How do you make your message as powerful as possible? I’ve wrestled with this question many times myself over the years, and it’s one of the most common things my clients and I work on together. A truly powerful message is one that you share with clarity and conviction, but that also leaves room for learning and growth, too.

There’s no one way to craft a powerful message, but there are some practical exercises that will help you do so. I’m sharing some of those today, along with a couple of my favorite ways to frame my message for an audience.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out how to make your message as powerful as possible. I talk about thought leaders who are doing this really well, why taking a stand is such a critical part of having a strong message, and the three essential elements you should consider when getting on any stage.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why it’s important to leave room for learning and growth when you craft your message.
  • How to craft a really strong message.
  • Why taking a stand for something or someone is one of the most powerful ways to share your message.
  • What a “rooftop” message is and why it’s a great way to frame your message.
  • Practical tools for making your message strong and clear.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to the Thought Leadership School podcast. If you’re on a mission to make a difference in the world with your message, you are in the right place. I’m Michelle Barry Franco and I’m thrilled that you’re here. Hello, hello, my thought leadership friends, how are you? I just got back from a beautiful event for an organization called Girls Leadership. It was their 10 year anniversary, and the celebration was held at the San Francisco War Memorial. Just a beautiful building and it was a lovely, lovely evening. A highlight of the evening for me, aside from just hearing about the incredible impact they’re having on the lives of so many girls, which means our world overall of course, but a highlight for me was chatting with Peggy Orenstein who wrote a book called Girls and Sex, among many other amazing books.

Girls and Sex is just the most recent one that I’ve read, and it’s full of incredible and enlightening research about what’s happening in the lives of girls in high school primarily. You know, what life and social life and romantic life is looking like and then a whole lot about sexual activity. What’s normal now? What’s different than it was back when we were in high school, and it’s pretty eye opening, but it’s been an incredible resource in our family. So I got to stand around talking with Peggy Orenstein tonight like we were friends, we talked about how we set boundaries for our high school daughter. She has a 16 year old daughter, and I have an almost 15 year old daughter, and it was just so beautiful to just get to ask her the questions that I’ve been wondering as I read this book.

Like I know that when I research and learn about what’s going on in the world of teenagers and just from a mother perspective, I find that I do create stronger boundaries and sometimes my girls struggle with that. Anyway, I got to, you know, stand and talk with Peggy Orenstein and ask her, “So okay, you have all this information. You’re more steeped in it than I am, I’ve just read your books. You did all the research, had to distill it down, create the powerful message. How does that translate into your mothering? How do you set boundaries for your daughter? And you know, without just totally alienating yourself from her life.” So basically she said she’s just like the strictest mom of all the moms, which we have that in common too. So I’m pretty sure that we’re supposed to be really, really good friends and like have coffee together. But then I kind of suspect that a lot of people feel that way about her. So luckily I played it cool even as I was inadvertently walking behind her down the street in San Francisco toward the parking garage.

But throughout this evening I was really struck by the power of thought leadership. Between Peggy and the incredible stand she takes for educating ourselves as the adults in their lives about what our girls are experiencing in their lives, especially from the sexuality perspective. And the other, there were three other amazing women on this panel that they had all thought leaders in their own arenas and just listening to them articulate the stand that they take, share their own stories and really attribute some of that, some of them finding their own voice to other people in their lives coming up was just really incredible to notice the power of thought leadership and of stepping into thought leadership, that we could have these four brilliant women on that stage tonight taking a stand for things that are making our world so much a better place. It just made me even more, I feel even more conviction around the work that I’m doing and that we’re doing with the Thought Leadership School.

But thinking back to this book that Peggy Orenstein wrote, Girls and Sex, and really the impact that, that thought leadership had on my life. It was such a wake up call for me, but also as I told Peggy, thanks to her my daughters have picked up her book. You know, I just kind of left it in the living room. My oldest daughter read it front to back. She’s always beating me to it actually whenever I get one of those kinds of books. But I know my center daughter, our center daughter has picked it up, and our youngest has even probably like flipped through it maybe. So even just having these concepts that are often really difficult to talk about and can feel like an invasion of privacy, and you want to be thoughtful and careful of course, these are human souls who are allowed to have their own private lives. At the same time, I want them to know that we can have these conversations that I’m totally open to and want to have these conversations with them.

And that Peggy Orenstein took the time and energy to use her thought leadership in this beautiful way of service has really had an impact on our lives. And that’s what I wanted to say to her and did get to say to her tonight, which was really fun. Now thinking about Girls Leadership as an organization and using them as an example as we think about how to make your message more powerful. This is what I was thinking about as I was, I was doing some volunteering with Girls Leadership before this event and really thinking about how to message some elements of it. And I was thinking about, you know, how do we make a message more powerful? Their message is already very powerful. But when you have a special evening like this, and you have people getting up on stage and sharing different messages, you really want to make sure that the message rings strong and kind of this role.

So the beautiful work that Girls Leadership is doing just really struck me tonight. Their mission is so clear, they want to reach one million girls to help them step fully into their power and voice. Their co-founder and CEO, Simone did a beautiful job articulating the message and also leaving room for growth and learning. That’s such an inherent part of doing this kind of transformational work. So how do you share a message with conviction and clarity, but also, you know, have enough room in there and grace in there for the inevitable learning that even you will do. We all do as thought leaders, as an organization that brings thought leadership and as individuals that bring thought leadership. So it’s a question that was just really on my mind, and I thought God handled beautifully this evening. As I drove home tonight, I thought about what it takes to make your message really clear and powerful. Like practically speaking, what does it take? Because it’s definitely not straight forward, and it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

In fact, most people stop at a general topic and then maybe if they’ve done some work, some sub points that they want to say about that topic. It might sound like everyone should recycle, you know, the reasons being, it saves our planet, it offers us creative new products, and it keeps us aware of our consumption. So I just gave you a super quick outline for a talk with the persuasive core message, everyone should recycle. I don’t know how persuasive that is, but it’s got the persuasive angle. But what happens, you know, a lot of people just stop there and then they kind of throw something together, and you get an idea of what they’re trying to say, but it’s just not nearly as powerful as it could be. And you’ve probably heard me talk about message in a lot of different ways. As I was driving home tonight, I thought I need to make it clearer. What do we mean by message? Cause there are actually different elements to an overall message and ways of coming at the message, sort of different angles on the message.

So I’m going to share those with you today in service of you thinking about your own message and crafting it in the most powerful way possible. So let’s go back to this, everyone should recycle example. What happens when we turn this into a stand? So you might say, “I take a stand for teaching kids to recycle in school so that they bring their education home and carry the lessons through their lifetime.” The cool thing about starting a sentence with I take a stand for, is it leads you to think about who at least as much as what, right? Of course, you could say I take a stand for recycling, but we know that it just sort of kind of like naturally feels even more powerful to think about for whom are we taking a stand, and then what is the message at the center of that stand. So I added of course the second half of that, making it clear, you know, what impact this stand would bring to the world. And I want to invite you to think about it that way too.

When you think about your stand, it goes, I take a stand for who? And then, what? And then, why? On behalf of what outcome? So there’s what happens when we turn it into a stand. Now what if I want to build a talk around this message? What’s that sort of driving core message at the center of the talk. Now this is going to be specific to a particular talk in a particular audience for this talk. We also want to make sure that it has, you know, your stand in there and the risk reward. Like what happens, you know, what happens if people buy in or what happens if they don’t buy in? Like why does this matter? So the core message might sound like, we must teach kids to recycle while they are in grade school if we want to stop filling landfills at an ever increasing rate. So can you see how there are just so many ways to create a “Message?” What do we even mean by message and most important, how do I, how do you make your message most powerful?

So before I dive deeper into this, I want to give you some step by step super practical ways of applying this, so you can work on your message right after you listen to this. But before we dive into that, you definitely want to know about the new master class that I’m teaching on April 17th, it’s totally free. It’s on April 17th and then we have a few dates and time combinations after that. It’s called the path to thought leadership. And it’s really all about how you get to this powerful message at the center of your work, plus how to use that message to make a difference to attract clients. Where do you find the people that need to hear this message? So we’re going to go through the whole path to thought leadership. I’m super excited to share this with you at this kind of clarity. We’re going to have worksheets for you and everything. So that you can walk away from this masterclass ready to apply it and start stepping into thought leadership in a much bigger way.

So you can sign up for that webinar at speaksoitmatters.com/pathwebinar, you know, like path to thought leadership on the path. So speaksoitmatters.com/pathwebinar, all one word, and we will put that in the show notes. Okay, now let’s break down this message situation so it’s all crystal clear. This will allow you to zoom in on the right parts of your message in each rendition to make it the most powerful. A powerful message means a captivating talk, an exciting book, and a far more interesting conversation at your next neighborhood barbecue, which I always think it’s funny that I imagine the neighborhood barbecue because I virtually never go to those. For me, it’s more likely to be at a workshop or some kind of a conference. But whatever fits your world when you’re standing around with people, and you’re talking about the work you’re doing, a powerful message in that conversation makes the whole thing way more captivating and engaging, and way more likely to with the right person, you know, elicit like a, “Hey, we should work on that together.” Or, “Wow, I’d love to have you come speak at our organization.”

So all kinds of good reasons to get really clear on this message. So let’s talk about these three angles on your message that I mentioned earlier. Now, the first, the first, I’m not, actually I don’t even think I mentioned this part earlier, but the first is your rooftop message. You’ve probably heard me talk about this. This is like the raw, this is the thing you want to say. So you’ve probably been through the scenario with me, but I’ll talk you through it in a quick version. So I want you to imagine with me, this is how you get to your raw rooftop message. Imagine that you’re in this little town, and the streets are full of people and there’s chaos everywhere. They’re all talking to each other. They’re saying, “What are we going to do about this? How are we going to fix this? You know, I have no idea what, you know, how to solve this.” Everybody’s talking over everybody else. There’s chaos and frustration and angst, and you’re standing among them, and you’re listening to what they’re saying, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my gosh, I can totally help these people.”

And you try to tell a few people around you, but they can’t hear you because they’re all talking to each other and there’s chaos everywhere. So you see this little building off to the right and there’s a ladder leaning against the roof, and the roof is reasonably flat. So you walk over to that ladder, you climb to the top of the rooftop, you cup your hands around your mouth, and you say, “Listen to me, beautiful people. Here’s what you need to know to make your lives better.” What do you want to say? When you imagine a bunch of people struggling with the very thing that you know how to help them solve, how would you want to just shout it from the rooftops? That’s your rooftop message scenario. Now there’s a refined rooftop message and this one is about what you want to say, but it has your right audience at the center of it. So this is, you know, this is you really thinking about who is on those streets in that town. Who can you help most? And those are the people you want to have on the streets.

So it shifts the message a little bit. For example, if you know you want to get up there and talk to your audience about stress at work, like you absolutely know that all of these people in the streets, you’ve heard them saying how stressed they are at work, they can never get out from underneath all of the overwhelm. You get up on the rooftop and say, “Listen to me, beautiful people. Here’s what you need to know to make your lives better. It’s the thoughts that you’re having about your work and how important it is. It’s your mind that’s making you crazy and stressed, and the great news is you can actually manage your mind. You may not be able to manage all the other people you work with, but you can manage your mind.” Okay, so you see how you don’t have to say this perfectly, it’s raw. Now there’s a refined version of that when you think about, okay, these are people at work, they’re actually leaders and maybe they’re leaders of non-profits, because that’s what your history is.

You worked in leadership at non-profits across your career, and you saw the way that the stress of the work could totally take down some of the best leaders. So to refine that rooftop message, you would say, “Listen to me, beautiful leaders of these amazing non-profit organizations. Here’s what I want you to know. You can still make the meaningful impact in the world that you want to make through your organization. You don’t have to quit because of the stress. Actually, I have a solution for you. We can work on managing your mind. There’s so much freedom in helping you manage your mind. You’ll be able to go back to the days where you felt the passion, and the drive to make the difference in the world that you wanted to make when you joined this organization.” You see how that rooftop message, well, it’s still raw, it’s still just you up there talking, you know, with handmade megaphone. The more you understand your audience, the better and more powerful that message becomes.

So that’s your first one, your rooftop message. Now let’s talk about your stand. Because your stand, the stand you take is actually different than your rooftop message. Of course, they’re all related, they’re all within the same topic area. But when you think about it as your stand, you come at it differently. It’s about the impact that you care about. That’s what’s at the center, and it’s about who you want to serve with that impact. And this is at the heart of all of your work, and it’s super helpful to have as a reference, not just for your speaking, for copywriting, you know, for all the pages on your website. So many places having your stand clear will serve. So I love the example that my client Tracy just showed on her speaker one sheet. It said she’s on a mission to help people find meaning and success through human connection at work and in every area of their life. So Tracy is on a mission to help people find meaning and success through human connection at work and in every area of their life.

Tracy does this amazing work, she runs a non-profit called Sidewalk Talk. She’s also a therapist and she just, you know, does life changing work. Her stand helps her stay really clear on this message at the heart of it. That doesn’t necessarily tell her what to title her next talk, but she knows what she’s taking a stand for. So what is your stand? Get that clearly articulated. I take a stand for the call that you feel to share your message and story with others, that’s my stand. I believe that it’s a divine call and that it’s the only sign that you need to know that you’re meant to serve in this way. That’s the stand I take in my work. So then we have your core message. Your core message is at the heart of your talk or your book or even a podcast. So for example, this podcasts core message, there are a couple of ways that you could form it. There’s no, you know, this is not a black and white science, but one core message for this particular podcast episode, your most powerful message comes from refining each of the angles on the message to create the greatest clarity and specificity.

Or maybe a more persuasive one, if you want to captivate your audience in the most compelling way you’ve got to create a powerful stand. When you craft a core message, especially before you go create anything new, any piece of thought leadership, it helps you stay true to a really strong and powerful central message. So the point is, in order to make your greatest impact, you need to have crystal clarity around the message you’re sharing and being able to come at that message from these different angles. In a way, there’s kind of a deepening of clarity or specificity as we go through each one, and they apply to different circumstances. So just as a reminder, there’s of course your rooftop message and then your refined rooftop message that you just, it’s what you want to say, but it is in service of others. Your stand is about the impact that you care about making and who you want to serve. And it’s so beautiful to know what your stand is, because it serves all of your thought leadership.

And then finally there’s the core message, which is really specific to a piece of communication usually. So the core message of this podcast, the core message at the center of a talk that you’re crafting and that core message, you know, has the, those two elements. What is the, you know, the point of view that you’re bringing? What is it that you’re putting forth, that you want to say? Plus what’s the risk reward? Why does it matter? What’s the impact? So this message clarity allows you to add specificity and details that make your message most impactful for the purpose. Not to mention just how much conviction that you’ll bring to your delivery when you viscerally get it, what you want to say under particular circumstances. So next week we’re going to talk about how your, why, the why at the heart of your work impacts the power of your message. And we’re going to talk about how to tap into your real why. Because this has been such a struggle for me so many times and with so many of my clients.

So I’m going to show you some ways to tap your why in a way that’s deeper and more sustainable, at least that’s been the case for me. So we’ll talk about that next week. I cannot wait. Meantime, my friend, have I told you how absolutely delighted I am to be here with you again, I am just giddy about it. So I want to remind you that you can get a whole free lesson on how to use your message to make a real difference in the world, including how to grow your business with your message, so you can sustain this mission of yours during the path to thought leadership masterclass. It’s happening April 17th plus a couple of other daytime combinations, and you’ll see all of that on the masterclass signup page, which is at speaksoitmatters.com/pathwebinar. P as in Paul, A, T as in Tom, H, webinar, all one word. So between now and next week, my friend, I want you to remember something, and I’ll remind you again next week, don’t worry. That’s that you were made for this, you just were.

You know how I know that? I know because you know, and that’s all the sign that you need. All right, see you next week. Thanks so much for being here with me on the Thought Leadership School podcast. If you want specific and actionable guidance on how to become a recognized leader in your industry, you can download a free copy of my book, Beyond Applause: Make a Meaningful Difference Through Transformational Speaking at speaksoitmatters.com/freebook.

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