Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

There I was, trapped in a secret bathroom in a remote corner of an unfamiliar house.

Recently at a large family gathering, someone showed me the secret bathroom far away from the crowd. Once inside, I discovered the bathroom’s secret. It came equipped with a pocket door. That pocket door wouldn’t let me out.

Pocket doors and I don’t get along well. This one was beyond stubborn. I pushed, pulled, pounded and said some words that shouldn’t be said. The door steadfastly resisted. No problem. There was a house full of relatives and friends. I could hear them laughing and talking. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hear me.

The only window was sealed, but I could see people outside. I targeted my message at them. “Katheryne! Eric!” No response. By now I was not only angry, I was a little bit scared. The bathroom was far, far away from the action and no one was noticing that I was missing.

I perched on the counter and pondered the situation. My phone wasn’t with me. The window wouldn’t open. There were no tools or pry bars handy. No matter how hard I tugged or pounded, that stubborn pocket door would not budge. Finally, to my great relief, I heard voices getting closer. “Help! Help!” I messaged loud and clear. Three family members peered in, asking if I was okay.

After explanations, reassurances and recriminations about pocket doors, I thought about my messaging strategies – what worked, what didn’t and why.

Initially I targeted my messaging at an audience outside a sealed window. They couldn’t hear me. Then I targeted pointed messages at the door. It wasn’t listening. Then I messaged via the appropriate medium — I yelled loudly at people approaching down the hall. When they came in range, they heard my message. I got their attention.

Messaging is a hot topic in business. It’s a catalyst for success. But effective messaging doesn’t just happen. It starts with knowing what you want to say. Indiscriminately shouting messages like, “Hey, I’m in here!” doesn’t mean much to people if they’re not in the target audience or can’t hear you. That’s just making noise. It’s akin to yelling unseemly words at a pocket door. Pocket doors don’t listen.

Effective business messaging starts with identifying and understanding target audiences – where they are, who they are and how you can reach them. Are they just outside the door or are they far out of sight and hearing? If it doesn’t reach them, your messaging is just words and images lost in the wind.

Effective messaging gets your products or services in the eyes and ears of target audiences in ways that are meaningful to them. It’s about more than delivery – website, advertising, bumper stickers, etc. Primarily it’s about content. It’s about what you actually say – who you are, where you are and what you have to offer.

Creativity and consistency also play key roles in messaging. Creativity makes your messaging heard among the cacophony of business noise, claims, counter-claims and sales pitches. Consistency reinforces your messaging across time and various media platforms. Creativity and consistency reflect your understanding of your clients and customers, of their needs, desires and preferences. If effective, your messaging will capture their attention, will stimulate them and will spur them to action.

Effective messaging to a target audience got me out of that secret bathroom. I won’t be trapped again. I’m on to those darn pocket doors. And when you see me, don’t ask.

I did try using that semi-hidden button on the door to get out.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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