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  • Writer's pictureAngina Herrmann

Communication matrix: How to organize your content and free your audience

When you have a lot of complicated things to communicate, you risk overwhelming your audience. This matrix helps you organize your content so that your audience can access and digest it better. Don’t presume your customers have all the time in the world to consume your stories, but also don’t expect them to be satisfied with just some easy catchphrases.

Communication matrix: level of importance and level of detail

What’s in the box?

This matrix is a way for you to organize all your different content ideas and pieces and to make sure you’ve covered all your basics. It’s built on two dimensions:

Level of detail

  • Surface: deliver the message

  • Middle: convert

  • Deep: build credibility

Level of importance

  • Must-know: key message

  • Good-to-know: context

  • Optional: additional info

Why does it matter?

Why care about the level of importance

Clear communication can only come from clear thinking, and identifying your key message is where it all starts. When you’re excited about your own message, be it product, service, or research findings, you often think that all of it is super important. Unfortunately, your audience will most likely disagree. You will lose their interest and possibly your own credibility if you’re unable to prioritize.

Why care about the level of detail

You should make it easy for your audience to decide how much time they spend on you. Don’t expect everyone to be thrilled enough to jump right into your full body of research; also don’t assume everyone is so impressionable that you can get away with just a 20-second video and a snazzy tagline. Offer the full range and make it easy to navigate.

What does this look like in practice?

Being able to put all your content pieces into this matrix is very helpful, but you also need to be able to express this structure when publishing the content. How will your audience know which particular piece is the key message and what is optional; how will they know where to find quick information and where to dig for a lot of details?

This is where communication, marketing, and design expertise comes into play. You have to use the appropriate vocabulary, you must choose your channels wisely, and you need to design your layouts mindfully. Planning is important, but don’t forget about proper implementation.

Here are some more details about the different dimensions of this matrix.

1. Surface-level communication: deliver the message

Surface-level content icon with ship

This is where you draw the attention of your audience and give a chance for even the busiest of them to understand what you’re about. Use simple language without jargon or abbreviations and keep it short. And always include a link or reference for people to learn more!

Typical examples:

  • Website homepage

  • Social media post

  • Advertisement

  • Flyer

  • Short video (5–60 seconds)

Must-Know: Key Message

Necessary, yet often overlooked! When you talk about your most important message, you are tempted to go on and on. After all, the most important thing should take up the most space, right?

Wrong. You have to start by making sure as many people as possible a) notice and b) understand the most important message. This will only happen if you crystallize the message into its most basic core elements. This key message is the lowest common denominator, and finding it is a good exercise for you to make sure YOU understand what you’re selling.

Example: the top of your homepage

Good-to-Know: Context

This can support your key message, just make sure not to overshadow it. You can make your story richer and give people a fuller picture of what you’re all about with short, secondary messages. However, using too many of them will dilute the most important message. Be smart about your layout and channel choices to ensure your audience knows what matters most!

Example: headlines lower on your homepage

Optional: Additional Info

Use sparingly. This can be a fun breather, a joke you throw in, a human element that makes you more relatable. But don’t get lost among too many irrelevant memes – keep your eye on the ball.

Example: Social media meme

2. Middle-level communication: convert

Medium-level content icon with scubadiver

In some industries, here you offer enough information and arguments to convince your audience to become a customer, partner, donor, job applicant, or whatever your final goal is. Yes, in most industries with multi-month sales cycles, converting a stranger into a paying customer through a piece of content is wishful thinking. In these situations, this content is what convinces the audience to consider your offering and want to learn more. They’re not just curious, they’re serious.

You can start using jargon and abbreviations, but make sure to explain them when bringing them up for the first time. And remember to include a call to action!

Typical examples:

  • Individual web page (e.g. Product, About us)

  • Product brochure

  • Blog post

  • Keynote presentation

  • Video (1-5 minutes)

Must-Know: Key Message

Necessary, but often overused. True, you should go beyond the snazzy headline when explaining your key message. However, you shouldn’t put all your hopes on this matrix cell. You still need that snazzy headline, the catchy ad or the clear homepage for people to even notice this heavier content.

Example: product brochure

Good-to-Know: Context

Use for upselling or nudging! This type of content goes beyond what the audience was initially looking for, but it’s still relevant. Here you can draw connections your customers didn’t see before, or you can look at a familiar topic from a new perspective. If you’re feeling bold, you can even provoke your audience a bit.

Example: thought-provoking keynote speech

Optional: Additional Info

Curate carefully. This is where you can support causes outside your immediate commercial interest and brand yourself as part of a larger society. This is also an opportunity for light-hearted content to show your human side, a shout-out to collaboration partners, or an ode to muses. This is the kind of content more and more people expect to see from organizations nowadays, so do show up. Just don’t let yourself get carried away; you still have work to do.

Example: Human interest interview with the CEO

3. Deep-level communication: build credibility

Deep-level content icon with deep-sea fish

This is where you can really lean into your expertise and talk to the nerdiest enthusiasts! You can prove that you really know what you’re talking about, and you can convince the long tail with the most educated and demanding customers. Make this content easily available to anyone interested, but don’t push it: this is a turn-off for people who don’t have the time or interest to dig this deep.

Typical examples:

  • Research papers, whitepapers

  • Case studies

  • Longer web articles (1500+ words)

  • Podcast episodes

  • Webinars and workshops

  • Video documentaries

Must-Know: Key Message

Avoid whenever possible – this really isn’t the place for the most important information! Fine, let’s say that your audience truly consists of deep experts who need access to a very high level of detail before they can make any decisions about you – those tech specs are a matter of life and death! But at least do your audience a favor by crafting exceptionally great content; so few do that you will truly stand out. Use engaging narrative structures, vivid language, breath-taking images, and highly intuitive layouts.

Example: Safety protocol

Good-to-Know: Context

This is how you show you mean Business. This is where you can lay out all the facts and present the customer success stories that support your arguments. In some industries this is a due diligence must, in others it’s a great opportunity to educate the audience about your way of thinking.

Fun fact: the blog post you’re reading right now belongs in this particular box. This is quite long and includes a lot of detail, so not many people will read this through. However, we can use this post as a reference: our clients can read this to understand the full context behind our recommendations. They can also just check out any segment in this text to make up their mind on how to categorize a piece of content after having learned the framework from us already before.

Example: This blog post :)

Optional: Additional Info

This is not what you need to win someone over, but it can be a nice way to build trusting, long-term relationships. This is where you can geek about shared interests and let your hair down for a while; just have fun without immediate commercial motivations.

Being human and not trying to convert everyone all the time is important. But if you’re doing it on company dime, you need to moderate yourself – otherwise this becomes a rabbit hole that swallows your audience and your money.

Example: A high-end coffee table book introducing scientists that inspired your work



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