Effective messaging is determined first of all by strategy. What are you trying to get accomplished, how, and for whom? Most importantly, who cares? Medium, tactics, and tone all come afterwards. "Put it on social media" just doesn't cut it anymore.

Digital Natives

We are living in a time of digital natives. This isn't news to anyone, but what is new is that "digital native" isn't based in age, it's based on access, education, and immersion. There are homeless baby boomers that excel at Twitter in a way that affluent ones don't. There are children in good neighborhoods that use Facebook for hours each day, and yet don't understand a thing about how it works. In other words, our organizations have to function with demographics that are unpredictable, fuzzy, and constantly evolving.

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Experiential Branding and Engagement

One of the ways to best engage both millennials and the digital generation more broadly speaking is through experience and engagement. This means a couple of things. First, you want to make sure that what you offer your stakeholders (employees, bosses, customers, clients, communities, etc.) is a 360 degree approach to the brand. Can they interact with it? Can they see it, feel it, fall in love with it? Can it make them spend an hour (or even a full minute!) sitting still, or better yet, actually going out to do something? 

Second, you want to make sure to be engaged and promote engagement. This doesn't just mean experience; it means actually connecting on an active level with your stakeholders. Don't talk about diversity; go on a retreat to a place your employees encounter it (and the tensions around it). Don't watch a sexual harassment or discrimination video; create a safe space and get in a real discussion about ethics in the workplace, appropriate behavior, and the inequalities people live with on a daily basis. Don't just give money to a local charity; show them you're engaged in the community, and encourage them to meet you half way, on a continual basis. Make it interesting, make it fun, and make it a part of the change you want to see in the world. 

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Effective Storytelling

Telling a good story is about two things: an honest desire to connect with other people, and skill in execution. There's more to it, though. Telling a story that will create sustained interaction and engagement also requires knowing your audience, listening to them, and being willing to adapt to their needs and the circumstances. It's about touching them where they live, from a place that's close to your sense of self (as a leader, as a CEO, as an employee, as a teacher). 

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From Preparation to Analysis

So how does this happen? There are a few necessary steps: the first is research. Market research allows us to understand what conversations are already happening. Stakeholder analysis allows us to listen to, understand, and craft profiles of the people and organizations that will hear our stories. Competition research allows us to view ourselves in a larger context, so that we don't miss the forest for the trees. The second step is pre-production efforts, which includes campaign storyboarding and planning for best practices (including for social media), media design, lifestyle and media appearance coaching, creating metrics and analytics to measure success, and training for crisis, diversity, or other issues. The third step is the production phase, which includes creating promotional materials, the messages themselves (e.g., video), and events. This involves connecting to the right vendor, and knowing what to do in-house, and what to outsource. 

Choosing and executing metrics is extremely important, because it allows you to connect your goals to your results (and thus discuss value of different measures before evaluating return on investment). Analysis, for instance, allows us to understand how a news appearance, event, flyer, or social media campaign actually did in terms of what we wanted it to do. Overall, metrics should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.