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Successful messaging requires clarity and consistency. Good messages also must align with the interests and concerns most important to your audience.

All too often, social change organizations forget that the recipients of our communications are busy individuals with complicated lives and access to limitless volumes of information. We think of them as bottomless receptacles, or we mistakenly believe that if we throw enough data and information at the conversation our “truth” will win out.

The best messages are those that align with an audience’s value system. They are simple, yet resonant. Factual, but not overly complex. Provocative, without being preachy.

The issues of social change are complicated. No debate there. Climate change, poverty, health care, education, immigration reform, economic justice. None of these are easily explained or succinctly communicated. But resist the temptation to over explain. Identify the values that sit at the core of the change you are seeking and zero in on them as crisply and succinctly as possible. You are trying to educate, not lecture.

Finally, effective messaging demands more than words alone. Images can be much more powerful than words, and often tap more deeply into our emotions. Give careful consideration to the visual design of your messages and the pictures you use to tell your story.

by the numbers


Number of times people need to hear a campaign message before it sinks in.


Or above. The recommended Flesch score for better readability.


Total number of foundation followers on Twitter (January 2013)


Total number of Facebook likes for foundations (January 2013)

tips and insights

Appeals to change behavior work better when they are tied to values.

Messaging isn't about “magic words.” It's about changing the narrative to make it easy for people to get on board.

It is difficult for people to wrap their head around large and obscure numbers. Grounding numbers in a comparison to a well-known object makes it easier to comprehend. Using a visual to communicate this comparison can be the silver bullet to effective communication.