3 Questions You Should Always Ask to Avoid a Communications Fail

What I’m about to tell you may seem obvious. As you read on, you may think, Of course we do this. We always do this. Everybody knows that. What is this, Communication for Dummies?

Okay, before you start to chuckle and guffaw and get all overconfident…you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen this mistake play out in the workplace.

There are three questions you should always ask before you write a single sentence for any type of communication initiative. If you don’t, your message will fail–every time.

1. What is the goal here?

This basic question is overlooked so often. Without a goal–no matter how talented a writer you are–you cannot effectively write anything.

If you understand the goal, you can create a strategy. The goal could be to increase donations, to increase the number of clients served, to spread awareness about your cause or services, and so on.

Creating an informational sheet of the services you offer? Not a goal.

2. Who is your audience?

You cannot effectively write a message without understanding who your audience is. Every message needs to be tailored to your target audience.

If they are donors, how old are they and what are their interests? What do they care about? How are they influenced? Once you understand them, you can write a message specifically for them.

This question ties in with the next question.

3. What’s in it for them?

Once you understand your audience’s wants and needs, you need to define what benefit you are offering them with your message. Every single communication must be written with this in mind.

Your nonprofit may want to tout its brand new one-of-a-kind program, but unless you find a way to turn that into a benefit for your target audience, they will not care.

Let that sink in for a moment. You may care, your boss probably cares, and your boss’ boss cares a whole lot. But your target audience won’t care–not unless you tell them why they should.

Whether your goal is to spread awareness about the work you do to prevent homelessness, treat patients, find homes for pets, or save the planet, you need to explain how your cause benefits the target audience of your message.

It’s so easy to fall back on the assumption that people will automatically care enough to take action. Unfortunately, they won’t.

Think I’m wrong? There are millions of people starving in third world countries right now, and few people are doing anything about it. Only when a catastrophe brings poverty front and center (think Haiti and Katrina) do people start to care. And when people care, they take action.

It’s not so much that people are selfish. People are just busy. They are wrapped up in their own lives, and there are a million different things clamoring for their attention every day. Unless they are directly affected or touched, they won’t pay attention.

Give them a reason to stop their daily routine. Tell them what’s in it for them, or their children, or their children’s children. Explain to them why they should care, and only then, will they take action.