Remember the childhood game known as “Broken Telephone” or maybe you knew it as “Chinese Whispers”? It was the game where you sat in a circle and the first person whispers a secret into the ear of the person on one side, they whisper it to the next, and it goes around the circle, only to end up being an entirely different secret.
This is a good way to show you just how easy it is for a message to get lost when each person hears it from a different person. It also demonstrates how important it is within any group, no matter how small or large, for there to be one point of contact for your message’s dissemination—one guardian of what your message says, how it defines you, how it defines your purpose and intent, and how it shapes what everyone else thinks of you and your product/service/mission.
As the summer heats up, often so do interactions with returning as well as potentially new customers. Conversations between the locals and the travelers, a/k/a word of mouth, are often how decisions are made—multiple times a day, on whether or not to shop at your store, support your mission, contract your service, or not.
How your story unfolds is up to you—consistency helps to ensure it’s the one you want everyone to hear. So how can you ensure consistency in your message? Following these six tips can help:
- Choose someone—the right someone—as your message’s champion. This not only needs to be someone with the ability to ensure your message’s consistency on an organization- or company-wide basis, but someone who shares in its passion, clearly understands the message, and can communicate it across all demographic and socioeconomic boundaries. This person must also have enough “pull” to enforce and reinforce consistency.
- Create buy-in—throughout your organization—by defining a message about your products, services, or mission that feels right for everyone. Everyone—staff, customers, volunteers, donors, supporters, vendors and suppliers—all need to believe in your message. If your message is believable, your “people” will believe it, support it, and help spread it around.
- Training is imperative—each level and area of your organization needs to know how your message works within the scope of their job and department as well as how each one of them work within the message. And use real terms when training them. Marketing-speak will cause eyes to glaze over or roll (or perhaps both), and your message will be left unheard. Inconsistent interpretations will result. Think again back to that childhood game of Broken Telephone…
- Present your message, and your training, both visually and in writing—consistently, repetitively, and continually. When training, and afterward, always remember that there are people who learn visually while others learn through the written word. Address them both.
- Consider creating and implementing a communications manual that clearly outlines, in layman terms, how your message should be disseminated—throughout your organization and to the public. Make sure this manual clearly identifies procedures, policies, and protocol as well as clearly identifies who the official “voice” is for your company, organization, or group.
- When the message changes, be sure to inform everyone—not just marketing and management. Everyone. Internally and externally. All of your audiences.