How to structure your communication content

Getting a handle on how to structure content is a really important step for our clients because it unlocks the secret of how to rapidly prototype what their going to say; this means they can sense-check it quicker and be sure they are saying what they really want to say.

It also means they start by working on the overall narrative flow of the thing before getting into any of the detail, so it’s more likely to hang together and hold people’s attention. And finally, it means they can get it onto its feet quicker as a piece of spoken communication rather than a piece of written prose.

The following five questions should act as helpful prompts when it comes to mapping out what you are going to say. You can link directly to the video above of Dan talking through them here. In time, we will look at each one in more depth. For now, do get in touch if you’d like to discuss them or if we can help in any way.

  1. Who is the audience, why are you talking to them? A vital, often overlooked, part of the process is the planning of objectives – something that includes putting ourselves into the shoes of the other party. What might be on their mind? What do they care about above all else?
  2. What do you want them to think, feel and do? Consider what you want them to think and to take on board intellectually. Also consider the emotional experience you want them to have; even if they forget what you say, they’ll remember how you made them feel. Finally, what specifically do you want them to do as a result of your interaction?
  3. What is your headline? You need to get their attention, engage their emotions and impart your core thesis all in the first sentences. This is the difference between “Let me tell you about the new office recycling initiative” and “Sperm whales are going extinct unless we all do something: we need to recycle!”
  4. What are the three key messages you need to convey? The rule of three is ubiquitous because it works. Editing your thoughts down to their essence is a key discipline, and Blaise Pascal was right to apologise for writing a long letter; as he explained, he hadn’t had time to write a shorter one! For each key message, think of a proof point or story to support it – including aspects of your own personal narrative in the story in order create a connection with the audience.
  5. What is your parting thought, or call to action? Every great piece of communication ends with a parting thought that leaves you thinking about the story, connects you to the events and spurs you to do something. A good call to action is something that makes people feel part of the journey, and this is the essence of great leadership communications.