The axiom says perception is reality.

Translation — as if to taunt marketers and communicators, something more than brilliant content (or evident tangibles) impacts the interpretation of messages we so painstakingly create.

Consider how varied multiple descriptions of a single event can be. Or the predictable discrepancies in eye-witness testimony. Or the differences in what individuals interpret as beauty.

We experience it every day — one’s idea of the way things are overrides everything material or thought to be evident.

So the challenge for anyone wishing to connect, market, motivate or otherwise communicate is to find a way for perception and message to align.

Easier said than done. Countless experiences go into shaping and reshaping the way one perceives input. And yet, successful communicators find a way to achieve this alignment. Their project or cause is the one adopted. Their product or service, the one that sells.

Three Steps To Creating A Message That Resonates

What is the secret to this alignment — to a message that resonates, and prompts the desired action? Here are three ideas.

1. Speak the language of your audience. When President John F. Kennedy said “Ich bin ein Berliner” he was doing more than demonstrating language skills. He was saying “we share the same hopes and dreams.” Know what your audience cares about. Know the subject of their conversations.

2. Build experiential connections. We should stipulate as to the need for and value of facts, figures and metrics. That said, messaging that rests solely on data-points, process and analytics misses the fact that a shared experience is where message and perception can align. This is why storytelling resonates. It allows the target audience to interpret in the context of its own experiences.

3. Begin with ‘Why’. In his book titled Start With Why, Simon Sinek states the scientific case for shifting the focus of persuasive communication from what we do to why we do it. ‘Why’ connects with shared values and experiences. One example cited by Sinek: Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous proclamation of why — “I have a dream.”

Nothing resonates as profoundly as a connection based on shared experience. Communication built in this context bridges the gap between what is black & white to some and shades of gray to others. A focus here is a giant step toward a message that aligns with the real perceptions of your target.

This alignment is the difference between adding to the noise and clutter that breed indifference, and moving a target to take action.

(A special note of thanks to friends at MENG Online,  where an original version of this post appeared in mid-July. The MENG blog is an excellent resource for marketing professionals in any industry.)