Messaging 101: Building Messaging That Matters
Working in the communications industry, we think about what our clients say about themselves and how they communicate it to the masses a lot. Not just what they say, but how they say it, what “it” means to and for their company, and for their clients or customers. At INK, we firmly believe that effective messaging and communication never begins with a well-constructed press release; that to be truly successful, you must start with a deep understanding of the company’s business and value proposition and develop a cohesive communications platform that permeates both internal and external communications channels and resonates not just with your customers, but also with investors and employees.
This is easier said than done, however, particularly for seasoned marketers who live and breathe their brand day in, day out. It can be easy to get into the weeds, to overthink and thus, over communicate, under communicate or even miscommunicate your core values and key messages. With that in mind, here are INK’s seven tips for creating compelling messaging.
- Want to know what about your product or company resonates with your stakeholders? Ask them! The first step to building effective communications is market research. That doesn’t mean a brainstorm with the marketing team. It means frank stakeholder interviews where you’ll learn what your customers actually value, what your employees find confusing, what your investors find important and why your partners choose to work with you. Creating an interview structure that will yield honest responses is imperative. This means avoiding leading questions and choosing an impartial interviewer, like a third party agency.
- Be authentic:
- Incorporate your big picture vision, yes, but refrain from trying to message around something that isn’t quite true or goes far beyond what you really do. It’s ineffective and creates confusion. If you’re not sure what it is you’re trying to say, how do you expect your stakeholders to pick up what you’re putting down? Your value proposition should be relevant to your stakeholders and speak to your core values as a business.
- Keep it simple (part #1):
- Even if your company offers a specialized B2B product for quantum physicists, you should be able to describe what it is you do to someone who is unfamiliar with the space and terminology. Your top line messaging should make sense to everybody. After that, you can go get a little more granular. Never assume anything. Messaging built around assumptions can quickly dissuade perspective customers who don’t understand the ins and outs of your product or business.
- Keep it simple (part #2)
- My favorite example to illustrate the importance of straightforward messaging is the Friends episode when Joey uses a thesaurus to write a letter of recommendation for Monica and Chandler. While playing with word choice is important for differentiation, jargon and wordiness can be detrimental to effective communications. Cut the adjectives. Keep it punchy. And save the thesaurus for the college finals.
- Remember, it’s not all about you:
- Effective communications begins with your customer’s core values, not just your product or service. Sure, your messaging should answer the “why” questions — why your company matters, why your stakeholders should care, why you are in the best position to offer your product or service — but from a position that takes into consideration your stakeholders needs and how you’ll fulfill them.
- Consistency is key
- When developing key messages, three is the magic number. 1) Three talking points are easiest for your spokespeople and their audience to retain. 2) When developed with thought and care, everything can cascade from three core messages with little overlap and repetition. Trust us on this one. It works out to three every time.
- Test it
- Just as research is important at the beginning of the messaging process, testing what you develop will ensure that it actually, well, works. After numerous rounds of edits, it can be easy to lose track of what you set out to do. And what ends up sounding awesome to you and your team, may fall flat with the people who matter. Feedback is your friend. If your stakeholders don’t “get it,” it means it doesn’t work and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.