The foundation of successful PR is a sound message strategy. In this post I’m going to share with you the why, the how, and at the end, give you an in-depth worksheet you can download to help you do this yourself – whether you are a kitchen table entrepreneur or technology start-up, you’ll benefit from this exercise.
There is so much “noise” out there that even if what you’re doing is a game-changer in your industry, it can be very hard to get stakeholders to listen. You have to tell your story many times, using multiple communication vehicles in order to get attention.
Developing consistent, impactful key messages – of what the company does, what value it offers, what sets it apart from competitors, and why their target audiences should take notice is so important – it’s one of the first things we do for our technology PR clients (especially start-ups).
Why You Need a Message Strategy
As we explain our messaging process at Cross Border Communications, you’ll see that it’s quite an investment in time and brain dumping. However, the investment is well worth it.
With a strong set of core messages, your company will have consistent and effective messaging throughout your external communications efforts. You will use your core messages when crafting many documents, including your company backgrounder, boilerplates, mission and vision statements, presentations, brochures, and other materials.
Another benefit of having a message strategy is it puts everyone on the same page as far as understanding who your company is, what your value proposition is, and how you communicate it to your target audiences. You’ll be surprised how often we’ve found that the C-suite has a different understanding of this compared to their marcom people and sales staff!
How to Formulate Your Company Messaging
Formulating your company’s message strategy is a collaborative exercise that cuts across the functional units of your organization. Aside from the communication and marketing teams, the exercise should also involve the management team, sales, customer service, and even R&D. You wouldn’t want to go ahead with the process only to have your outputs shot down by your management team. Better to have them involved from the get-go.
The brainstorming and collaboration process can take place in person, in a workshop setting. However, sometimes it’s necessary to do it virtually using digital collaboration tools such as Skype and web conferencing.
At Cross Border Communications, we take our clients through three major steps, which I’m going to share with you in the rest of this post. By the end of the process, they will have their overall positioning and key messages for each target audience.
Step 1: Company Assessment
The first step of the messaging process is understanding what the company is all about, what its products are, and what the competitive landscape looks like.
The key questions to ask yourself in this part of the process include:
- What is your primary business?
- What is your current elevator pitch?
- What are your key products/services and what do they do?
- What are the unique features and benefits of your products/services?
- Who are your competitors?
- How do your competitors’ products/services compare and contrast with yours?
- Who are your target customers (specify per product/service, if necessary)
- Who are your current customers? Where does your revenue come from?
- What promotional materials do you currently use?
- How is your company perceived by: media, customers, prospects?
- How well are your current communication and marketing materials performing?
Step 2: Positioning and Messaging
Now that you have the big picture of what your company does, who your competitors are, who you want to attract as your customers, it’s time to get focused. Think in terms of declarative, visionary statements you want to make about your business:
- What is the overall message about your company, product or service, that you’d like to communicate to your target audience?
- What supporting messages and proof points do you need for your overall message?
- What are your key messages (up to 5) for each of your target audiences?
After you complete these steps, you will have a workable message strategy that will guide your communication, marketing and PR efforts. It takes a lot of brainstorming, negotiation, and collaboration to get this far, and you may feel very protective of your results.
However, remember that your messaging is always a work in progress. While it shouldn’t be changed on a whim, neither should you be impervious to market feedback. If your target audiences don’t respond as expected, you need to step back, review what you’ve done and agree on what adjustments need to be made. Test, rinse and repeat.
What we’ve shared with you here is a peek at the messaging process we use with our clients at Cross Border Communications. In fact, we’re happy to share with you the messaging blueprint we use. The blueprint contains matrices, more guide questions and other tips to walk you through the process of formulating your key messages.
Want a copy? Fill in the form below and we’ll send it to you:
Note: It could take up to one hour for your download link to arrive in your email inbox, after confirming your request. Please be patient!
If you need more hand holding, such as help facilitating the exercise in your company, contact us. We’ll be happy to help you out.
If you have questions, comments or suggestions, post them below. Or you can reach us on Twitter and Facebook. Hope to hear from you soon!
Liz Estrella-Basilio is a PR professional and the managing partner of Elena Verlee at Cross Border Communications. Together with Elena, they work with start-up to multi-million dollar technology companies who want to get their story heard in traditional, digital and social media.
She recently revived her Twitter account and will be out on the prowl to find those who are truly #FollowFriday-worthy on Twitter. Follow her at @lizestrellab.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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