Get everyone on the same page.
How do you get everyone in your team on the same page to achieve your goal? This is super important. You and anyone working on the project with you must be super clear on what you are trying to achieve and what the steps are to get the results you need. I know this sounds bleedingly obvious but you would be surprised how many people assume you’re all heading in the same direction, only to discover you are on a totally different path. Or you get busy moving along the project timeline and lose sight of where you’re trying to get to. In short, having a clear plan from the start can become your guiding light. And when you get lost in the weeds you can refer back to it and reset. In other words, it will keep you and your team on the same page.
Where’s your audience?
Where does your audience hang out? How are you going to find your people? Are they on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn? Perhaps they are really active in Facebook groups? Or maybe they go to the cinema or perhaps they’re more likely to be fans of Video on Demand. What magazines or publications do they read? These are really important things to figure out so that you know where to go to connect with them. Sometimes you need to try a few platforms to figure out which ones they are most active on. But it’s worth doing the research as early in the project as you can.
Why, because social media and content marketing is really time-consuming. You could spend a lot of time and energy trying to build an audience on Facebook, only to realise they are much more active on LinkedIn.
Super important and often overlooked
This is one that’s super important but often overlooked. Who is the decision-maker that can make your goal a reality? Knowing who your audience is, is a very good start. But you also need to know who has the power to make the changes you want to be made. Are you looking to change a governments policy? Do you want to your neighbourhood to take up solar panels on every household? Are you trying to get healthy lunches provided at your children’s school? Each of these activities requires a very different decision-maker. A local minister, homeowners or a school principal. Once you start to figure out who can actually make your dream a reality, it will make crafting your message a lot easier.
The decision-maker and messaging
Importantly, you might realise you need a few different messages. For instance, if we use the healthy school lunch example, you might need to create video messages that appeal to the parents in your school community to explain the importance of a healthy lunch box. Once they are on board with your mission to have the school initiate a healthy eating program, they might sign a petition, raise it at the PTA session and help spread the idea to other parents. This all culminates in a message to the school principal that this is important to the school community. Ultimately the principal is the decision-maker, and they care what parents want and think so messaging parents first will help to persuade the principal to take action.
But both of these audiences, one being the parents, and the second being the principal can receive different messaging. The parents are being messaged that their children’s health would be improved by eating healthier lunches. And the principal is being messaged that the school community want the school lunch program to be healthier. Depending on how you want to go about it, you might use the school children in the campaign as well. Then they would become your third audience and you’d use different messaging to appeal to them.
The Call To Action
Subsequently, we come to the all-important Call To Action. As you can see from the example above, all these messages have to be followed by a call to action. In the case of the parents, the call to action was to get involved and support the mission. The call to action for the principal was to make a change to the school lunch program. And a call to action to the children might be more around a message that healthy school lunches can still be really yummy. The call to action is to ‘ask your parents to help you have a healthy lunch box’. In the case of the children, the parents are the decision-maker.
As a result, you can have multiple calls to action and they might change throughout the course of your project. It might change for different audiences and for different social platforms. Therefore, take into consideration what you need people to do and if they are the decision-maker.
On strategic communications planning
In conclusion, there is so much that goes into strategic communications planning and these above areas are a great place to start off your thinking. When you’ve watched the videos or listened to the podcast for a more in-depth discussion on this, please reach out if there’s an area you’d like to know more about.
I’d recommend that you start thinking about calls to action that you find effective. For example, what videos have you watched and then find yourself taking an action? Being aware of what works on you is a great way to figure out effective calls to action. It will get you thinking about it and give you ideas on what might work for your own project.
Remember, don’t let your message be the silent tree falling.
If you’re short on time and just want to skip to the episode highlights
00:58 How to get started planning your big film idea.
02:08 The moonshot is the first step in communications strategic planning.
02:52 What are the key things you need to work out to get everyone on the same page?
03:42 The key element that’s often overlooked in visual communications planning.
07:56 How do you figure out the worldview of your audience? Why is that important?
11:03 The call to action and what are you asking your audience to do?
12:45 Recap on topics covered so far and ideas around calls to action.
15:01 Messages- key messages, what are you trying to impart and who is the best messenger?
16:00 Why are politicians the exception on messengers?
17:01 Key things to do to get started planning your project.
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