Business communication is littered with long-winded documents of all kinds that we have to brace ourselves to read. The ones that frustrate me the most are the sponsorship proposals of up to 20-30 pages where the fee is not mentioned until the last page – on the basis that the selling process takes place progressively. In frustration, I used to go straight from the first page to the last page to decide if the full document was worth reading – because the fee being asked on the last page would determine whether the proposal was in the ballpark. This highlights the fact that we need to have a reliable formula to achieve better campaign messaging.
Similar woolly writing occurs in reports, emails, letters, white papers and marketing-based ebooks.
You can make efficient use of messaging for many purposes by using the formula below. It is also a good formula for writing an executive summary, which to many business decision makers is the most important part of a major document. If you have staff, you can get them to write their messaging in this way as well.
Use the versatile formula below for messaging in your campaign proposals to achieve better results:
5-step formula for better messaging
- Topic. Start with a one-sentence summary similar to the way journalists write headlines. This way the recipients know immediately what it is about. For example: “Proposal for major new promotional concept for the campaign to promote next year’s Pleasantville festival.” This can be used as the subject line in an email or the heading in a report, etc.
- Background. Provide concise background information about the topic of the document. Explain the problem, need or opportunity. Ensure you include data so decision makers understand the starting point and have measurable figures to review.
- Action. Tell readers what you want them to do with the information, which might require their active involvement: how, who, when, where, why, cost/resources. Or you might just seek their approval. Ensure you have their documented approval or support, eg in a return email by a particular time. You can say, unless I hear from you by …, I will assume you approve this proposal. If it is a report or proposal to be considered in a meeting, then obviously you seek responses then.
- Benefits. Sell your idea by explaining the measurable positive outcomes. If feasible, also tell people what they would be missing by not agreeing to the proposal, not just what they would stand to gain. We all suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – ‘loss aversion.’ Research shows we feel a loss twice as strongly as we feel an equivalent gain. If you tell people that by not acting on the idea, they miss out on an opportunity to appear really forward-looking, the idea is more likely to succeed. Also, consult with stakeholders so you have their input, and hopefully their important support.
- Best next steps. Outline what initial actions need to be done, and by whom, to get started on your plan.
Try using this formula as a guide and you should find your messaging becomes more effective.
For further helpful articles on better campaign messaging, you are welcome to go to the articles in the Messaging section in this website, in particular my article, “How to use framing to communicate strong messages.”
Also, you may be interested to read this useful article, “Your messaging framework – What it is, why you need one, and how to build it,” by Ashish Jain.
Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash.