Important steps for getting your message across effectively

Ryan Worthen is president-elect of the Lexington-based Throughbred chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and communications manager at Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance.
Ryan Worthen is president-elect of the Lexington-based Throughbred chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and communications manager at Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance.

We are without a doubt in an unprecedented age of information overload and digital noise.

Each day, we are bombarded with messages that we either cannot or choose not to process, but for the talented few who understand purpose-driven communications and do break through the barriers to connect with their audience, the results can be remarkable.

Consider a recent campaign led by Ronald McDonald House Charities to increase awareness and support for their Care Mobile programs, which boast a fleet of 39 mobile clinics in vulnerable communities around the globe to provide access to health care for children in need.

Following the development of a well-tuned online campaign that generated more than 53,000 votes, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass won a $5,000 grant from RMHC Global. To win they received more than 12,000 votes of support for the Hazard-based Eastern Kentucky Care Mobile Program, which specializes in providing professional dental services and education to children. In partnership with the University of Kentucky, the Care Mobile will now be able to provide even more dental care to kids in Perry County and beyond, thanks to this creative communication effort.

Although this example demonstrates just one success story in which an organization effectively communicated with a specific purpose in mind, the principles of purpose-driven communication should be applied no matter whether you're responding to a disaster, announcing a new business initiative, pitching a story to a local reporter, or even sending your next e-mail.

Here are steps that will lead to more effective communications:

Do your research: Don't fall into the trap of believing that only you know what your audience wants or needs to hear.

Remember this: One person cannot carry out an effective communications or public relations strategy. To achieve your goal with any given message, it is imperative to have the commitment and involvement of your organization as well as the early support of your most trusted audience members.

You can rally this support by finding a cost-effective way to reach out to a small and diverse target group, asking them to give honest feedback before taking your message to the masses.

If your budget is what gets in the way of this research, consider at least reaching out to a few trusted sources who will give you unbiased opinions.

Develop a plan: Spend some time giving honest consideration to the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis, of what you're attempting to communicate.

Does your message clearly identify the point? Could this message positively or negatively change how others perceive you or your organization? Is there potential for your message to be misinterpreted or stir anger?

With purpose-driven communication, it should be easy to connect each element of your plan to the desired outcome, and you should always give consideration to the perceptions of the audience as well as the integrity of the message.

Deliver the message: Once you've developed your plan and completed your research, the most important aspect of communication is ensuring the audience will understand what you're saying and feel compelled to act accordingly.

This can be accomplished by delivering your message with clarity and focus. In certain cases, repetition is an integral part of the communications equation, too.

Whether you communicate through tweets or talk face to face, the previous steps of planning and research should also be applied to your delivery and will play an integral role in the success or failure of your efforts. When in doubt, ask your audience how they wish to receive messages, and then find a way to connect your purpose to their preference.

Determine your success: Make time to evaluate how successful you were in communicating and ready yourself to start the process all over again.

If your purpose was effectively communicated and well-received, consider the timing and start planning your next important message. If your objectives were not fully met, identify the areas that need improvement, and if need be, consider recruiting the help of an experienced public relations professional to help you navigate the sometimes murky waters that get in the way of effective communications.