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    Developing Your Message

     

     
     
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2006

    © Istockphoto/ W. Trojanowski

    Invest in developing your message - what drives you and makes you stand out.

    Working with educators, parliamentarians, journalists or others who influence the public can help build understanding of the potential of trade.

    The perspectives on public attitudes about trade, campaign practices and reporting challenges contained in this issue offer food for thought.

    How can you make these perspectives relevant for you?

    The seemingly straight line to promotion may not be the fastest one. Creating a brochure, web site, logo, slogan, press conference or event - without investing in your message first - may not achieve the results you desire.

    Before you start

    • Set resource priorities. Consider the time, institutional commitment, partnering opportunities or financing you have to get your message across. Many dossiers may compete for your time; promotion may not be your primary task; your institution may not share your priorities. Factor in ways to take advantage of what is around you, working with other partners to link into existing development plans, major events, etc.
    Use technologies creatively to stretch your resources.

    • Look at your backdrop. Trade issues are not neutral. The general public expresses mixed feelings. Those you wish to influence will have their own priorities, deadlines and knowledge base.
    • Stand out in a crowded environment. Your audiences face information overload. Thanks to changes in technology, there are many more trade development web sites, films and brochures competing for attention than even just a few years ago. Evaluate the right channels to reach those you wish to influence. In some places, radio is important; in others, webcasts, blogs or text message campaigns are useful. Keep messages short, powerful and relevant. Use images to distil and communicate your messages.
    Your essence

    A message communicates your values and your position, whether it is to gain acceptance of a regional trade agreement, promote women entrepreneurs or explore new opportunities for trade in services. A message puts together the pieces of who you are and what you want to achieve.

    It indicates:

    • Your identity. A message is not a slogan. It should reflect your values and mission, research and experience. Message development must come from you. Communications specialists can help you refine, spread and evaluate feedback to your message.
    • Your competitive advantage. What do you have to offer that is unique, compared to others? Be analytical, not descriptive, in examining the challenges for a given issue and staking out your own position.
    • Your research. Research current perceptions and compare them to your aims. Research statistics, document success stories and prepare policy briefs to build evidence to support your views and to make you more credible.
    • Your overall strategy. Make sure your message is included in your overall strategy.
    Once these elements are in place, a communications strategy, based on your message, can help you speak with coherence, whether to colleagues, funders, journalists, law-makers or others who can make a difference.