Public Relations: Don’t Just Articulate…Resonate

PR messaging

One of the more common problems I’ve seen when it comes to public relations messaging is that while many messages tend to contain all of the right information and make all the right points, they don’t resonate with people.

More to the point, their creators are great at articulation, but they don’t know how to make those same messages relatable to the targeted audiences.

Here’s an example. Imagine that your company is about to make some serious changes in order to cut financial losses and turn the ‘ship’ around before it goes bust.  This is the kind of message we often see from corporate communicators:

“Our industry is undergoing a transformation due to increased competition, changes in technology and rising costs. For this reason, our success will require new processes and systems to counter those pressures.”

First, let’s talk about what’s right with this message. It’s clearly articulated and well structured. The words themselves are easy to understand. The language is simple enough. It gets to the point. No wasted words. It properly sets up the other news and information to come.

Now, let’s talk about what’s wrong with the same message. Number one, it doesn’t speak to the listener’s self-interest. It is completely centered on the sender of the message, the company, and not the employee, the investor or the customer who may hear it.

Another flaw is that the language is corporate-speak, it’s sterile, unrelatable. It is good enough to make the lawyers and the management team happy with its content and approach, but it will very likely fall flat if this is the way the company plans to win hearts and minds.

So, what’s a better approach?

How does this sound?

“Competitors are trying to put us out of business and kill our jobs. The way we’ve been doing things has been replaced by new technologies, and we don’t have enough money to make all of our problems go away in an instant. If we are to save our company, save our jobs and save our way of life, we need to think differently, we need to do things differently across the board. We have to be smarter and better in everything we do in every corner of the organization.”

What’s the difference? First, the language is simpler. Common words replace corporate-speak. Second, it replaces the detached tone of the first example with a more personal approach by introducing the concept of “we.” The first-person plural – “we” – also tells the audience that company leadership sees itself as equal partners with the listener in this situation. Third, the stakes are clearly outlined, the risks are laid out in simple, somewhat emotional terms. It speaks directly to the self-interest of anyone who may hear this. And fourth, it practically forces the listener to want to know more about leadership’s plans.

This doesn’t mean the listener will necessarily agree with management’s plans, but it at least makes them want to know more.

The lesson in all of this is that companies should not hide behind corporate-speak to avoid looking vulnerable or less sophisticated. Communicators should not opt for vague words and terms that give them more latitude to avoid criticism or questions.

If your messaging is going to resonate with your targeted audiences, you need to go straight for their hearts and minds through clear, strong, relatable language that truly resonates with them.

Have a question or a thought about messaging? I’m all ears. Just get in touch.

Posted in Content Development & Writing, Corporate & Strategic Communication, Crisis & Issues Management, General, Marketing Communications, PR & Media Relations, Workplace Communications and tagged , , , , .