Anatomy of a Communications Message

by Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM

Communications to members or clients is considered by many outside observers as marketing. Though in a broad sense, it is, it is also much more. It is mass communication to a large swath of fans of your organization with a customized, specific message to each individual. Properly executed, a communications message is a prescriptive formula designed to interact with those who appreciate you most with the opportunity to increase their love by providing that which they most desire from you.

Prescriptive Pieces
A message has an ebb and flow. You can certainly organize a message in any fashion you choose as there is technically no wrong answer. There are, however, those messages that are more successful than others. The goal of the message is to get the client or member to act. That is: to buy, to subscribe, to register, to call, or to renew. And, to do that, there is a time-tested layout. It is formulaic. Definitive. Prescriptive. The anatomy of the message is similar to a sandwich with the main message body in between two action links. The title, then open pitch, precedes the sandwich and a salutation completes it:

  • Opening Pitch

  • Action Link

  • Description (main message body)

  • Action Link

  • Closing
          Title. The title is more of a headline or a slogan than it is the title of a book or manuscript. As it is the gist of the message it should be poured over, word-smithed, refined, and distilled. Like a headline, this phrase may be centered on the page. Consider making it in all capital letters or title case. It also may be bold, italics, use colored font, or in a larger font than the rest of the message. Don’t be gaudy, but do make it stand out.

          Opening Pitch. The first sentence or two should be clear and concise. It is designed to give the facts for the quick read. Think of this as the CliffsNotes of the executive summary rolled up with a call to action and just-the-details needed for the receiver who was awaiting the message, participated in the past, or is a dedicated super-fan, to move to the action phase.

          Action Link. Appearing twice in the message, it can be identical each time, but also may differ subtly. The Action Link is a link to the Landing Page on your website. It is just after the Opening Pitch, for those already all-in by that point; and, again at the end, for those that needed to know more before stepping though. The Action Link is literally a link; thus, it should look like a web link in blue font and underlined or a similar such look that is trending. Example: Register Now to Attend. Or, Donate Today. Or, Call Your Legislators to Stop this Encroachment on Your Business.

          Closing. Similar to a professional letter, the final sentence is a sign off. It may include a motivational statement such as: “This is your professional association” or “Clients, like you, are why we do what we do. Thank you.” Usually, the message concludes with a signature block of the Board Chair, President, or just the organization’s name or logo.

Landing Page
The goal of the message is not necessarily to complete the sale; but, similar to fishing, to get them on the hook. The message need not tell all or provide all of the details. Don’t oversell. That’s why there is a landing page.

Once the receiver clicks through the Action Link, they should land on a dedicate web page that provides more information on schedules, speakers, prices, photos, videos, specs, testimonials, etc. and gives them what they need to complete the process. Similar to the message itself, the Landing Page should be set up like a sandwich with additional Action Links at the top and the bottom of the Landing Page to take the receiver to the registration, order page, donation tools, or contact form. In between the Action Links are additional specific details you think need conveying.

Do not include everything under the sun on the Landing Page. Instead, build out the site to include those details on separate pages with navigation tabs, buttons, links, or menus used to get the receiver that wants to know more to those pages.
Call to Action
Marketing enters back into the communications equation with the call to action. The secret is, it never left. The entire purpose of the message, its very essence, was to get the receiver to take action. The call to action, therefore, must be a clear herald. There should be no doubt in the reader’s mind what you want them to do. Similarly, there needs to be a timeliness to the call of this particular message. Even if you plan to send three similar messages over the next 60 days, each should have a different call. The first may be: “Register Today for $72 Early Bird Discount.” The middle message: “Space is Limited. Confirm Your Place Now.” And, finally, “Last Chance. Deadline is Today.”

Occasionally, a message is truly ‘informational only’ with no request of the receiver other than to read the message to be informed. This is incredibly rare. Even with a scientific paper, new best-practices, or the announcement of an obituary, we are still calling on the receiver to take action to study the paper, invest in the practices, or remember the passing with a donation or by attending a ceremony.

A formulaic approach to your messages not only increases sales and activity, it also simplifies your communications plan and minimizes the time it takes to perform these essential functions. Most importantly, it breaks up the process into organized, digestible chunks. These pieces (creating the message, designing the landing page, preparing the graphics or supporting videos or web pages, and writing the copy), can be divvied up among the staff team or approached by you one at a time far in advance of the delivery day. This organized approach makes your team more efficient while similarly leveling out the panic moments to a consistent work flow. Communications is both science and art. Make it part of your success formula.

If you found this article insightful and useful, you may similarly appreciate the other three articles from this four-part series on communications: The Goldilocks Zone of Communication, Do It Their Way: Connecting with Clients & Members, and Break Through the Noise with Your Communication.

Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him on Parler @CDMalesic or on Twitter @CDMalesic.

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