Constructing An Effective Message – Make It Work!

Effective communications.  Effective speeches.  Effective documents.  We continually harp on the importance of developing communication habits that inform/persuade/motivate the audience to meet your goal.  Fine, you say.  But how?

Like everything else, it comes down to packaging.  Every message must have an:

1  –  Attention Getter.  The attention getter is a headline or statement that captures the audience’s interest or addresses the audience’s pain.  “Would you like to be able to . . .”  “You are the expert on . . .”  “Four out of five injuries are caused by . . .”   Spoken or written, your goal is to rivet the audience on your message and state your intent in terms that appeal to that audience’s needs.

 2  –  Body.  Your audience has a limited attention span.  The description you offer in the body should be only enough to orient the audience, not overwhelm them.  Rather than paint the proverbial picture, think in terms of a sketch.

 3  –  Summary.  Remember that less than attentive listener or reader?  He has wandered off at some point in your message, no matter how compelling your packaging.  The summary simply reminds him of the end goal – the walk away.

4  –  Call to Action.  The call to action alerts the audience as to what needs to happen next.  It answers the question, “What do you want us to do about it?”  It provides structure so the audience can meet expectations.  Rather than “go off and be effective,” the call to action says “to be effective, follow steps 1-4.”  Most people like parameters – “tell me what needs to be done.”

When preparing your next verbal or written message, determine your purpose.  Are you trying to inform the reader, resolve a situation, or request information?  Now utilize the template below to construct your delivery. 


  Attention Getter Body Summary Call To Action
To Inform        

Give a summary of the
and the goal

Describe the circumstances
that caused the situation
Outline the expected results Direct the audience
to the 
resource for
more information

To Resolve        

Identify the problem Give the background or
describe the
that caused the situation   
Outline the proposed solution Direct the audience
appropriate next steps    

To Request

Explain why this response is needed     Detail the specifics of what you need   Express the level of urgency for      
a response
Direct the audience
appropriate next steps


It is almost formulaic.  Fit your next speaking or writing opportunity into this template and see if you aren’t able to better Make It Work!  (Thank you, Tim Gunn.)

Caveat: This does not give you permission to use lots of “I” statements:  “I want,” “I need,” “I require,” etc.   We’re simply talking structure.   

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