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At its essence, the job of a communicator is to relay information in an impactful way to the right audience. Sometimes this process is straightforward. Other times, the information is complex, unwieldy, controversial, or time sensitive, and thus not easily communicated. Simplifying and sharing this complex information with the public requires planning and skill.

Whether sharing public information around a crisis, launching a product that might have complexity, or raising public awareness around an easily misunderstood topic, the following tactics will help you articulate your message clearly:

  1. Establish the objective and desired outcomes. These will inform what needs to be communicated and how.
  2. Take an “audience-focused” approach. Start with the assumption that your audience does not know or understand much about the information you need to share.
  3. Break the information down into smaller pieces. Attention spans are short; get to the heart of the issue quickly.
  4. Use metaphors or analogous concepts that are familiar to your audience. For example, when communicating details of a construction project to the general public, “the length of a football field” may be used to articulate a distance close to 120 yards.
  5. Rely on video and visuals. Not everyone can understand or digest data points, and visuals will tell a story and bring the data to life, turning abstract ideas into tangible examples.
  6. Explain why it matters. Don’t assume your audience understands the relevance of your message. Make it clear and direct. “You need to know this because it affects your community” is an appropriate way to get their attention.
  7. Avoid unnecessary detail. Circle back to your objectives. Simplify. What information can be removed?

After your messages have been established, there are several ways to ensure they are received as intended:

  1. Test them for comprehension. A coworker who wasn’t involved in crafting the messages can let you know if your messaging is clear and relevant. A key community stakeholder may be able to identify if a particular analogy has a loaded meaning, or if there are sensitivities or increased likelihood for confusion around a particular message point.
  2. Have multiple touchpoints. Communicating sensitive or complex information is not “one and done.” Don’t communicate once and assume it’s been understood. For example, if you have given a public presentation, make sure the audience has access to the material afterward. If you are running a campaign, establish a call to action or prompt to register for additional information. Follow up, and have tools and resources, like FAQ or Q&A documents, available for your audiences.
  3. Establish a mechanism for dialogue, questions, and concerns. The opportunity to field questions from your audience elevates key issues that have not been properly understood.

Finally, as is the case with all communications, selecting and preparing the right spokesperson for your organization is of utmost importance. Ensure your spokesperson can stick to the key messages and not dilute them. Furthermore, empathy matters, particularly in cases where complex or sensitive information is being communicated. Equipping a confident, articulate, and understanding spokesperson with key messages will go a long way in building trust between you and your audience.

Elmore has decades of experience getting complex information to the right audiences. Reach out if we can do the same for you.