In 1960, the US Navy introduced a design principle that stated most systems work best when kept simple rather than made complicated. Known by the acronym KISS, it translates to "keep it simple, stupid."
After more than a year of mixed messages and missed messages on nearly everything involving the pandemic to the failure of Texas' power grid, simple messages across all platforms prove best. Otherwise, straightforward communication becomes crisis communication.
Healthcare subjects, for example, can be tedious, particularly when filled with scientific and medical terminology. That makes it even more important to keep messages simple, honest, and candid. The average person may fail to comprehend a "zoonotic spillover– animal-to-human pathogen transfer." But most understand, "A new deadly virus is infecting thousands and spreading rapidly. We need to take precautions now."
You don't have to look any further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a playbook of what not to do with messaging. The old adage about "clear as mud" comes to mind with the CDC's latest guideline changes. Leaving your audience with more questions than answers doesn't follow the KISS principle.
Whether marketing your newest service line or communicating updated COVID-19 guidelines for customers, keep the message simple across all channels.
Avoid the #EpicFail.
When delivering messages, keep the three "Rs" in mind:
• Read the room
The most important relationship in your marketing funnel is the patient. The messages you deliver to stakeholders are key to building strong connections. A good rule of thumb to follow when developing a message is to make sure it's simple enough that both your mother (or grandmother) and adolescent child understand it. Follow through on those messages, from media pitches to patient promises. Otherwise, you may end up on Twitter as an #epicfail.
By reading the room and empathizing with stakeholders, particularly at this tenuous moment, brands forge strong bonds with a simple message. Compare Krispy Kreme offering free donuts to vaccinated customers with proof of vaccination to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warning customers to "unplug fancy appliances to conserve power" when millions throughout the state had no heat. Who read the room?
Express empathy in the message.
As we've noted before, after more than a year of the pandemic, people want to be seen and heard.
Speaking to audiences with compassion and addressing their needs starts first by getting outside your box. Listen carefully and put yourself in someone else's shoes to truly understand what they are saying. Developing empathetic messages starts internally. When employees feel marginalized, a culture of distrust likely spreads to external audiences as well.
Keep the message consistent.
Among the many takeaways from 2020 is that things can develop and change quickly or seemingly suddenly. Likewise, messages may change over time. However, try to confirm as many facts as possible before pushing out a message, whether it's a statement to the media or a new tagline. Keep your message consistent to maintain brand credibility.
With the CDC's murky guidelines, the agency basically passed the buck onto the public to do the right thing. Yet, an Axios poll shows that most of us trust our family and close friends. Beyond that, only 38% of the respondents say they trust anyone outside their circle.
Inconsistency leaves your audience with more questions than answers, so they may turn to alternative and unreliable sources for guidance. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the anti-vaccination content on social media sites come from only 12 different sources.
From February 1–March 16, 2021, content from these anti-vaxxers, who range from politicians to former bodybuilders, was shared or posted more than 800,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. Their messages remained consistent, while government agencies and mainstream medical professionals struggled to discredit them because their own messages were often inconsistent and disjointed.
To keep your ship afloat and sailing smoothly, even through rough waters, remember to "keep it simple, stupid."