On Message: Precision Communication for the Digital Age

On Message: Precision Communication for the Digital Age

by Theo Theobald

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Social media has changed the landscape of communication, and many consumers are facing an information overload. In the digital world, less really is more.

On Message is a valuable take on communications in business to help marketers and small business owners gain and sustain new customers. It bridges the gap between the classic rules of persuasive writing


Social media has changed the landscape of communication, and many consumers are facing an information overload. In the digital world, less really is more.

On Message is a valuable take on communications in business to help marketers and small business owners gain and sustain new customers. It bridges the gap between the classic rules of persuasive writing and the increasing demands of new media: from e-mail and blogging to the next generation of social networking. Examining how to capture more followers who listen, both longer and more intently, the book is packed full of exercises, templates, simple formulas, review techniques and progress charts, helping marketers make their written messages memorable, talked about and influential.

By including tips for all media platforms and examples drawn from some of the most famous international orators including Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, On Message shows that whether someone is tweeting, speaking or updating their Facebook status, it's not just the words that are important but whether anybody is listening.

Editorial Reviews

Midwest Book Review - California Bookwatch

"[P]rovides expert tips on how to keep up with the latest new media, adapt one's writing style to fit it, and how to do it right. From communicating across borders and developing loyalty to building a personal brand and handling blogs and more, this pairs exercises and tips on writing with keys to better communication style, and makes for a powerful presentation recommended for any collection strong in social media, marketing, writing, and modern communications culture."
Book News, Inc. - Eithne O'Leyne

"[P]resents tools, techniques, and tips for businesses to use to create a powerful message in the social media age."
Valary with a Why - Valary Oleinik

"If you are looking for something to help you get started thinking about how you and your business should be communicating online, this is worth a look. Even if you aren’t a novice in the digital communication cyberworld, you may find the book helpful in communicating with those who haven’t spent as much time considering how they sound coming through keyboard."

Product Details

Kogan Page, Ltd.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


Noisy, isn’t it?

In every way our world has become a louder place to live and it’s going to get worse. It’s noisier in the sense that we are  bombarded by more and more messages every day; everyone seems to be crying out for our attention. From politicians who want our support, to competitors shouting about their latest achieve-ments, retailers with their ‘biggest ever sale’ and opinion-formers testing our judgement on fashion, attitudes and trends. And where are we in all this, where is our voice? How do we make ourselves heard?

As individuals we don’t have a limitless budget to mount a  self-publicity campaign and in business we face competition from much bigger players, so we need to get smarter with our written communication: it needs to be incisive, relevant, engaging and  delivered in a way that can’t be ignored. The old adage of good communication remains true and content is still king, but in  the digital age there is more. Now it is not simply what we say which matters, but also how we say it, when we say it and who we say it to.

Imagine someone receiving one of your messages, how do you want them to react? Perhaps with a knowing smile, a nod of  approval, recognition of your insight or interest in your proposition. With really effective messaging we can galvanize people, get  a reaction, encourage them to reply or take some action as a con-sequence. In business this can be an amazingly powerful tool for connecting us with a whole variety of stakeholders who take an interest in, or are affected by our activities. Whether we’re selling  a product, service, lifestyle or ideology the effect of powerful messaging is to garner loyalty, generate action and ultimately  encourage evangelism on our part.

Although the world has become noisier, we do have one thing  in our favour. Technology has become the great enabler in com-munication but it is not the hardware and software which has  had the biggest effect, it is behaviour. Attitudes have changed and  ‘accessibility’ is the new trend which has altered the way we think of personal and business relationships. Vague ‘friend of a friend’ relationships are hardening into real alliances between interested parties and with millions of online connections being made every day it is no longer thought of as pushy if we make the first approach. Suggesting a ‘relation¬ship of convenience’ based on  common ideals or goals is now the norm and we can begin the  process of seeking out new partners to drive our businesses or  personal ambitions forward.

In time we can build a community supported by a virtual  intranet of our own creation. Whoever is within our circle will hear what we have to say and over time that circle will widen.

Setting ourselves this objective is the easy part, but exactly how in these days of information overload do we rise above the ca-cophony of din and stand out from the crowd?

The first thing to say is that ‘less is more’. None of us has the time to read everything which comes our way. In fact a common analogy for consuming incoming communication is that it is ‘like drinking from a fire hose’. As a hard-pressed executive once said, ‘This pile here, this is the stuff I’m meant to read’. Enable your au-dience to  get to the kernel of a message and they are much more likely to stay with you. Don’t make it hard for them!

The logic of this is undeniable. If we are swamped with ‘mes-saging’ in the broadest sense, the only way to cut through the noise and get ourselves heard is by succinctly delivering powerful, memorable, consistent content.

In this context, what do we mean by consistency? To stay ‘on message’ means working out what the objectives are, devising  a ‘solution’ and communicating this relentlessly in a meaningful, easy-to-grasp way. Business leaders have talked for many years about the ‘elevator pitch’, where we only have a few floors in the lift with the chief executive officer (CEO) to outline what we’re setting out to achieve. When we’re constructing our own messages, it is an excellent discipline to remember. Not only does it encourage brevity, but it also allows us the facility to deliver the same core content time and again, reinforcing our stance. This is important because often the differentiator in business is not so much what the message says, but what it says about us.

This leads us to a second fundamental tool: finding our voice. In this we have a head start as we are already unique, in thoughts, mannerisms, outlook and personality. The trick is to turn our personal idiosyncrasies into a way of ‘speaking’ to others through our written communication. In very many ways this process is much like branding, so we will examine in detail the skills of the marketers who have built international brands and sustained their value over many years. There are valuable lessons to be learned here, and seeing our messages as a key part of our personal branding will help to maintain the consistency we have talked about, as well as giving readers a shorthand method of judging who we are.

In daily life we come across ‘clusters of language’ which are in essence ways of speaking in different circumstances. There is ad-vertising speak, political rhetoric and legal jargon, all of which are bound by profession. Beyond this we find sociological groupings; teenagers have their own language, Afro Caribbean communities often use ‘patois’, the aristocracy adopt ‘the Queen’s English’. What is common to all is that it is the individuals in these clusters who have found a voice which is theirs and theirs alone. It may draw heavily on the norms of their group, but each and every one is  different. Developing and sustaining this voice makes our brand stand out from the crowd.

What follows here is a text which draws on the widest possible selection of sources, from political oratory, all the way through the science and art of marketing and promotion, along the road of technological and societal change, covering the ground of the ad-vertising copywriter and encompassing the wonders of language through précis and precision. These are the strategies for getting our messages noticed by our ‘targets’.

It is unthinkable that on this journey we wouldn’t touch base with some of today’s biggest names in social networking, but if Twitter gets frequent mentions or Facebook is used as a representation of the wider world of connectivity this is not an endorsement of them over their rivals. The digital communications marketplace is crowded already and is set to become even more so in the coming years, but it will take time to shake down; history teaches us that consolidation and competition will shape the future. However,  as the technology constantly evolves, the principles of effective messaging will not change.

Whatever developments in hardware unfold, the trend will  remain the same. There will be an increasing number of channels, content will become richer encompassing text, graphics, pictures and video. HD and 3D will make images brighter and more excit-ing, but the words we supplement them with will never lose their significance or ability to move or to motivate our audience.

In order to achieve this objective of effective messaging you will find a range of tools, techniques and tips to help you develop new skills:
simple formulae for better messaging;
practise exercises;
review techniques;
step-by-step guides;
ways of flexing your writing muscles;
strategies to develop hard-hitting communication.

The simple truth is that boring messages are just boring. However, if what you say (through any channel) is vibrant, readable, interest-ing and unique you will always attract an audience and your mes-sages will stick.

Use the practical exercises, plan your own communication strategy and develop a digital social networking presence that will rise above the noise.

Make your voice heard!

Meet the Author

Theo Theobald
is a freelance writer and business consultant. He has accumulated 30 years of business experience in both public and private sector organizations. He is also the author of Develop Your Presentation Skills and the co-author of Shut Up and Listen! (both Kogan Page).

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