These are complicated times and it’s super easy to get lost in the weeds, especially when dealing with complicated topics like COVID-19. Many private sector companies and government groups are now dealing with implementing new rules, procedures and policies as all of us are forced to navigate this changing pandemic landscape.
When crafting both internal and external communication plans, it’s a natural instinct to want to share every detail and process as to how your organization reached its decision. After all, a lot of time and energy and research went into your decision and now you want to share it with the world. But before you do, you need to ask yourself, should you? Is it mutually beneficial to share every detail? Does your audience really need to know and do they really care?
I was recently reminded of the old “rule of three” advice when it comes to messaging and this old standard still proves valuable today, maybe even more so. I watched as a public-facing government group was faced with taking questions at a press conference related to their COVID-19 mitigation practices. Being in government, they must make public and employee safety their priority, while being extremely cognitive of legal challenges and employee resistance to COVID mitigation like vaccine requirements and at work safety accommodations. A spokesperson for this group was asked to answer questions for a press conference and he really struggled, clearly getting caught up in the various processes which went into their decision, which in turn created confusion and even more questions.
I immediately remembered the rule of three and wondered why no one shared this advice with him before this media event? The definition of the rule of three is that any presenter should focus on three primary key messages and only three. Why? Study after study indicates that when the pressure is on, the human brain performs best when you limit the focus to three primary messages. And not only for the presenter but the audience loses focus on the messages beyond three as well.
And one more piece of advice-the more pointed the questions get, stay broad! You will avoid trouble that way.
Rich Dubek is a two-time Emmy award winning TV news reporter with more than twenty five years of news media experience at the local and network level. He is President of the Dubek Media Group, specializing in expert media training messaging, and on-air coaching, and full service video production. The Dubek Media Group is based in Tempe, Arizona.