Effectively communicating a message in any medium can often seem like a crazy and convoluted round of the Telephone Game, leaving companies wondering, “Did you get my message?” or “Can you hear me now?” Creating and communicating effective, strategic messages consistently is the foundation of success for any organization – whether it’s product branding, an e-mail marketing campaign, social media initiatives or a company announcement.
You want your target audiences hear and remember effective messages about your organization, an issue or a trend. These messages can be used to:
- Clearly articulate an organization’s position
- Establish a company as a thought leader
- Successfully position a company against a competitor
In order to develop the messages that are going to resonate with your target audience you need to be sure you know who that audience is. In Principle Three of our book, “Strategic Public Relations: 10 Principles to Harness the Power of PR,” we highlight the importance of knowing your target audience, the first building block of developing effective messaging.
While most established companies have a solid grasp on who their target audience is, new companies should do their homework to ensure they understand who they are trying to reach. This could involve evaluating who their competitors are targeting, speaking with industry analysts, conducting research or surveys, and connecting directly with prospective customers.
Once you have clarity on who you want to reach you can start to think through the three points you want that audience to know about your company, its product or service, and how those translate into benefits for that target audience. Furthermore, you want to be able to illustrate those messages with proof points that effectively reinforce the benefits articulated in those messages. This can be done by creating a message framework, which is a graph that outlines key messages with proof points as supporting messages.
For example, a pillar message for eHarmony, an online dating website, is “the Internet’s #1 trusted relationship services provider in the U.S.” They support this message by talking about its system of matching couples based on personality dimensions as well as relationship research facility, and publishes eHarmony Advice, a growing relationship advice siteeHarmony Labs, its research facility, and eHarmony Advice, its growing relationship advice website. These points demonstrate that eHarmony isn’t randomly matching people based on profiles, but going one step further and establishing a science around matching. trusted relationship services provider in the United States the Internet’s No. 1 trusted relationship services provider is the Internet’s No. 1 trusted relationship services provider in the United States
After you have outlined your messaging framework, you are ready to start developing narrative messages. These narratives and anecdotes can be weaved into FAQs, developed into media pitches, or used as sound bites for key spokespeople. Not only does eHarmony weave its “#1 trusted” message throughout their website and television commercials, they also secure coverage in stories that specifically demonstrate its key differentiators and bolsters their pillar messages. As an example, Technology Review recently included eHarmony in a feature story on the technology and methodology behind online dating sites.
The next step is to share the draft messages within your organization and secure buy-in from those within the company who will be responsible for communicating these messages. It is worthwhile to share the messages with stakeholders from various groups within the company who speak to different constituents.
Next ensure all key spokespeople are well versed in the key messages – it’s critical that all spokespeople are familiar with and comfortable communicating the key messages. Once you’ve developed your key messages, make sure that each of your spokespeople receives a copy. You may also want to set up mock interviews to ensure your spokesperson is clearly articulating the key messages during an interview.
Once the messaging has been developed and finalized, you’re ready to unleash it into the world. The most effective messaging is consistently leveraged across many channels within an organization – marketing materials, its website, press releases and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Effective messaging can help an organization influence behavior, drive sales and achieve success. Taking a strategic approach to developing those messages will ensure that your organization communicates the benefits and proof points needed to resonate with your customers.
Colleen Moffitt is a founding partner with Communiqué PR, a boutique communication firm in Seattle. In addition to leading account activities for several clients, Colleen manages operations and helps drive business development for Communiqué PR. She is a co-author of Strategic Public Relations: 10 Principles to Harness the Power of PR and is a frequent speaker on the topics of public relations, social media and the changing media landscape.