Messaging is the cornerstone of strategic communications. It’s the key ingredient that helps your voice cut through the ‘noise’, both online and offline. But it isn’t always easy to develop your messaging; if you’re too close to the detail, you can’t see the wood for trees.
Here are a few thoughts and recommendations to get you started.
I really enjoy working on messaging. For me, it’s about conversation. First you get clarity around the core proposition and target audience, to inform your wider strategy. Then you probe further and tease out the nuggets that can lift what initially sounds like a ‘me too’ product or service, out of the ordinary. Below is an example of a company that makes a good, clean job of it, at least on its website.
Ask the right people the right questions
Sometimes when I start work on messaging with a client, it can feel like hard work. They unwittingly parrot back the words they’ve been using for years to describe what they do. This is where conversation, in my view, is key but it needs to go beyond senior management and the comms team (if you have one) as it’s only in relaxed, informal conversation with a representative group of stakeholders that the real story emerges. I see this as a research exercise and a fundamental piece of work to inform both messaging and your communicationss strategy. It can be done in-house but there is a strong argument for it being led by someone ‘detached’ and independent, as they will come at it with a fresh perspective.
So who should you talk to?
The research cohort depends on the nature of the business but it could include colleagues in other departments, customers, partners and of course sales reps or whoever is working at the coalface. After all, they are the ones dealing with the end user or beneficiary. They, of all people, know what turns your audience on and off. If they are asked to contribute during the research stage, they will provide a useful, different perspective and are more likely to embrace the resulting messaging and strategy than if it was imposed on them without consultation.
What can you expect?
Often the feedback I get reinforces what we know already but I discover hidden treasure too – an insight into why they chose my client’s product, a different benefit that had been overlooked or simply a new angle that hasn’t been considered. It can be surprisingly revealing. Sometimes I also glean new keywords to boost SEO and I almost always get some great ‘quotable quotes’. You just need to ask the right questions of the right people in the right way and you will be rewarded with insight that breathes new life into your strategy and gives you new angles and language to refresh your messaging. Gold dust for a strategic communications plan!
Putting your research to work
Once the research is completed and you’ve sifted through the feedback, it’s time to weave your findings into new messaging. Obviously the approach will vary from sector to sector but in the most fundamental terms, messaging needs to answer the following questions:
- What are you offering?
- Who is it for?
- What problem does it solve?
- How is it different/better than anything else?
And you need a call to action e.g.
- try it now
- donate now
- subscribe to updates
- call us or for more info go to www…
Once you’re happy with the words, you need to make sure your messaging is applied consistently across all communications channels. But before you implement it, don’t forget to circle back to every one you consulted and bring your staff up to speed. If you’re expecting them to be advocates, you need their buy in.
Need help with your messaging? Get in touch!