You’re talking. Your colleagues are talking. Your boss talks. Your sales team talks. The new guy is definitely talking.
It’s happening face-to-face. Online. In email. On your website. On social media. In press statements. And wherever you think anyone might be listening. When you’re not talking in real-time, you’re automating all of the talking.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a guide for what to say? Or if you were confident everybody talking was saying the same thing?
You can be. You just need a messaging framework to make it happen.
What is a Messaging Framework?
A messaging framework is your communications roadmap. It’s a document that breaks out the company’s positioning, what it stands for, and how it should be communicated to your different audiences. It can be of great assistance when speaking about the company, or even when you need some help writing that landing page, that PPC ad, or finding the right tone for your social media update. It’s your bible.
We’ve found that messaging is truly one of the hardest things for clients to nail down. And it’s hard for many reasons.
- It’s hard because you think it’s easy. You think everyone knows who the company is, where it’s going, and what it believes. It’s easy to think that until someone writes/says/acts in a way that directly contradicts it.
- It’s hard because messaging is the basis for everything else. With that comes pressure. And opinions. Often opinions that don’t align and which a lot of people have a lot of feelings about.
- It’s hard because putting on paper what you are also identifies what you are NOT and inspires all sorts of internal FOMO.
But a clearly-articulated messaging framework is also your very best friend, helping you to sift out the crap and focus on what’s real. Your messaging framework is what keeps your brand safe in an always-on, social media-fueled, omg-did-you-see-what-so-and-so-just-said world.
It turns a communications firehouse into a coordinated sprinkler.
Creating Your Messaging Framework
A lot goes into creating a messaging framework. One that is strict enough to keep everyone on message, but flexible enough that it’s helpful in a variety of situations.
Good messaging is three things.
- It is simple enough to be understood.
- It is unified against a single promise.
- It is scalable to allow the brand to grow.
Where do we start?
Solidifying Top-Level Positioning
This is ground zero. Your top-level positioning is the warm gooey center that exists between the thing you’re uniquely good at and the need/problem your customers have. It takes into consideration things like:
- Who you are
- Who you are not
- What you believe
- What you don’t believe
- How that helps the customer
It looks neat and tidy in the list above but getting there is not.
At Overit, we most often use a mix of surveys, questionnaires and focus groups to establish it, taking a top to bottom look at a brand that involves hashing things out with the executive team, the marketing team, ground-level employees, and customers to understand the intent of the company. This helps square away discrepancies of how the company sees itself vs. how it wants to see itself vs. how customers actually see it to give us a real accurate reflection of the brand.
This, when combined with marketing analysis and a flurry of third-party data, helps to identify the opportunity that exists for the brand, as well as your unique ability to fill it.
Here, we’re able to determine messaging elements like:
- Positioning Statement
- Vision Statement
- Mission Statement
- Voice & Tone
- Initial Key Messages
Identifying Audience-Specific Messaging
Now that we know who YOU are, we want to dig deeper into who your customers are. The first stage of this process gave us a pretty good understanding, but this lets us go deeper to understand things like:
- What excites them?
- What makes them nervous?
- What are their specific use cases?
- What are the problems they’re coming to us with?
- How does our positioning make us well-suited to address them?
Knowing these juicy tidbits about our customers helps identify the messages they’ll most respond to, what words to use or not use, what proof points to show, etc. As a marketer, it also allows you to clearly frame and segment your audience in your mind.
While your core positioning statement will remain the same, how that statement applies to different segments will not.
Brand positioning: The benefit you offer to customers, partners, and stakeholders.
Key messaging: How you provide value and the products/ services you offer to deliver it.
If I’m a credit union, my brand position may be that I improve the financial well-being of members in the community. Key messaging will include HOW I do that differently for different audiences – millennials, established families, businesses, etc.
If I offer travel concierge services, my brand positioning may be on giving customers back their most valuable asset – their time. Key messaging will be crafted around how to communicate that message to families, explorers/luxury cruisers, ship aficionados, etc.
Knowing what proof points to stress for different audiences saves time, provides clarity, and (quite frankly) makes sure you don’t muck it up. It allows you to craft copy correctly to hit on the right intent and customer needs.
Some brands will find it useful to go even further to create product- and feature-level (sometimes called tertiary) messaging; other brands will find it unnecessarily complex or simply won’t have a use-case. Do what works best for you.
Document & Distribute
Once defined — document and distribute.
When documenting your messaging architecture you’ll want to keep it tight, keep it simple, and – whenever possible – keep it to bullet points. Don’t spend a lot of time “showing your work” or explaining how you got here (like this blog post does…). Adding too much context or too much fluff will detract from what you’re trying to do. It also gives people something to argue.
Instead, succinctly identify messaging elements:
- Positioning statement
- Vision Statement
- Mission Statement
- Voice & Tone
- Key messages
- Audience-specific proof points
- In-Use Examples
The last bullet is super important. Providing in-use examples will help your team see how to put these elements into action by offering a model to follow.
Once it’s created and distributed — live it.
Your messaging is a constantly evolving thing – come back to it annually to ensure it reflects where you’re going. You’ll never be done, but this will give you a good start.