Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” And that is the reason you need to craft, and then stick to, your brand message.
Your message is what defines your brand. It should be built into all of your communications efforts: your marketing, PR, social media communications, advertising, public speaking. Everything.
If your new intern knows the brand message and can repeat it to a reporter or in a Tweet, you will likely not become a “pharmaceutical company” if you are, in fact, developing immunotherapy cancer drugs. But when you don’t have your story straight, it can be disastrous—either as an event, like when someone makes a PR blunder by issuing a statement that is off message, or something softer, like audience confusion leading to longer sales cycles.
So, if you are the main communicator in your organization or for a client, how do you keep the troops on track with consistent brand messaging in all of your content assets?
Recently, as I was preparing to present to the Marketing Directors’ Support Group on this very topic, I gave some serious thought to best practices in achieving consistent messaging.
Tips for Creating Consistent Messaging:
1. Develop a messaging framework – By developing a simple document that outlines your messages with supporting points, you can help ensure that everyone in your organization is working from the same page—whether it’s as a spokesperson, marketer or content manager. You can also use this framework every time you create a new piece of content to ensure that your key messages are included within.
2. Pressure test your messages – When developing this document, ensure that your messages are clear and concise, understandable by all target audiences, and ready for use in all communications materials. Be sure to ask yourself if the messages hold up against follow-up questions from your audiences. Are they airtight, or would the questions influence how the message is delivered? Can the messages be challenged in some way? How? And give your message the “so what” test. Look at everything you’re saying from the perspective of the customer.
People in communications often think that we have great things to say, but if you look at your words and ask “so what,” you probably don’t have a strong message.
3. Adhere to a protocol and distribute – Be sure to share the messaging widely within your organization. Ideally, you want your company spokespeople to use these messages for all media interviews and in all corporate presentations. Also distribute it to anyone who creates content for marketing and social media sharing.
4. Establish messaging parameters for social media communications – Lay out expectations for online behavior by your team members. In other words, it’s best that each employee talk online only about his or her own area of expertise. For example, you don’t want your chief legal counsel tweeting about company finances or your CFO posting on Facebook about a legal issue involving your company. Also, identify what topics the company will discuss from its branded social media outlets. You should remain relevant to your company’s industry, products and/or services and, here again, stay “on message” across all platforms.
In reality, research, planning, implementation and evaluation – the building blocks of many an organizational plan – are the keys to ensuring your company develops a strong message framework that has a decent shelf life. And if you think that developing that message framework is not your strong suit, find someone who can help you!
Have you experienced challenges in message development or in achieving consistency in your organization’s messaging? Do you have a success story or a lesson learned? Leave us a comment and let’s discuss.