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Guest commentary: Trusting the messenger during uncertain times

Kathleen Wanatowicz
Guest Commentary

Are you a trusted messenger?

The coronavirus pandemic has taught businesses and community organizations a lot about the importance of communications, channels of information distribution and global messaging. As a communications professional, I have repeatedly observed that nothing beats a trusted messenger when it comes to making sure your message is seen and heard.

Messaging is a powerful communications tool that can help your organization or campaign convey your core principals, express your goals, and tell your brand story. PR pros are trained to help you create dynamic messaging that weaves an overview of your objectives into a compelling narrative that resonates with your target audience.

Compelling communication may be delivered through a variety of channels, but for now I’d like to focus on one of the most important factors in how your messaging is received — the person who delivers it. A trusted messenger is a spokesperson who delivers information that the public deems as reliable and reputable.

To become a trusted messenger is to earn and maintain an evolving role, not a static position. Through admirable personal qualities and reliable habits, trusted messengers earn the confidence of their communities by conducting themselves with transparent honesty and humble leadership, especially in times of crisis.

Even in the best of times, upholding your standing as a trusted messenger is an ongoing process that requires follow-through. It’s essential to your credibility that you consistently display a high level of strategic thinking that considers diverse perspectives and political views. In addition, trusted messengers must have the skills needed to translate complex ideas into relatable and accessible narratives that spark an emotional response and call people to action.

The key attributes of trusted messengers include: a deep understanding of the facts, an outstanding reputation and timely responsiveness. Your messaging campaign won’t be effective, memorable or inspire change without a trusted messenger at the helm. You don’t need to be a specialized expert in the subject matter at hand, but you do need to engage in diligent study to master the topic and ensure your contributions are supported by data, facts and a clear understanding of history.

When I see a creative campaign that is catchy and memorable, I ask myself: Who is the messenger? What is the source? The answer helps me determine if the message is credible, lasting and powerful enough to evoke change. In the end, most people trust the message only as much as they trust the messenger.

Keep in mind that the trusted messenger doesn’t have to be the president of your organization. Effective messaging doesn’t require an advanced degree from the right school or a closet full of bespoke suits. Instead, the trusted messenger must continually demonstrate respect for others and themselves by maintaining high standards of professionalism — and elevating those around them in the process.

If your organization doesn’t have a trusted messenger, you are at risk of compromising your brand and losing the interest of potential and current customers. During these challenging times and beyond, a well-established, trusted messenger is key to a successful messaging strategy.

Kathleen Wanatowicz is principal of Project Resource Studio, a strategic communications firm for complex projects based in Carbondale.


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