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How to Sell Your Teams a Message Strategy

The best way to kill your brand new message strategy? Management by announcement.

We spend a lot of time developing effective message strategies. But we spend almost as much time making sure they stick. Making sure they become embedded throughout an organization. We see time and time again that simply unveiling the new direction often doesn’t get you there. An announcement isn’t enough. The good news? Getting a consistent, universally adopted, and long-lasting message is possible for any organization.

Here are 7 principles that will make sure your new messaging sticks:

1.        Engage internal influencers early

In any organization there are people who can make or break a shift in communications strategy. It is absolutely essential to identify them, and give them a say in the process as early as possible. Otherwise you risk making enemies of your most powerful allies. Ideally, you’ve already collated their ideas and tested these in the research that drove your new messaging. Once you introduce them to the results, frame this as a review of the messaging work to date—and a point for them to input and help it evolve on the way towards broader adoption. Even ask for their advice and assistance in the wider rollout.

2.        Establish the need for change

If folks think everything is running perfectly they’ve got very little incentive to learn new tricks. This is important to anticipate, because you may need to make a convincing argument that improvement is needed. Even more than this, you may meet skepticism around whether shifts in messaging will really make a difference. This is a great point to bring the customer’s voice into the room—show them how people react to what they’re saying today. Primary research can help with this. Come primed with examples of how small changes in the language they use can radically alter how they’re interpreted.

3.        Personalize the learning experience

As important as getting a message strategy in place, is making sure you have one that can be adapted to the various roles across your organization. Don’t focus on what you want to tell them, focus on how they can use it. Frame the learning experience around communicators taking your framework, and personalizing the content to their specific challenges, adding color, and extending what you give them. Help them put it into practice in scenarios they face day to day—show them how it can help solve THEIR problems, not simply the broader business problems.

4.        Multiple materials, multiple mediums

We all learn differently. And different people are often best engaged with different types of information. Help build an environment for message saturation by providing people in your organization with a wide array of supporting materials. From one-page handouts they can keep on their desks, to video, to interactive options like online learning tools.

5.        Start it out bite-size

Your employees aren’t built to consume encyclopedic reams of information. None of us are. To get them on board with your new message strategy, you have to start off by providing them a manageable amount of information. You don’t have to tell/teach them everything at once. Start by giving them a taste of the change—but don’t expect them to remember everything, or change their behaviors overnight. This is a marathon not a sprint. Always end with a short list of simple, actionable things for them to think about.

6.        Embrace pushback

Give your team the opportunity to try the message on for size and express questions or concerns. Allowing them to think through the implications and ask “Why did you choose that word, not this word? Did you think about this specific audience?” enables you to answer questions, and when appropriate tweak the strategy.  Without this opportunity, you risk your team missing important nuances or quietly carrying objections.

7.        Make some noise

When it comes down to it, a big part of your challenge is simply getting their attention. Finding a way to make some kind of organizational impact in an engaging way can really help lay the foundations for a successful message rollout. Whether it’s holding an event, making heroes out of employees, or creating seed content like viral videos before the launch—get front of mind and stay there.