• Barb Mayfield

Trying to communicate more effectively? Know your why and your big idea.


A hand is writing on a tablet illustrating coming up with a big idea after many rough drafts.

Effective communication is not just thrown together, it is strategically created. By following the 10 Steps to Creating Compelling Communication we can achieve our desired outcomes and reach our desired destination.


Accomplishing these communication goals begins with determining what they are: What are our desired outcomes? What is the destination or the end goal of our communication?


If you’ve been following this blog series, we’ve covered the first two steps, identifying the audience and conducting a needs assessment. With this information, we are ready to tackle Step 3: Identifying your purpose and message. We can’t communicate effectively if we don’t know our why (our purpose) or our big idea (our message).


Step 3 involves making these five interdependent decisions:

  1. Determining the overall purpose or goal

  2. Selecting a focused topic

  3. Crafting a SOCO – a Single Overriding Communication Objective

  4. Writing learning objectives

  5. Creating key message points

Determining the overall purpose or goal of your communication is answering the “why” question – why are you communicating? What outcomes are desired? The purpose of your communication might be to inform, to inspire, to entertain, or to train. The goals or outcomes could include creating awareness, building knowledge or skills, changing attitudes or behaviors, a combination of these, and more.


Selecting a focused topic comes before creating messages. Four factors describe a well-focused topic:

  1. The topic selection is based on findings from the needs assessment. The topic addresses a documented need or concern and the audience has expressed interest in the topic.

  2. The topic is current and evidence-based.

  3. The topic is one the communicator has an interest in and knowledge about.

  4. The topic is focused to fit the time or space available for communicating at a depth appropriate for the audience.

Crafting a SOCO may occur before, during, or after the creation of key message points. The SOCO is the Single Overriding Communication Objective, which is another way to say the “Big Idea” or the main point of the communication. Being able to condense one’s overall objective into a succinct statement is a powerful skill. A well-crafted SOCO is a complete statement that is meaningful, memorable, and motivating. When the audience can recall the SOCO they have grasped the essence of the communication.


Writing learning objectives serves the purpose of describing the learning outcomes desired. As defined in Chapter 15 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, a well-written learning objective is “descriptive, measurable, and created with the success of the learner in mind” and has “three key components: a carefully selected verb; a subject, which typically is a noun; and specific criteria to allow for the evaluation of success.”


Creating key messages occurs alongside writing objectives. Key messages clearly and concisely address each of the learning objectives. As with SOCOs, well-written key messages are complete statements that are easily remembered. To determine whether key messages will be understood and will resonate with an audience, ideally build in time to assess message concepts with members of the audience, as described in the Message Development Model pictured in Chapter 10 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide.


A final caution: A common mistake is trying to cover too much content using broad objectives and key messages that cannot be covered well in the time or space allotted. It is more effective to cover less material in more depth and with more emphasis, repetition, and review than to cover more.


Trying to communicate more effectively? Know your why and your big idea.


Next week’s blog will cover Step 4: Research your message. Steps 3 and 4 are best completed together because the results of your research are necessary to determine the content of your message.


“When you know your WHY, you’ll know your WAY.” ~ Michael Hyatt


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