Strategic Communications Goal for 2020: Get Your Message Right

January 15, 2020

Say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s a simple enough sentiment. The foundation of good communication, a building block of any successful relationship. Speaking in a clear, direct way enables collaboration, growth, better outcomes and innovation. While we may all know these things, many of us fail to follow through on them in our personal and professional lives. All too often, we miscommunicate and cross wires. Whether out of fear, lack of clarity or biased perspectives, messages get mixed and misunderstanding runs amok.

This happens in corporate messaging all the time. Young startups struggle to explain their company and product in terms that resonate with the outside world. Co-founders disagree about their target audience. Development and sales teams stay in their lanes, missing opportunities to collaborate. Marketing leads come and go, and the team’s focus changes with each new recruit. Meanwhile, as the business marches on and countless hours are spent in meetings designed to help the company define its message, the audience is left trying to figure things out on its own.

A concise, relatable brand message is the cornerstone of strategic communications. It’s the only way to establish an effective and engaging dialogue with the world outside the walls of your company. Without a consistent messaging framework supported by meaningful differentiators, data and values, your brand is more vulnerable to risk, and the competition. The more disjointed the message, the more distanced you become from market leadership and a strong reputation.

As you look toward all that 2020 holds for your company, consider a refresh on your messaging. Take the time to get it right, so your brand is fortified for growth and success in the decade to come.

Start with a messaging workshop that involves multiple groups within the company. Marketing and communications, obviously. Input from sales leaders is essential. They are the people in the trenches with your customers every day. Include your engineers, developers and product people—they are your sounding board to make sure the messaging is accurate and true (this is especially important for high tech companies). Any executives that will be expected to approve and/or evangelize the message should have a seat at the table. The last thing you want is to create a framework that doesn’t click with the CEO.

With your key stakeholders together in one room, conduct a guided brainstorm. Keep things on track by starting out with a SWOT analysis that examines what the company does well, real and perceived weaknesses, the competitive landscape and trends that may benefit the business. Encourage discussion and debate, until the group can agree on several key points for each category.

Next, ask probing questions that will help surface value propositions and the terms colleagues use to describe your company. These include:

  • What are we?
  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Why do we do it?
  • How are we different?
  • Why should someone care?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Who are our partners and other supporters?
  • Who are our competitors?

You’ll likely walk away from the workshop with a lot of notes, a lot of opinions and a lack of consensus. That’s ok. Take it all in, and let the creativity percolate. Put key themes and phrases into buckets in a framework. Bounce ideas off of your team. Be prepared for pivots and revisions. Stay on track, but don’t rush it.

Sometimes, an unbiased third party is necessary to help distill the team’s collective ideas into a resonant narrative. Outside perspectives can also provide a reality check on whether the message makes sense to audiences that aren’t tied to the business. We love collaborating with our clients—fresh startups and established companies—in this way and helping them drive new or refreshed messaging.

Whether you keep the effort in-house, or work with us or another outside partner, start the year off with an honest look at your brand. Is your message clear? Does it ring true? Is it the best you can do? If the answer is no, or you’re unsure, it’s probably time to dig in and get it right.

-Ashley Allman, Director of Content

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