Communicators, is this why you're not getting "buy-in" for your work?

So, have you ever developed a message map?


Well you need to, according to a certain well-known organisation for internal communicators whose purpose is “to embed IC best practices and skills”.

No idea what a message map is? Don’t worry.

This well-known organisation for internal communicators can tell you all you need to know about message maps.

This well-known organisation for internal communicators believes “effective communication leads to positive business and social outcomes”. So they must be worth listening to, right?

Here’s what they say:

A message map is the foundation for all communications relating to an organization, a specific project or initiative. This guide walks you through a best practice process for the successful development of a message map including how to define and prioritize your audiences, how to identify the current mindset of your audience to address concerns and negative perceptions or to leverage positive assets, outline the key behaviors and expectations for each audience - what you want them to "think, feel and do" when receiving the messages, and how to align leaders and teams charged with communicating messages.

If, unlike me, you didn’t get lost in that meandering, jargon-addled and haphazardly punctuated second sentence, you may be intrigued to learn more.

Well, you’re in for a treat. Because there then follows another 5,877 words – 5,887 words. About how to have a meeting to discuss what to say to your staff.

Unsurprisingly, it’s 5,877 words – 5,887 words – of the bleeding obvious (e.g., "BOX TWO: The difference between 'think', 'feel' and 'do'").

All dressed up with drivel about "unleashing dialogue", "driving groups into alignment" and "populating messages into a variety of tactics" (huh?).

And then, finally, we get to this advice, quoted from somewhere else:

BOX SIX: Techniques to grab and hold people’s attention

1. Say it quickly, simply and so your audience members know what’s in it for them.

2. Don’t try to say too much, or you may risk losing your audience’s attention.

3. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I need the audience to think, feel or do?”

4. Avoid vague concepts.

5. Tell a story – it’s the most effective way to get people’s attention.

Is it just me or is there a breathtaking lack of self-awareness here? Or do internal communicators just have a greater attention span than the lesser mortals they're communicating with?

And is it any wonder so many professional communicators feel frustrated at not “getting senior leadership buy-in” for what they do?

If overcomplicated gumph about message maps is what they’re passing off as expertise?

Next week on Good Copy, Bad Copy: the simple, more powerful alternative to developing a message map.