Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Ensuring you get your message across

Ensuring you get Your Message Across

Developing your group's core message or messages are one thing – making sure they are communicated in the way that you want is another.

If your group is staging a media event, compiling a media release, or giving an interview or media conference, only a small fraction of what you say or write will ever make it into the newspaper, television or radio news bulletin.

The trick is to "steer" the media – to make sure the quote or sound bite the media use is the one which communicates your group's core message.

"But how do we do that?" you might ask. "The media will have so much information and so many quotes to choose from – how can we make sure they use the one we want?"

It requires some prior preparation and some knowledge of the media's techniques so you can use them to your group's best advantage.

Forcing Their Hand to Get Your Message Across

Sometimes the message you are trying to get out through the media can get lost.

The media can often go for the pictures or vision at the expense of your group's message. They might show a snappy media stunt or give space to an attractive photo opportunity without clearly conveying your group's message – the reason you wanted the media publicity in the first place.

This is why it is vital your group has a clear message on display; one which the media can't avoid or edit around. One which is an integral part of your media appearance.

In short – your group needs to ensure they carry the message you want them to by making sure it is signposted and obvious.

You have to "signpost" it in a way – lead the media to your key message and make sure they don't miss (or avoid) what you are saying.

This type of signposting can be done by using a few techniques.

Repetition and variants of your message

Once you have your message, stick to it – and that means repeating it during your interview, media conference or media release.

But don't just repeat the exact same phrase over and over – all that will do is bore the media and the audience who end up hearing your message.

Instead, have a few variants of your message in mind and able to be used if needed. For example, your environment group is highlighting pollution flowing into a local water system.

1 – "The lake is used by almost every person in this town. If we continue to allow its ongoing pollution, we are putting all our lives at risk."
2 – "We want immediate action to stop the polluters. What they are doing is not only illegal but is risking the lives of residents and the future of the local eco-system."
3 – "We will be doing everything in our power to halt the polluters and protect the health and wellbeing of our community."
4 – "It may be saving the polluters money but it could be costing us lives. It has to stop now."

Snappy sound bites

Sound bites are short statements encapsulating your message - like the examples above – which are most used in radio or television news bulletins.

They need to be short, pithy, pre-prepared and practised.

The more practice, the easier they are to deliver clearly and fluently and to tailor in response to a whole series of questions.

If they are short, relevant and sum up your position they are more likely to be used which means that the message YOUR GROUP wants to spread will be picked out and given a run by the media in the form YOUR GROUP wants it to be presented.

For more information on sound bites, refer to the help sheets Why Sound Bites are Important and Creating Tasty Sound Bites, both available at the Media & Marketing Centre of the Our Community website.

Quotable quotes

Make sure there are some "quotable quotes" in your written press or media release.

Making sure your message is quotable and noticeable in your media release means putting it at the top of your release -in the first or second paragraph – and possibly in the concluding paragraph or two as well.

Not only that, but you can make sure these quotes are in bold type or a slightly larger point size – that way they will be more easily noticed by the media, who will then be more likely to use those comments.

Ask them to include your message – or include it yourself

A more overt way to try and make sure you get the message you want out through the media is to ask the media to include your message; or to include it yourself.

If you are doing an interview for a newspaper or other publication, you can simply ask the journalist interviewing you to include a certain quote or message in their story.

While this is no guarantee that the journalist will include your great quote or all the details of your group or organisation's upcoming event, it gives them a pointer to the key message you are trying to spread. It may just be a pointer to your website where more information can be found.

More often than not, the journalist will take notice of this and will try to find a way to include that message in the story.

Similarly, if your group is lucky enough to gain airtime on a radio talkback session – or even an interview on one of those shows – it can be an idea to repeat the key details of your message or a phone number or website at the end of the interview … even if it becomes a bit of a "plug"!

It is, however, good manners to make sure its OK that you "overtly plug" your message in this way before you go to air.

Use a backdrop

The final piece of signposting in this help sheet is a visual one – and obviously one well suited for television or newspaper coverage.

Using a backdrop that includes your message is a subtle but very effective way of getting that message across.

Backdrops are used more and more nowadays – have a look at many post-match football or sporting interviews for example, and you'll see the logos of sponsors, the team itself and other "messages" communicated through the use of a backdrop.

Your group can do the same thing. Prepare or create a backdrop, banner or poster that features your logo and your catchphrase or message.

Another element to consider including is a contact point – website and email addresses work best because they are easy to read and remember.

Stay on Message

Having sound bites and quotes prepared for use is a great way your group and its spokesperson to "stay on message", and make sure it is a consistent and constant message that is repeated.

By all means, be entertaining, be informative, be honest, caring and even provocative (when necessary).

But throughout all this, stay on message – and as you keep delivering that message to the media in a consistent and on-going way, the media will, more than likely, keep repeating it – giving you group more of a chance to get that message heard.

For more information on the importance of "staying on message", refer to the upcoming help sheets What are the Messages you Want Your Group to Convey and Keeping Your Messages Consistent, soon to be available at the Media & Marketing Centre of the Our Community website.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.