For the last 12 years, I have been helping organization’s construct messages using a simple formula. It goes like this:

your message = your promise + the incentive – the barrier

Here’s how it breaks down…

Your Promise — Simply, this is the essence of your organization’s brand identity. It answers the question… what is the specific meaningful value that we create for the world? This is the constant in your message. It never changes no matter who your audiences is. By knowing this, you know who you are. When placing this in relationship with the other parts of the formula you are able to marry the value you create to the needs and beliefs of your audience.

The Barrier — Barriers to participation come in three forms… 1) Perceptual – your audience has a negative or incorrect perception about your field of work or cause, 2) Practical – things like location, money, or the timing of your offering stand in the way of your audience participating, and 3) Experiential – your audience has participated with you in the past and they had a bad experience. By understanding what barriers to participation exist, you can consider how impactful the incentive needs to be in order to overcome the barrier.

The Incentive — This is the most challenging part of the formula. It requires that you have a deep understanding of your audience and how their needs and beliefs connect to the principles that guide your organization’s work. The incentive must authentically communicate why being in relationship with one another will be beneficial to your audience.

Here’s how the pieces go together…

Your organization delivers valuable early childhood development training for parents and professionals. One of your core beliefs, rooted in scientific research, is that every parent plays a significant role in helping their child build essential learning skills.  You have a group of parents who want their young children to succeed at learning, but believe that this is the prime responsibility of their child’s teacher and school. Also, they are sick and tired of being told what they are not doing for their child. Yet, as you get to know the audience, you notice that they are very attracted to your research on how children develop the capability to learn.

So how do you build a message that connects with this audience?

First, define the promise your organization is delivering. In this case, it might be… “Unlocking our children’s future.”

Second, define the barrier. It is clear that the barrier is perceptual… the audience is tired of being told what they are not doing and feeling like they are bad parents.

Third, define the incentive. The key here is to meet your audience where they are already at. In this case, its the research on how children learn and the role we all play (i.e. parent, teacher, school, community) in helping young children build essential learning skills.

Finally, your message might go something like this…

Research shows that by age three a child’s brain is fully developed. In order to unlock our children’s future it takes the whole community to create experiences and opportunities that help them build the neural pathways necessary to develop essential learning skills. Join us for our upcoming gathering where we will discuss the latest research on how children’s brains work and the role we can all play in helping them succeed at school and life.

What the formula does is help you carefully consider the key ingredients that need go into your message as well as  identify how you plan to authentically connect with your audience.