In public relations we talk a lot about messaging. Staying on message is, as Banya would say on Seinfeld, golden. It's the gold standard. But before an organization can stay on message, it needs to first figure out what the message is, whom the message is for, and the best way to deliver it. That's not as simple as it sounds.

Organizations that try and do too much for too many, or worse, to be all things to all people, end up with messages that can be confusing and dull. Some organizations dilute their messages because they want to please everyone. Many are just too busy to develop a clear understanding of what they want to say. And that's a problem that can be very frustrating for each internal and external audience the organization is trying to reach.

Organ donation organizations are a good example of delivering a clear message in a consistent way. Many of them use Donate Life as a primary message. It communicates the organization's mission and a call to action, all in two words. From there, they can expand the message. "Organ donors save lives." "One donor can save the lives of eight people." "Give the gift of life."

Townsend (a Pushkin PR client) is an intellectual property law firm. They wanted to communicate that no one is better at protecting the ideas and innovations that inventors and entrepreneurs create. When the firm went through a recent rebranding process, it settled on a way to communicate that message in one word: Townsend. The message is simple, clear and direct. You came to the right place. Enough said. Rather that coming up with long, complicated sentences that tried to explain the firm's long history, every practice group and every industry it serves, it settled on something beautifully simple: Townsend, period.

When an organization struggles to explain who it is or what it does it is an indication that something is wrong. That's when you hear people saying that someone is "off message." They ramble, they stumble, they get themselves in a whole lot of trouble. It’s like taking to someone at a party that's had a few too many drinks. Pretty soon you start explaining to them that you are due back on planet Earth.

If this problem sounds familiar, take a step back and ask a few important questions:

Who are we?

What do we stand for? What is our brand promising?

What do we do?

What are the three most important things we want people to know about us?

Answering those questions will help you define the core qualities that define your organization. After that, the trick is to communicate them in a clear and consistent way. Once you master that skill, you'll be in like Flynn. Solid gold.

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