Finding the right amount of messaging — that balance between too much information and not enough — has always been a challenge. It’s not enough to find the right message. We must also determine how much of it is too much of a good thing.
When trying to decide, it’s important to step back and remember the intent of any message. It is not to convey everything there is to know about your work—just the opposite. The key is to convey just enough information that entices your audience to want to learn more. Getting them to that stage makes them active participants in your work right away. Doing so takes away their agency. It makes them passive observers and not potential participants.
Plus, sharing your story one layer at a time allows you to learn what’s important to them based on the follow-up questions they ask. Too often, we put it all out there, hoping that our audience will wade through all we have to offer and pick what’s right for them. There are two problems with that approach:
First, that’s a lot to ask of a stranger. We’re putting the onus on them to find what they’re looking for. It’s as if you had walked into a shoe store and asked to see a particular shoe in your size, and the clerk says, “Well, there’s the stockroom. Have at it.”
Second, no one has an attention span anymore, and if they cannot find at least a hint of what they’re looking for, they’ll head over to Google and start searching for it elsewhere.
Here’s a suggestion for finding the right amount of messaging. First, let’s check to see if you have too much of your message out there. (Doing so puts too much responsibility on your potential supporters.)
- Look at your website.
- How many services, programs, or offerings are listed?
- Are they all of equal importance, more or less?
- Do they all go into the same amount of detail?
- Do they together tell a compelling and comprehensive story of what your organization does?
If you have more than six services, programs, or offerings, you probably have too many. If they are not of equal importance or command an equal amount of your organization’s attention, then you definitely do. If you have a lot to say about some but not much to say about others, it’s probably best to find larger umbrellas under which they can sit.
If they do not, in their totality, tell a compelling and comprehensive story, then you have two choices: One, ask yourself if all of them legitimately are fulfilling your mission, or two, reframe your mission so that they do.
Now, let’s check to see if you have too little message out there. (This problem, in my experience, is rare but let’s explore the question nonetheless.) How much detail is listed if you have just one service, program, or offering? Is there a clear call to action for the reader? If not, you probably need more.
Either way, here’s a final trick to determining if you need help finding the right amount of messaging:
- Have someone else look at your website—someone who has a similar amount of education, life experience, and values as your audience(s).
- Ask them this question: After reading the website, how would you describe our work to someone else?
If the task seems like a chore, it’s time to get to work. If not, good job!
Want to know how your message stacks up against like organizations? Let’s do a Messaging Audit!