Communicating Your Brand’s Message: Lessons from the Chinese Whispers Game

Blessing Emmanuel-Macaulay is a PR & Communications Consultant and the Founder of PR Fusions.


While doing some research on strategic communication for organisations, I stumbled on an article that reminded me of the Chinese Whispers/Telephone game. The game involves disseminating a message through whispers.

The message which could be a difficult word or phrase must be passed along a line of people to see if the message can get through without being distorted. As the message passes along the line in whispers alongside puzzled expressions, everyone watching anxiously awaits what the person at the end of the line will declare as the message.

Finally, when the moment arrives and the message is revealed, it is usually nowhere close to the initial message, depending on the difficulty level of the message. This leads the players in the game to then retrace their steps to find where the message got lost.

I pondered on this game and concluded that although humans love and thrive on communication and are expected to have a knack for it, sadly, we are not so great at it, making communication difficult, especially if not handled properly.

This holds most true even in the context of marriages, but I digress.

I also began to wonder if the game holds powerful lessons, especially for a brand’s communication with its stakeholders – and it certainly does.

Companies and businesses go big on putting together a formidable strategy that drives their companies’ growth trajectory which is great. However, it is not enough for your organisation to develop an exceptional business strategy without getting all stakeholders on board.

It is crucial that stakeholders are actively engaged and enthused about your strategic plan; therefore, you need to communicate it. No matter how formidable and good your organisational strategy is, it will not work if communicated poorly and/or with distortion such that stakeholders cannot align with it.

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Based on the Chinese Whispers game, the first lesson on communicating your organisational strategy to your stakeholders is to identify your stakeholders. Unlike the Chinese Whispers game that lumps all players in the game as one, you must clearly identify and profile your stakeholders. After identifying your stakeholders, break down the strategy into bite-size messages that each stakeholder segment can understand.

Your organisation probably deals with multiple stakeholder groups, and you do not have all the time in the world to engage with every stakeholder in a similar manner.

It is therefore important to identify stakeholders, their importance and relevance as well as their demands and expectations, so that you can tailor appropriate communication efforts to disseminate your brand’s message to them based on their needs, peculiarities, and preferences.

Secondly, in communicating your message, ensure clarity and simplicity. The message distortion in the Chinese Whispers game depends on the message’s difficulty level. The more difficult the message is, the more distorted it becomes at the end of the line.

Thus, to effectively communicate to stakeholders, your message must come across as very simple and very clear. Where possible, bring your brand to life by using visuals and storytelling that resonate. Everyone loves a good story; wield this great tool to your advantage.

The next thing to do is to communicate your business strategy purposefully and consistently. Do not leave anything to chance! I repeat, do not leave anything to chance! Use the best and most appropriate communication channel available to stakeholder groups, and be consistent in communicating your brand’s messages.

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The several ways you can communicate with your stakeholders today include emails, instant messages, Zoom meetings, social media platforms, discussion boards and forums, teleconferences, physical meetings, etc. Make your messages visible to all stakeholders across relevant and appropriate platforms.

Finally, follow up on your communication efforts and monitor feedback. The distortion of messages in the Chinese Whispers game is due to a lack of feedback in the message dissemination process.

Do not retire to bed after communicating. Follow up on your communication to confirm if your message has been correctly received. Were there misconceptions or distortions in the message communicated to stakeholders? If yes, find out where the misconception or distortion emanated from and correct it promptly.


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