The message is dead (2009)

“The message is dead.”

I have heard this statement several times and from several different sources.

The idea is that traditionally an organization had its ‘message’ and the goal was to make sure the message ‘got out’. Getting the message ‘out’ meant that the information was printed or restated by mainstream media when a story and newscast was created.

One of the problems I had with the ‘getting the message out’ thought was that whether or not my statement was reprinted in a story, or a soundbite that I wanted was used in a newscast, there was no way to know if those on the receiving end actually received it, understood it, and digested it.

Social media is a now a way to see if your message is actually having an impact.

The idea that the ‘message is dead’ comes from the fact that the organization and the media are not the only two players anymore.

The audience used to be a passive participant with traditional media, but is now an active participant taking part is the ongoing discussions about your organization in various social networks.

Does this change the fact that when conducting a traditional media interview a spokesperson should go on camera without preparing any points for them to get across?

Of course not.

What it does mean is that those who rely too heavily on their blocking, bridging and messaging will come across as being too scripted.

Journalists and audiences have an increased awareness for those with extended media training. The overly scripted individual is the one that stays on message, and only the message, regardless of what question is being asked to them.

The unprepared individual is the one we all get a laugh out of because they are being asked questions they should know the answer to, but don’t.

What the goal should be is to be a prepared individual; have some information and points that you want to get across, but make sure that you are focusing on the questions and on giving genuine answers, not a pre-scripted, robotic answer.

Finally, after the traditional media interview is over, understand that your role and the media’s role have been reduced in importance.

The audience is going to talk about your organization on different social networks and that is a good thing. This will allow you to see if the information you are trying to get across is actually getting across.

If it is not, engage with them or try getting your point across through another method.

You cannot control the message, but getting your information out so people can discuss and decide for themselves has never been easier.

The message may be dead, but the conversation lives.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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