The term “uncertain world” almost seems ridiculously inadequate for what we’re experiencing right now. A devastating war in the Middle East. Continued suffering in Ukraine. A political system and society that gets more and more divided and more and more bitter every day. Steady increases in hate and gun violence. An approaching election cycle that could be the ugliest yet. An improving but fragile economy. Need I go on?
But when has the world ever been certain? Here’s a hint: Never.
Still, there is cause for concern. All these realities are taking a toll on our individual and collective psyches. If it seeps into our messages, that could endanger our work. Can we keep that from happening? Can we use our messages to alleviate any of these stresses?
If you have an updated messaging strategy, those questions are a lot easier to answer. A continued demonstration and reiteration of why you care about your work will give everything you say context. It can also provide much-needed stabilization, a touchstone if you will. A pause.
Let’s first talk about focus. As always, staying true to your focus is essential. In other words, stay in your lane. With one caveat that I will address in a second, keep the attention on what you do and let the other organizations focus on what they do. Always bring your message back to why your work is important and how you approach it differently (and presumably better) than anyone else. There is positivity there. Put it to work. Show the optimism you feel and the excitement you have about solving whatever problem you’re solving.
The caveat I mentioned, of course, is that sometimes we have to veer into someone else’s lane. Many organizations drew the ire of their constituencies for not making a statement about the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. Sometimes, not saying something is saying something. I had more to stay on the topic in this blog post from 2021 on When You Should Take a Stand. If there is an issue weighing down any of your constituencies, especially your employees, acknowledge it in a way that is appropriate for your organization and your mission. If you think about branding as forming, growing, and protecting relationships, it becomes crystal clear that your support is sometimes needed.
Next, authenticity is especially important when thinking about your message in an uncertain world. Know who you are as a brand and stick to it. In times of turmoil, people want to feel trust, and they crave stability. Sticking to who you are as a brand delivers that. If your constituents are particularly impacted by an issue, continue to bring your messages to life with the same tone, the same visual identity you always have.
On the other hand, brand refreshes or new chapters can provide much-needed optimism for the future. If you go that route, make certain that they are strategic and that your audiences are open to the change. But how?
That leads me to my next thought on the topic of managing your message in an uncertain world: research. You have to ask. You have to communicate. You have to do the work to understand what your constituencies need, what they want, and how you can help. As I’ve said before, a message strategy created without the benefit of some research is not communication. It is yelling through a bullhorn. Communication is a two-way street.
In the United States, November is home to Thanksgiving, and in that spirit, I will end with my final thought. Never underestimate the power of gratitude. Show it. Share it. Embrace it wherever and whenever you can, no matter how small or large. Your message, and our uncertain world, will be the better for it.