Too Many Questions. Pile of colorful paper notes with question marks. Closeup.

Sometimes there are things in life so obvious that we miss them.  That’s certainly the case with most organization’s efforts to create compelling messages to persuade us to buy their product or support their cause.    The message is all about them and not about their intended audience.  Look at most websites and you will often find beautiful pictures and lots of copy about all the things they do and logos of the companies and organizations they have served.  They will include bios of their teams and sometimes stories about their hobbies and interests. And these organizations will tell you that they are the leader in whatever industry they are in. But what they haven’t communicated is why what they do matters to us.

Prism of Me

In business, we get stuck in the Prism of Me, working so hard to communicate how good we are that we don’t convey why we are good for our intended audience.   To create compelling messages that grab attention and motivate action, you must connect with what worries or inspires people, showing how you can alleviate fear or help them achieve their deepest aspirations. The AllState Insurance ads do a great job on the anxiety side. An actor portrays the mayhem that can befall any of us from the cat that causes a sink to flood and the ceiling to collapse to the thief who steals and destroys your car.   The message is clear—danger exists everywhere but we will help you recover from these bad things. You will be ok no matter what.  St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital did a great job of appealing to our better instincts with their holiday appeal.  Some children, they say, aren’t asking for toys but the gift of health.   You can help give them that. Their message is simple.  We find cures. We save children.  And no one is ever denied treatment because they can’t afford to pay.  Don’t you want to be part of that?

The Two Essential Questions

Both these organizations consistently and clearly convey the value of what they do. And their messages are derived from the answers to two basic questions:

  • What are we doing, providing, sharing that makes someone else’s life better? How are we helping our audience achieve their biggest aspirations?
  • What burdens, challenges can we reduce or eliminate? Can we solve a problem that they haven’t been able to solve? Can we save time, money and emotional angst?

When we base our communication on the answers to these questions, we are communicating through a Prism of Value.  We connect and influence because we are tapping into the powerful emotions that guide decision making.  We are showing how working with us or supporting us benefits you.  The Alexa Superbowl Ad highlights the way this device simplifies life by humorously asking what we did before Alexa existed to handle daily tasks of life.

Of course, in order to properly answer these two prism of value questions means taking the time to understand your audience’s fears and aspirations, which I will cover in another post.

Change your approach.

You can increase the effectiveness of your communication to those who matter most to your success by looking at your messaging through a prism of value vs. a prism of me.  Don’t ask for that raise until you can demonstrate why paying you more money helps your enterprise make more money.  Before you start that fundraising campaign, make sure you make the case for the impact your organization is making and why supporting you helps your donor achieve the good they seek to make in the world.  And before you market your new product, make sure you are showing how it solves a problem for your audience, enhances your audience or takes away something difficult or unpleasant.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

What are some of the challenges you face in creating messages about your enterprise?  I’d be interested in hearing what you are experiencing and how you may have overcome your messaging challenges.