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Malcolm Cole, Director - Media and Communications 

It’s an accusation that’s often levelled at people who communicate effectively through the media, particularly politicians.

The claim that someone is “always on message” is meant as a charge of insincerity, of having a calculated, altogether too-well-rehearsed public persona.

However, there’s a reason this description has emerged over the last three decades, as the communications landscape – and the public’s engagement with persuasive communications – has shifted so dramatically.

Previous generations paid close attention to current affairs; almost every home in the street had a newspaper on lawn in the morning, and often more than one. In the house in which I grew up, speaking was forbidden during the news at 6pm.

And as a result, citizens had a greater understanding of news and current affairs, and the arguments advanced by the proponents of different sides of a public debate.

Today, smart phones, social media and a plethora of video-on-demand channels has drastically reduced the consumption of formal current affairs by most Australians, particularly younger generations who absorb their “news” from friends, influencers and content generators.

In this “attention economy”, where holding someone’s interest for even a few seconds is a most precious commodity, it’s important never to miss the opportunity to get your message across.

If you only have a few seconds of TV or radio exposure, you need to use them wisely. If you only have 20 words in print, make sure they are the best words for advancing your argument.

In other words, stick to your most important message, and get it out when ever you can. Even if you are responding to a negative news story, use a key message to defend yourself. 

You certainly need to be authentic, and you certainly need to ensure that your information is credible and relatable. But more than anything, you need to be “on message” to cut through the clutter of the modern information environment and claim your place in the attention economy.

The SAS Group helps some of Australia’s most influential businesses and people get their messages out to key stakeholders. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

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