In the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, when protagonist Clyde Barrow says, “We rob banks,” it’s more than just Warren Beatty’s braggadocio that stands out.  It’s the simply clarity and outrageous truth of that brief declarative sentence.    

When it comes to message development, most people think they know what their message is.  They’ve undoubtedly said or written it many times.  But is it really the message they want to convey?  Is it the most effective way to compel your audiences to act in the way you need and planned?  And how do we “snap out of it!” to get it right? 

All too often, when we seek to engage others to buy or use a product or embrace our cause or point of view, we start the conversation in the wrong place and we never end up making the kind of connection we need.  We speak from the middle, describing the features of our product line, or the programs we provide, or the number of deals we have done. 

 Finding the right message is hard and sometimes downright painful because it involves taking a hard look at your organization, product, or service, and identifying what is valuable and what matters most to your audience.   Identifying your messages involves answering a few questions: 

Who are you and what business are you really in? 

Are you a hospital that cures the sick or a place where people find healing and comfort?  Are you an architecture firm that designs all kinds of buildings?  Or are you experts who help people create spaces that suit their lives, where people want to be or work? 

What do you do and how do you do it? 

Is your approach to your work or cause different from others?  Is your product or service unique or innovative?  Do you combine service offerings in a unique way?  What stands out about the services or products you offer/provide? 

What impact do your services, products and initiatives have? 

How do you make people’s lives easier, more efficient, or more hopeful?

 How will you engage your audience?

Many messages fall short because there is no ask, no call to action.  It might be as simple as buy our product, join our cause, or work for us.  As you issue your call to action, don’t forget to link it to the benefit to your audience: “join our cause and ….;” “come work for us and you will find….;” “buy our product and your life will….” 

The answers to the above questions will help you extract the most important points and prevent you from falling into the trap of talking about stuff—that is, programs, services, products and activity—rather than addressing meaning and impact.