How to make your messages stick

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
2 minute read

Frustrated leaders lament that they can’t get their staff to hear and/or remember their key messages. They feel they have presented these messages over and over again, yet nothing sticks. Even worse, staff say they don’t even recall hearing the message.

This topic is not about presentation skills as there are plenty of other resources available to help you design and deliver engaging talks.

This topic is about the leader needing to over-communicate, at least from their own perspective, the key messages they want staff to receive.

When leaders feel frustration at staff not hearing key messages despite numerous presentations on the topic, they need to pause to reflect on exactly how many times the message has been presented and to what audiences.

For example, imagine the leader is announcing a move into a new overseas market and she or he wants everyone to be clear about this shift in direction and the implications for the whole organisation.

The leader may present their message a dozen times over a two month period, but each presentation is not to the same audience.

Two or three may have been to the board, a similar number to the management team, a few to key customer groups and finally, two presentations to staff at the monthly staff meetings.

In this scenario, the leader feels they have given this topic exhaustive coverage over the two months.

However, an individual staff member who heard the message at the first staff meeting two months ago and who was on annual leave when the second meeting was held, only has a vague recollection of something about a new market.

It would be unfair for this staff member to be criticised for their vagueness when they only heard the message once, many weeks ago.

We all know at least some of the theory about our inability to absorb and retain information from even the best presentations.

So leaders need to think carefully about over-communicating to each and every audience they want on-board with their message.

This can be a daunting prospect, so enlisting the support of other staff is essential.

By over-communicating the message to team leaders and asking them to reinforce the message with their staff on a regular basis, the leader can get a multiplier effect which reduces the need for them to talk to everyone, all the time.

One small step in the next 24 hours

Develop a communication plan for the next key message you want to spread across your team or organisation.

Randomly select individuals from each of your major stakeholder groups and work out from your plan how often each of these people will be exposed to the message and over what timeframe.

Make a judgement, based on the importance and complexity of your message, if this frequency is enough and, if not, how you might activate a multiplier effect to spread the message more widely or more often.