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Does your communication do what it’s supposed to?


I was pleased to see a top-tips-type blog this week on the NGO-media site by Jennifer Campbell on proofreading as this often forgotten skill (it is a practised skill, not an art) is key to making the kind of first impression you want your communications to make.  It’s well worth a read for all of us who need to write for a living and yes, that includes all of you who think that spelling, grammar and ‘words’ don’t matter because they don’t on Facebook…

But as Jennifer quite rightly points out, proof-reading starts when you have a COMPLETE piece of communication.  How do we ensure that what we’ve written is most likely to hit the spot from a content perspective before we get to this stage?  The answer to this question is basically the entire content of pretty much every marketing book every written but, for those like me who like a checklist just to remind us of the key things we should be doing, here’s my top tips for getting your communication to do what it’s supposed to:

  • Be clear about your objective and ensure this is at the heart of what you create
  • Understand the triggers that will make your audience respond in the way you want them to
  • Leverage these triggers throughout the communication – talk about them and how you can meet, deliver or resolve them
  • Use emotional and rational triggers.  People respond to the emotional but act on a mixture of emotional and rational.  Think DEC appeal; these would be far less successful if they just focused on the disaster and not on what folks are practically doing about it to make the situation better
  • Back up these claims with credible facts – otherwise it’s just your word…
  • Include a very obvious and clear call to action that’s relevant to your ‘ask’ and to your target audience.  Every piece of communication should include a call to action, even if it’s a really subtle ‘check out our website for more information’.
  • Keep focused.  Don’t try to say too much in one communication and don’t try to appeal to everyone at the same time.  We all have different triggers that will spur us into action and so do your target audiences
  • Ensure that the most relevant key aspects of your organisation’s brand personality come across in everything you write – audiences need to know it’s from you and this approach will build your credibility in their minds over time
  • If it’s the first stage in an ongoing communication, be honest and manage audience expectations fairly
  • Give your communication a test run and check that everything works (phone numbers, websites, Facebook pages etc)
  • Go back and check that the end-product will definitely help meet your objective with the target audience – if it doesn’t, go back to the top of the list and whatever you do, don’t send it just because it’s finished!

I know this isn’t 100% exhaustive but it helps me to create communications that are more likely to work in the real world.  What do you think?

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