Having an Impactful Message is a key asset when it comes to doing whatever you do. Think about it. Those who have worked on crafting a message always have something smart to say about what they do, why they do it and why they are the best at doing it. Those who haven’t, in contrast, tend to have difficulties explaining what they do, why they are relevant and why they should be trusted. That’s quite a difference, don’t you think? So, do you have an Impactful Message? Do you have a message at all? If your answer to either of these two questions is no, then you should keep reading…
You need an Impactful Message (for f*ck sake!)
Impact Series – Ep.5
Today, my Impact Thinking writing gives me an opportunity to talk about the importance of having an Impactful Message. Not just a message, an Impactful one.
The message question is very common in my line of business. Whatever I write, wherever I speak somewhere, and wherever I help people building a strategy, I realize that getting the message up and running is the key challenge.
Sometimes the message is the wrong one, because it conveys the wrong bits. Sometimes the message is only partially built, or even non-existent. Most of the time, the message hasn’t been formalized or tested.
And, in most cases, the lack of a clear message means that the people who work on the project are unable to share a common language. But how can a team go anywhere if the language and the direction aren’t the same?
At the end of the day, no Impactful Message means no clear pitch, no efficient marketing, no sales process. Oh, and no ability to get people on board either. And I’m not even talking the ability to make an Impact…
Building an Impactful Message is a complicated question.
Now, the Impactful Message question is not an easy one. Often, people just want to focus on their work. They want to make business or conduct their research in a quick and profitable way. They want to move on a little further every day. And spending time on building a message doesn’t seem like a priority.
But that’s a huge mistake because whether we like it or not, having a message to convey to our audience is an absolute priority. It’s not a matter of business line, everyone should have a message. Period!
First, working on formulating your message is the best way to clearly define who you are, what you do, what you have to offer, and what you want from people. In short, your message is the best way to explain who you are.
Second, a clear message that genuinely conveys your purpose is a strong asset when it comes to getting people on board with you. Simply put, why would anyone team up with you if you don’t have a compelling story they can relate to?
Third, your message is a super strong asset as far as your Impact is concerned. In fact, your message is a cornerstone of what I call your Impact Capital, and the beauty is, it works for everything and everyone. Whether you are trying to do business, to conduct life-changing research or to build a charity, the idea is the same: you need a message to rally others to your cause.
So, tell me. Why on Earth would you miss such an opportunity to rise and shine?
Building a compelling and Impactful Message.
The question which comes next is fairly logical: how do you build a compelling and Impactful Message?
First, your message needs to convey a sense of purpose. Second, your message must inspire and rally people to your cause. But, to do that, your message must also demonstrate that there is a cause worth fighting for. Last but not least, to be truly compelling and Impactful, your message must also be thoroughly prepared.
Tip 1: An Impactful Message must convey a sense of purpose.
My first tip is very simple: your message is at the heart of everything you do, therefore it must convey a sense of purpose.
Said differently, your message should convey everything people need to know, about you, and about why they should team up with you.
There are two elements you need to convey, as a matter of fact. One is your “what“. The other is your “for what Impact“.
Take it that way. The people you talk to need to know what you do, but a generic term isn’t enough. The what must be elaborated, and it must point to something interesting to your interlocutor(s).
For instance? Telling people you are a researcher doesn’t bring much, but saying that you analyze changing regional Fintech context to help to build financial innovation is much more compelling. Trust me on that one, actually…
Similarly, telling someone that you are a general manager at work will drive less traction than saying that you support colleagues to help them achieve great stuff, whatever the field.
You see my point. In these two examples, the effect is immediate. Shifting from a job description to a personal story sends a compelling message because it shifts the attention from what you do to what Impact you can have. In one case, your approach is overly practical. In the other, you explain what difference you make in a clear and thoughtful way, and people will remember it.
Tip 2: Inspire and get people on board.
What that means is simple. Whatever you do, your primary job is to explain what you do in a way they can relate to, and to get there just focusing on the what isn’t enough. To be compelling and Impactful, your message must also explain how you make a difference.
To some extent, focusing a message on your Impact potential provides an opportunity to turn a relationship upside down.
When the focus is a pure ‘what’, things can get difficult but the discussion is usually about selling something. By contrast, discussing Impact gives everyone an occasion to relate and get on board. Focusing your message on the Impact you make is an opportunity to define your uniqueness (also known as your Unique Selling Proposition) and to present yourself as a significant game-changer in your own niche. And that’s inspiring.
Whatever the field.
This suggestion is applicable to every field you can think about.
I worked as a researcher for three years and always joked about the fact that my job was one of the rare ones which implied no selling whatsoever. But that was absolutely wrong because researchers depend on grants and funding of all sorts to conduct whatever research they have to conduct. And what’s the best way to obtain funding? Well, conveying the message that the money will serve a cause, solve a problem and have a purpose helps a lot.
The same applies to business. Are you selling some company registration services (or anything else, really)? Well, chances are that your clients will look for an Impactful message when they make a choice between you and the massive competition out there! Ask my friend Laurent, who turned an un-sexy accounting activity into a thriving business using the right innovation-fueled message and see for yourself…
The same goes for investors, who need to know what you are made of and why they should trust you with their cash. And the idea also works for bankers, who need to know where you are going and why that business of yours has a strong potential worth aligning petty cash for.
Your clients, investors, and bankers are built exactly like the rest of your audience. They like stories, and they like to show off with smart information nobody has. So, when you elaborate a compelling and Impactful Message, you give them a story to tell. A story of which you are the hero, of course.
Getting your team together.
The power of your message is also significant to build a team or get people together around a common project. Or story.
Whether we agree or not, people need to feel involved. They need to feel that they are part of something they believe in. And they want to have a chance to help to build whatever they work on. Coaching guru Dale Carnegie called this ‘the feeling of importance’.
So? Well, to involve people, try and build a compelling and Impactful Message and they will carry it for you. This is probably one of the smartest ways to get them on board. Just saying…
Tip 3: A message which solves a problem for someone.
To make your message compelling, you should also make sure to include some problem-solving into it.
I am not getting into the details extensively here, because I’ve written another Impact Thinking article on that already. But, long things short, the big idea here is that to make an Impact you need a problem to solve, a beneficiary to fight for, and a cause to defend.
In other words, make sure that your message communicates on the existence of a problem to solve, and that your audience understands that there is a cause worth fighting for.
Tip 4: Have a tone, for f*ck sake…
Last but not least, an Impactful Message is a message with a tone.
Make people laugh or shiver (so they can relate and understand your point), or inspire them. Provoke them. Make them think to make them act on whatever you have to say.
As Brogan and Smith wrote it in The Impact Equation, a message without warmth will be perceived as cold, and a message without emotions will make you look like someone who doesn’t believe in what they say.
When I talk about message – or perhaps should I say when I help people formulate and write their message – I often take the freedom to add a ‘for f*ck sake‘ at the end of whatever they come up with.
And guess what? Their reaction is always the same. At first, they seem skeptical with their own message, because it sounds classic, toneless, tasteless. But then the FFS appears and the magic appears. They laugh, and they usually raise their arms saying “oh my God! This is it! The tone is what was missing!”.
Please don’t take my word for granted though. Write your message, read it, then add a ‘for f*ck sake’ after it an see the difference.
Case studies: We all have a message to showcase. Really!
Now, how about some case studies? I am going to give you four examples.
As part of training sessions, I talked ‘message’ with groups of Ph.D students. All of them had very sharp expertise on topics I didn’t understand, which normally ought to be fine – if their message is built to help me bridge the gap, that is.
Except that in most cases there is no such thing as a tailored message, and that’s a big problem.
Not for me. For them.
Why? Well, me being unable to understand them meant that their message got lost in the way. These guys can work for three to four years on a topic, but without an adequately defined message, no-one can understand what they have to say. Worse, people will run away during cocktails and events because talking to someone you don’t understand is a hell of a punition.
So I worked on helping them to define their Impactful Message. I explored, pushed them (I happen to know a trick or two) until something complex became clear, easy to understand, and fun to talk about. After the training, in fact, their feedback was that building a message around their thesis wasn’t that hard, and that it gave them a new perspective on their work.
Similar examples can be found with entrepreneurs, obviously. In that case, the message is usually about pitching a product or a service, but it can also be about making the promotion of a company to investors. Every time, however, the existence of a story to tell is key.
Interestingly, the message is also very important in situations where people simply don’t know they need one!
For instance? Someone wants a website for their business. Right, but what do you put on a website if you don’t have a message to tell people about? You need a story, that’s for sure, but you need a what, a problem to solve, a compelling Impact case to communicate in there. No message, no website!
The above is perhaps even more significant for non-profits. At the end of the day, non-profit organizations are interesting because while they don’t do business as we mean it, they are entities with an incredible amount of things to sell.
They save the world from something and need money to do it. And having a message which denotes strength and Impact is the best way to get people on board. On top of building a website, of course.
Career development too.
The fourth and last example, for now, relates to career development. I recently had a chat with my friend Marie, who happens to be Head of Careers in a big institution.
Marie had a massive CV with lots of experience, internationally and all that. But something was missing: a message!
We worked on her message over a couple of hours and came up with something clear. And eventually, I added my ‘for f*ck sake’ trick to her message whilst she went to get us some coffee. I said it was there as a joke, of course, but as I expected she liked it so much that on paper her message now has a hell of a tone. Impactful!
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
In all cases, an Impactful Message needs to be carefully prepared. This sounds silly, but trust me it is not.
I regularly talk to people who refuse to prepare their talks. Their excuse is either that they know their topic (already), or that they want to be natural and to be seen as such. I’ve seen the President of an association do that out of (misplaced) pride and pretention, and I don’t need to tell you how stupid he looked to the whole audience. He didn’t realize it, but people in the room laughed, asking why nobody would cut the microphone and stop his misery.
Like it or not, but in truth, if your message doesn’t get through you are the one to blame. A message which has not been repeated and repeated again just can’t feel natural.
When a message isn’t prepared and repeated, the words end up being clumsy and the ideas just don’t flow. Hesitations kick in, repetitions and contradictions too, and you always end-up being labeled as the guy (or girl) with poor communication skills.
So, whether you are about to make a pitch or an actual talk, the tip is always the same: prepare and repeat your message until it is crystal clear.
In sum, there are more examples of missing messages than you’d want to read right now, but if you are still reading you are now well aware of the stakes.
So here is the thing. Your message is the basis of your branding, whatever your line of business. If you don’t spend the adequate time on crafting it, you simply won’t have anything relevant to say and you won’t stand a chance when it comes to getting people on board.
This applies to business branding, quite obviously. You need to craft a message for your product, for your service, and for your brand, so that people have a great reason to trust you.
But this also applies to your personal branding. Whether you want to promote yourself as a balloon designer, as a Ted Talk speaker or as a philanthropist who supports arts and design, your message is a strong storytelling tool.
Ultimately, an Impactful Message is the perfect excuse to talk about what you do without overselling it. An Impactful Message is the best way to get people on board. An Impactful Message is a cornerstone or your Impact efforts. It’s as simple as that.
And you, where do you stand? Do you have a message at all?
About Antoine Martin (Ph.D.)?
I am an Impact Thinking advocate and strategist. My journey with Impact began in Hong Kong in 2018 when I was tasked with developing an Impact strategy for academics.
Since then, I have developed a framework for Impact Thinking and coached academics, entrepreneurs and business teams on what Impact strategies can bring to their projects. I regularly write, speak and consult on the topic, please get in touch for more information!