On Message

The main difference between a person and a well-known person is the story they tell about themselves.

This applies to celebrities, internet thought leaders, and even sports stars. The ones with the better stories tend to be the ones who capture the world’s imagination, or at least that of a measurable segment of the world.

‘Better story’ in this context means the story with the clearest message. Some of these people have million-dollar marketing budgets to help promote them, but all that money is wasted without a compelling and contagious message to spread. Maybe the message is ‘this person is an underdog who climbed their way to the top,’ and maybe it’s ‘this person is a real jerk, but the kind you love to hate,’ or perhaps it’s ‘this person stands for something, and here’s why they do so.’ In every case, their words, their actions, and their media (PR efforts, blog posts, Instagram feeds) support the story they’re telling.

All other things being equal, the musician with the larger budget behind them tends to win out. But typically all other things aren’t equal, because many of those who’re struggling their way to the top fail to tell a clear story and don’t present within their story a clear, compelling message. Even if some label picked them up and threw money at their album, they wouldn’t necessarily be any better off. A garbled message is a garbled message, no matter how loud you shout it.

This isn’t to say that one should fall into the trap of always being ‘on message.’ Such a tactic is the branding equivalent of hitting someone over the head with a hammer: it’s unnecessarily aggressive and tends to do more harm than good. Being perpetually on message flattens a person and reduces them to a cardboard cutout, rather than a capable, well-rounded person who’s focusing their energies on something that’s important to them.

Before spending a bunch of money on marketing, advertising, and PR, it’s best to take a step back and clarify who you actually are, what you actually believe, what it is you stand for (or won’t stand for). Essentially, figure out why anyone else should give a damn about who you are, what you do, and what you have to say.

Sort that out and you’ll find that you speak more clearly, because there’ll be less noise distorting your message. When you enunciate your message in this way, you may find that having your voice amplified and hear is an easier task than most of us make it out to be.

Update: April 18, 2017

When given the option, speak with greater clarity rather than greater volume.

You can always increase the volume later, but if you’re speaking loudly and your message is a garbled mess, you’ll only be turning a huge audience of people away, and won’t have the chance to modulate, later.