PM Articles > Carl Pritchard > What's Your Summertime Message?

What's Your Summertime Message?

By Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

One former employer had a compelling strategy for sharing his latest thoughts. Rather than simply passing them down from on high, he would share them as his [Insert your favorite element of timing here] message. The Christmas message. The summer vacation message. The dog days of August message. The Labor Day message. The Arbor Day message. Take your pick!

Over time, I realized something: there was no summertime message. It was just something he wanted to share and to capture as special.

It can be difficult to spice up project messaging. Because our messages are sometime repetitive or unexciting, we may find it challenging to get others to pay attention. In the sea of email, memos and communications, true connections are often lost. While you might believe your email is the most important missive since the Declaration of Independence, others will perceive it as more spam. But if you send the latest change order on National Mad Hatter Day (October 6), you might be able to convey a wildly different message, as might National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day (September 14).

Of course, special messaging can be abused if used too frequently. As I write this, it's Canada Day. U.S. Independence Day is just three days away, and July 5 is National Bikini Day, National Apple Turnover Day, and National Graham Cracker Day. (Want to check out what day you're reading this? Try http://nationaldaycalendar.com/.) But used as an element of emphasis and accent, sending a choose-your-occasion message can reinforce some of the critical notions that we need to convey to our teams, customers, and management.

What are three ways to make your message to your team, your management, your peers "special?"

  1. Build the message in an inverted pyramid.
  2. Sell a theme.
  3. Close with direct action.

The Inverted Pyramid

Welcome to Journalism 201. (Journalism 101 was the history of journalism, and you really don't need that.) The inverted pyramid was a style invented for newspapers; the message could be trimmed at any point after the first paragraph, and the article as a whole would still make sense. Stop at the end of the first paragraph? You have the key points of the message. Add another paragraph? You get backup and support, and you can stop there. Add one more? More detail and background are provided.

The inverted pyramid is a powerful communications tool in the days of the short attention span.

The inverted pyramid is a powerful communications tool in the days of the short attention span. (SQUIRREL!) Some people will read every line of powerful prose that you pen. Others will barely go past the subject line in your email. Ideally your messaging should accommodate both seamlessly. The inverted pyramid accomplishes that.

Theme

With themes, memory is your friend. You can make your points stick with ever-so-simple strategies.

Noodle on the notion of writing an email on National Pasta Day (October 17). Oh, the puns you could pun.

Not a fan of wordplay? Consider the power of a consistent phrase, well used. Two to four words repeated prudently in any message have the potential to become a mantra. "Serve the Client" might be one appropriate to project management, for example. In writing (or sharing) any message about why an organization is taking particular actions at a given point in time, those three words can become powerful. Repeated judiciously—but repeated—they become a battle cry for why we do what we do. They also become a pat answer when you are sharing your rationale for decisions made or options selected.

Direct Action

Want someone else to make the decision? Tell them! Sadly, we often neglect the importance of telling people specifically what we want them to do at the conclusion of any communication. I recently received an email from a friend inquiring if I had read the recent article about my local farmer's market. I read it. It told me nothing new. It didn't direct me to action. Neither did my friend's email. When I replied "I read it," his response was intriguing.

Weren't you outraged?

No, I wasn't. In fact, I didn't know I was supposed to be outraged. I had known of the story for months, and there wasn't anything new to raise my ire. If my friend wanted outrage, he should have let me know.

That's the point of any communications event. The point. Facebook recognizes this with the ability to quickly "Like" or "React" to any message. But as with a Facebook post that a friend has died, it's hard to know what reaction we should offer without direction.

As we close out any communications event, the recipient should be afforded some clear direction on the desired outcome. Be outraged! Like! React! Get the deliverable to the client no later than 5PM! With direction, communication has meaning. With direction, even conventional one-way communication becomes more bi-directional. With direction, everyone gets a chance to feel like a true party to the conversation. They get the sense that their participation has meaning.

"Like" Pritchard Management Associates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/PMPPrep/

Carl welcomes your comments and insights in his e-mail.




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