Use this easy 5-step formula for more effective messaging
Use this versatile 5-step formula in your messaging to achieve better results with your business communication.
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.
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.
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 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.