The Message or the Medium: Why Both are Critical to Successful Communications
I was inspired to write this post because every evening on my way home there is a middle-aged man who stands on the corner of a fairly busy intersection with a simple cardboard sign that states: Stop the Wars! A powerful message for sure, but probably not the most effective method of communications. Yet, contrast this with some of the ads we may have seen during the recent political season or during the Super Bowl, where the medium is as strong (and expensive) as possible, but the message was so weak that you probably couldn’t recall what it was after just a few minutes. This is why a successful communications program needs to be a strong combination of message and media.
At InkHouse we spend a lot of time with our clients talking about messaging, developing unique points of view and editing down chapters of information into a few cogent and effective points. In our experience this tends to be an extremely difficult exercise for companies to complete as their first inclination is to talk about the merits of their products and services, which they are understandably excited about. However, what tends to happen more often than not is the truly compelling points get lost amongst the technical details. A fresh set of eyes from an outsider’s perspective familiar with the media environment can be the difference between a list of compelling speaking points and a perspective muddied with too many stats and lacking a clear takeaway.
The other side of this equation is the medium. While you may have successfully navigated the messaging aspect of the program, it will only have limited benefits if you can’t execute on the media front. Selecting the medium that is appropriate for you is as important as getting your messaging right. Important questions need to be asked such as: who is our primary audience? Is it the executive level or a more technical audience? Does it have consumer appeal? Is your goal to generate widespread brand awareness or create sales leads, or perhaps both? All of these questions and many more will factor into defining a media list and indeed a content creation and social media strategy that make sense for your message and your business.
Not every company or organization has the budget to take out a Super Bowl ad or buy space in the Wall Street Journal or NY Times, and because paid placements are not always the correct path, a public relations partner will help you battle for what we refer to as ‘earned media’ space; in other words, the parts of publications and broadcast segments that aren’t paid for. This is made possible by having a strong message or point of view, the willingness of a spokesperson to add interesting and colorful content to a story and a talented public relations professional with the ability to create media connections. While positive media coverage is never a bad thing, coverage for coverage sake is not always the most effective strategy. Inclusion of the right message in the right medium is what will move the needle in the positive direction for your company.
So while I admire the dedication of the man who inspired this post, he has only hit on one half of this important media equation. Miss the mark this badly in the corporate world where the stakes are high and real dollars are on the line and you may find yourself standing on the corner holding a sign with a completely different message.