Crafting strategic messages

This is your message.

Everyone who writes wants to write strategically, right? To craft a message that achieves its desired outcomes and that the recipient finds easily readable.

The problem is that we talk too much about strategy and not enough about messaging. What I mean is, if the message is the needle, the writing is the haystack, which hides the needle. You have to dig, delve, dive in…

And even then, no needle.

I’d like us, as people who write stuff, to become more focused on messaging and to worry about strategy afterwards. A 1960s copywriter, Shirley Polykoff, said we should ‘think it square and then say it with flair’. I totally agree. Here’s how:

State the message in straightforward language. Make it solid. And only then support it with evidence, schmooze, fluff or fun stuff. The best way I’ve found to follow this one-two process is to ask myself some questions, every time I write anything:

  1. Who am I talking to? That is, who’s my target?
  2. What do I want or need to tell them? In short, what’s my objective? To persuade, inform, educate or entertain? Some mix of these four?
  3. What’s my promise? My main point? My concise statement that tells my target why he or she should listen to me? (Note: These words don’t have to appear in your writing. But you must articulate your single motivating benefit.)
  4. What’s my support? My facts, features or proof for what I’ve promised?
  5. What’s the right tone of voice? In essence, what is the feeling I want the reader to take away, based on who they are and what I have to say?

With the answers to these questions in my mind, I’m better placed to craft a message – for any medium – that does what I need it to do and that the reader actually reads.