As writers in a communications agency, it’s our job to think about our clients’ messaging and how they communicate the value of their organization a lot. Not just what they say, but how they say it, and what “it” means for their company and their customers. Effective communication never begins when drafting a well-constructed press release. For any marketing asset to resonate with its intended audience, it must be based in clear and compelling messaging, created from a deep understanding of the company’s value proposition and position in the market. This messaging should be the backbone of your communications platform and permeate both internal and external communications channels.
Creating messaging isn’t easy, particularly for seasoned marketers who live and breathe the words and phrases associated with their brand. Many marketers get into the weeds quickly and overthink and, therefore, over-communicate, under-communicate, or even miscommunicate their core values and key messages. With that in mind, here are INK’s seven tips for creating compelling messaging.
Do you want to know why your product or company resonates with your stakeholders? Ask them! Market research is the first step to building effective messaging. That doesn’t mean a quick brainstorm with your marketing team. It means starting with candid stakeholder interviews. You’ll learn what your customers value about your business, what your employees find confusing about your current communications, what your investors find important, and why your partners choose to work with you. Creating an interview structure that produces honest responses is imperative. Avoid leading questions and choose an impartial interviewer, like a third party agency.
It’s okay to incorporate your big picture vision, but refrain from trying to create messaging that isn’t entirely true or goes too far beyond the scope of what your company does. Messaging for a desired state can create confusion. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to say, how do you expect your stakeholders to understand? 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 product for quantum computing, you should be able to describe it to someone unfamiliar with the industry and terminology. Your top-line messaging – mission, vision and brand position – should make sense to everybody. From there, you can develop audience-specific messaging that gets a little more granular. Never assume anything. Messaging built around assumptions of your audiences’ understanding makes it difficult for your prospective customers to follow along. They are unlikely to stick around too long to figure out the ins and outs of your product or business.
Keep it simple (part 2)
Sometimes we think that the quickest way to sound smart or interesting is to head to the thesaurus for an alternative word choice. But in the words of Mark Twain, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” While playing with word choice is important for differentiation, try to avoid jargon and wordiness, which puts too much of the work on your reader. Cut the adjectives. Keep it punchy. Make every word count.
Remember, it’s not all about you
Effective messaging 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 it should also take into consideration your stakeholders’ needs and how you’ll fulfill them.
Consistency is key
When developing key messages, three is the magic number. First, three talking points are easiest for your spokespeople and their audience to retain. Second, when developed with thought and care, everything can cascade from three core messages with little overlap and repetition. Trust us on this one. Clear key messages work out to three every time.
Just as research is important at the beginning of the messaging process, testing what you develop will ensure that it 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.