How to Better Position Your Messaging for Readers

editing tools, notepad, pen, laptop, glasses

One thing I liked about a recent COVID-19 update I received from American Airlines: the length. The email weighed in at 172 words.

One thing I didn't like: It focuses on what American Airlines put into these efforts, not on what I'll get out of them.

Instead of writing about what your organization is doing, it's crucial to position your message in the reader's best interest with benefits, not features.

  • The feature is what it is: Take, as an example, little rubber bumpers. Features are nouns, like bumpers.
  • The advantage is what it does: Little rubber bumpers make a chair skidproof. Advantages are modifiers—adjectives or adverbs—like skidproof.
  • The benefit is what it will do for you: This means you'll never scrub skidmarks off your floor again. Benefits are verbs, like scrub.

So trade in your nouns—update, social-distancing measures, gratitude, flexibility, enhancements and commitment—for verbs, like find, fly, rebook, hold and help.

As Brian J. O’Connor, editor at, puts it: "Our readers don't want to just read stories. What they really want is a big button they can push that says, 'Solve my problem.' It's up to us to be the button."

With those fundamentals in mind, here's the message I received from American Airlines. I've crossed out text I didn't like. My revisions are in italics.

American Airlines CEO, Doug Parker, provides an update on what American is doing to care for customers, team members and the communities we serve throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. 

Learn about:

Find out how you can stay safe and healthy on American Airlines during the coronavirus pandemic, from CEO Doug Parker. He shares how you can:

  • How we've updated the flight experience and implemented social distancing measures on our aircraft to ensure your safety and the safety of the American Airlines team members serving you.
  • Fly safely—and help our team members stay safe—with new social distancing measures on our aircraft
  • Our gratitude for support from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
  • Flexibility when planning or rebooking upcoming travel, which includes the ability to cancel your plans for flights through September of 2020, and fly anytime by the end of 2021 without incurring any change fees.
  • Cancel or rebook your flights through September 2020 to fly any time in 2021 with no change fees
  • Enhancements to the AAdvantage® program allowing for continued elite status through early 2022.
  • Hold onto your 2020 elite status through early 2022
  • Our unwavering commitment to the communities where our customers and team members live and work through our partnerships with the American Red Cross, local hospitals and more. 
  • Help us help your community through our partnerships with the American Red Cross, local hospitals and more
  • American is committed to keeping you updated and we look forward to welcoming you onboard when the time is right for you. 

We look forward to welcoming you onboard when the time is right for you.

Thank you for flying American.

Note: This content appeared originally at The Social Shake-Up

Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications.