14 Jul

Want to Get Your Message Across? Use Fewer Words

By Erika Turan, APR, Senior Account Executive

It’s an irresistible siren call for many businesses and organizations, especially those with fledgling marketing efforts: if one message is good, 30 must be better.

There are just a few problems with that approach, unfortunately:

  • You’ll need an enormous marketing and advertising budget. All those messages need many marketing mediums and space to reach your audience.
  • Your audience can only absorb so much. Humans need to hear a message an average of seven times before it starts to sink in. If your message is lengthy and complex, it’s going to take a lot longer.
  • Your sales and communications efforts will stall. When communications messages are overly long and complicated, your target audience is left to sift through it to discern what’s most important, and what they settle on may not be the message you most want them to hear.

This is an oversimplification message, but it gets the point home. Take, for example, McDonald’s. The restaurant chain’s message doesn’t say, “We sell hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, French fries and drinks all over the world. We offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can eat in our restaurants or use the drive-thru. Sometimes we have specials, like the McRib or the shamrock shake.” All of it’s true, but it’s too much. It’s also too much of a focus on the functional benefits, instead of seeking to make an emotional connection with their audience. Lots of places offer quick-serve burgers and fries (functional benefit). But connecting with an emotional benefit packs more punch into the message.

Instead, McDonald’s simply says, “I’m lovin’ it.” Their supporting messages can speak to crispy fries or the components of a Big Mac. But their initial focus is telling you there’s something here you’ll love.

Let’s apply the same approach to healthcare. Many hospitals fall victim to the temptations of listing all their services, equipment, and specialties. More sophisticated healthcare systems have embraced that a shorter message, more focused on emotional benefits, will cut through the marketing clutter more succinctly. Cleveland Clinic is a leader not only with their medical care, but also their marketing message: “Every Life Deserves World-Class Care.”

Ready to craft your own message? Here are a few tips:

  1. Interview key stakeholders. Ask them questions like what they think is most important to convey, what they like or don’t like about the brand. You’ll see themes start to emerge that can help craft an overarching message.
  2. Evaluate the competition. You don’t want to say the same thing they are.
  3. Seek to connect with your audience on an emotional, not functional, level.
  4. Trim, trim, and trim some more. Keep sifting through messages until you’re able to focus on one that’s short, succinct, impactful. Hang onto those other messages though; they’re still valuable in helping to support your primary message.

We’ve crafted award-winning messages for dozens of clients. Let us know if you need help with yours.