Message in a bottle...

Walking along the beach in the wake of the New Year storms, I couldn’t help but cast an eye along the shoreline and see just what had come in on the tide. 

Seaweed, driftwood and strands of fishing net made up the mainstay of what had been washed up on the shore. I kept looking, but despite my efforts, I didn’t find the message in a bottle I’d secretly hoped to stumble across. 

On the way home, my young son and I imagined what message we’d put in our own bottle. What would it say? Where would it end up? Who would read it? Would we ever find out? 

That evening we penned our message, listed phone numbers and email addresses, and sealed it up in a plastic bottle. We figured a glass bottle might break and so hoped choosing a plastic one wouldn’t have the environmental gods cursing us all the way to eternity.

The next day, we returned to the beach, walked all the way along to the point, and launched our bottle into the sea. And off it went. Ten days later, that’s as far as the story goes. Our bottle can’t have made it very far, but we’re hopeful of an exciting outcome. 

Searching for ‘message in a bottle’ stories on Google, we came up with incredible tales of bottles that had made it half way around the world. Readers had found them, opened them and got in touch with the sender. 

But there are no stories of the countless of bottles that bob about on the ocean and are never found. There’s no reference to all the messages that have been written but never read. Because until a message is read, it has no meaning. If no-one sees it, then it’s not a message. It’s just a scribble on a piece of paper. 

When I got back to my desk after the holidays, I was hit by a tsunami of emails. And it got me thinking. As individuals and as companies we expend a huge amount of effort sending out communications. 

But do we focus enough on making sure those messages get read? Do we take the time to present the knowledge/experience/research that we want to share, in a way that is targeted, engaging and useful? 

If we don’t then what chance is there of people reading our message when there’s so much competition for their time and attention? And if a message isn’t read, then what value do people and companies get from all the effort they pour into creating it? 

Effective communication is not just about content, it’s about delivery. It’s about putting your message into a format that gets your message heard, by those that matter. How you do this as a business is up to you, but it’s unlikely to involve a walk along the beach and a plastic bottle…