Creating a Message Box

Communicating a consistent message can be tricky, even for the most seasoned leaders. Senior leaders and managers from the same company may communicate dramatically different messages, especially in circumstances where they’re under pressure. Given the rise of a multiplicity of communication channels, the need to have everyone on the same page has never been greater.

A message box is a helpful way to simplify and unify your company’s communication. This message box can be communicated through email, video, in-person, or in any way that best fits your company’s needs. But no matter what medium you do decide to use for sharing this information, the content should consist of a message box that contains between one and three main messages. Working with your management team, you can craft a message box that contains no more than three main points.

For example, if your company is laying off employees, your message box might be: “Our mission remains the same: To deliver environmentally sensitive products. In order to preserve our core values and achieve our business priorities this year, we had to invest in certain areas and reduce costs in other areas.”

Notice how this message box draws on the company’s purpose and core values to generate the message box. This is one of the many advantages of having people aligned around a well-understood purpose and core values. Even if managers must respond off the cuff, they can ground their communication in the message of “here’s who we are” and “here’s what we stand for.” In essence, the company’s purpose and core values are the message box.

Message Box

Your message box might be: “We are focused on only one thing: our customers.” If someone asks how you’re going to deal with financial setbacks, the first thing out of your mouth should be: “We are focused on our customers. As long as we do that well, we are convinced our financial situation will straighten itself out.” Every communication begins with the message box. Staying in the box is hard work. It can feel repetitive. But the effort is worth it in terms of the consistency and trust building.

Don’t try to customize your message to fit a specific group. If you have too many messages, people will hear different things, and they’ll perceive you and your company as disingenuous. On the other hand, if you communicate from a place of purpose, people will sense the level of commitment and integrity.

Learn more about developing your organization’s purpose, core values, and vision in my new book, The Leadership Equation: 10 Practices That Build Trust, Spark Innovation, and Create High-Performing Organizations.

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