That’s why leaders speak all the time — giving formal presentations, talking at meetings, and holding casual (but purposeful) conversations.
That’s why leaders speak when when expectations are high and the consequences may be momentous — in times of crisis, change, or opportunity.
That’s why leaders speak as representatives of their organization –advocating and championing its policies, initiatives, and vision.
And that’s why leaders speak to influence and inspire others — not to communicate information.
Because so much is at stake when leaders speak, they need to be strategic.
Leaders need to be as strategic about what they say — in their off-hand conversations as well as in their scripted speeches — as they are about everything else they do.
Companies often have a strategic communications plan. Loosely defined, such a plan details how every type of communication by an organization can best be used to advance its mission.
Leaders need a similar plan, a guide that shapes their strategic messaging.
Effective leaders have three, four, or five core messages that they repeat, recycle, repurpose. They perfect those messages and hammer them home, tirelessly, persistently, unabashedly.
Inexperienced leaders wing it, saying what comes to mind on the spot, changing their message at will. Sometimes they hit a home run. Often they strike out.
A leader’s strategic message is
- a set of ideas, images, metaphors, stories, phrases, propositions, facts, and figures
- that form a thematic unity (both emotionally and intellectually)
- in order to communicate one compelling point.
I believe that a leader really only has three basic speeches: 1) who we are, our history, our values; 2) what we’re about, our mission and purpose; and 3) where we’re headed, our vision and goal.
But lately I’ve come to believe that each of those three speeches is simply a particular instance or example of a a broader strategic message — who we are, what we’re about, and where we’re headed.
How you develop that strategic message — whether you’re a leader or working for a leader — is the subject for another post. But for now, do you think I’m on to something or not? How would you define a leader’s strategic messaging.