To Strengthen Your Message, Focus on One Message at a Time

To Strengthen Your Message, Focus on One Message at a Time

Focus on one message at a time to strengthen your message.

How to Strengthen Your Message Map

Here’s a crucial rule about Message Maps: your home base can convey only one main message – never two or more. Why? Because if you try to communicate multiple messages, it’s unlikely that audiences will retain your message.

Multiple messages require too much mental effort from audiences. They’re too taxing for people, a Kantar Millward Brown study of advertising shows. That’s why you need to strengthen your Message Map by choosing only one home base, one main message.

The more messages you try and communicate the lower the likelihood of communicating any single message
Millward Brown’s studies show only one message at a time can be delivered effectively.

As Seth Godin says, “If you try to say three things, we will hear nothing. Because most of the time, we’re hardly listening.”

To strengthen your Message Map, focus relentlessly on delivering one singular message, advises cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Carmen Simon. Trying to make multiple points leads to losing your audience’s attention, she says.

That’s why you need to create one home base message and keep it consistent.

“For us consistency is everything,” says Alan Bethke, Subaru’s senior vice president for marketing.

Audiences Seek More Rewards, Less Effort

Successful messages do two jobs well: they maximize the promised reward and minimize the effort to gain it. Wilbur Schramm, a pioneer in communications studies at the University of Illinois, created his Fraction of Selection to illustrate this idea:

Wilbur Schramm’s Fraction of Selection shows how to increase the audience’s consumption of your content.

The reward equals the benefits your audience expects to get. It directly answers the audience’s first question, what’s in it for me?

To strengthen your Message Map and get audiences to embrace your message, minimize their effort. How? By learning what are your audiences’ needs and concerns, answering their key questions, and speaking their language. Never talk over their heads. Never talk down to them.

More reward and less effort describe the dynamics of successful human communications. To build acceptance of your message, use both levers:

  • Increase the audience’s expectation of reward.
  • Reduce the effort required to attain that reward.

Keep Your Message Completely Consistent

When you repeat your message consistently, it breaks through and gets remembered. Repetition helps messages land in the audience’s hearts and minds, especially when they maximize reward and minimize effort for the audience.

To get audiences to believe you requires you to build credibility. Consistency is the path to credibility, Dr. Simon notes.

When your message stays consistent, it can earn a spot in the brain’s place cells, which never run out of capacity. Since inconsistent messages get stored in short-term memory, they’re much more likely to be forgotten.

Consistency leads to audiences getting comfortable with your message.

As Daniel Kahneman wrote, “People prefer their sources of information to be highly correlated. Then all the messages you get are consistent with each other and you’re comfortable.”

To Strengthen Your Message, Never Overpromise

Caution: never, ever promise more rewards than you will actually deliver. For example, click-bait headlines promise a bit of information that clicking on them does not reveal. Click-bait is designed to lure in, then disappoint, people.

Overpromising and underdelivering are simply unethical. Yes, certain salespersons and politicians get away with it for a while. But sooner or later, overpromising sets them up for a fall. It hurts them and sullies the reputations of honest people by increasing audiences’ skepticism – hard to imagine, given how skeptical people already are.

With a Message Map, you improve the odds that your message will land on fertile ground and take root. By following these few simple rules, you strengthen your Message Map.

That’s how you help audiences to understand, accept and remember your message. People act only on the messages they remember, not those they forget.

When you deliver one message consistently over time, you gain the credibility to make it stick in your audience’s hearts and minds. That’s what Message Maps are all about.