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How to Choose the Right Message

Martin Shull

Knowing which message will resonate most with an audience can be challenging. There are numerous factors to consider, such as the phrasing you use, the words you choose, and more.

Many organizations have tried-and-true messaging that, year after year, season after season, market shift after market shift, continues to deliver results and ROI.

But how can you be certain that your message is truly resonating with your target audience? Could you make adjustments to your tone or language to improve its performance, intensify its impact, or even better, broaden its reach? And what about the phrasing? Could that be better, too?

The answer to these questions is yes. After all, every organization is trying to convince its audience to do something. If you’re a company, you likely want to convince people to buy your service or product. If you’re a nonprofit, you might want people to get involved by donating or volunteering. You might want people to tune into a new show, try your newest product, or vote for you. When it comes to messaging, the question you ultimately have to answer is the same: What message will help me achieve my goal?

At Meeting Street Insights, we work with enterprises of diverse sizes and purposes to help them research, explore, and identify the right message for their company, campaign, or cause. We work with our clients to customize a research plan that best fits their unique needs, but we wanted to share some of our steps in the process.

Step 1: Establish your goals

Before any research begins, you need to define and establish your goals. For example, if you’re a political candidate, do you want to turn out your base, appeal to swing voters, or both? If you’re a nonprofit, you might want to see what message to send to existing members that will make them more likely to give again, or maybe you’d prefer messaging that appeals to a new group so you can increase the size of your donor pool. Explore and define your goals so you can determine who your message needs to resonate with. Remember, the more specific the goal, the more specific the audience and the more specific the message. 

Step 2: Workshop the language

Some organizations want to jump straight into a survey, but starting with qualitative research can often provide a stronger foundation and lead to better survey results. It’s important to make sure you’re saying things in the most effective way. Conducting a focus group is one great way to test this. 

The focus group moderator will have a prepared set of questions to ask based on your goals. You can provide various versions of the same messaging themes to see how the focus group participants respond to different language. You’ll be able to determine what parts of a message should be emphasized or deemphasized, if any portion of your phrasing is confusing, or, if the tone should be adjusted, all with the goal of communicating in the way that resonates best with your audience.

Focus groups also have the added benefit of providing a space for new ideas to emerge. The conversation between participants might reveal new benefits, messages, angles, audiences, or tactics that you can incorporate into your messaging strategy.

Step 3: Conduct a survey

The insights gained from step 2 play a big role here for us. We will review the responses received from the focus groups to see what ideas, themes, and concerns emerged. Based on that work, we can develop a survey to send to your target audiences. Survey research will help you identify which messages work best with which audiences.

This may seem obvious, but it bears saying: If your audience isn’t interested in what you’re saying, they’re not going to listen (or care). Let’s say, for example, you’re running for office and need to target Independents between the ages of 18 and 54. Your campaign’s best message overall may not be the best message specifically for this subgroup. Survey research is the most effective tool for determining which groups should be targeted with which messages.

Step 4: Analyze the results

When the responses from that survey roll in, we dig in, compile the results, analyze the data, and provide their recommendations. This step often leads to surprising results, even for experienced clients in well-established industries. Change happens quickly, and the message that has worked for a long time often needs to be updated for a specific audience or for a specific goal. 

Now, if this process sounds simple, we should clarify that it’s not — well, not necessarily. Although the process itself is very straightforward, to be successful, it requires specialized knowledge and subject matter expertise. If you do not have an in-house research team, you’ll want to reach out to a firm like Meeting Street Insights to conduct your messaging research. As your partner, we would work hand in hand with you to gain a thorough understanding of your issues and needs, then develop the research tools to solve them. You can rely on us to bring deep and broad capabilities — and a tremendous wealth of cross-sector experience — to address your most challenging information demands with a tailored approach.

If you need help conducting market research or want to create a custom market research plan for your business, we can help. Get in touch or subscribe to our newsletter.

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know the winning issues,
targets, and positioning

know the winning issues,
targets, and positioning