Why Messaging Matters (and All That Jazz)

Messaging is a big part of your brand.

When we talk about all the components of brand development, we often hear some version of, “We understand our company so well — why do we need messaging?” Indeed, most people who know their businesses well can write and talk about it — going on and on and on. And that’s the problem. They can share everything there is to know about the company in 20 paragraphs or more. But they need to get the most important idea across in 15 words or less.

Let me put it another way. In the 2002 award-winning movie-musical Chicago, there’s a scene in which murderess Roxie Hart is preparing for a press conference. She has all kinds of ideas about what she wants to say — but her lawyer, Billy Flynn, keeps telling her to repeatedly tell the reporters, “We both reached for the gun.” The reason? “We can only sell them one idea at a time.”

One idea? But we have so many!

Mr. Flynn gets it partially right. You can sell people multiple related ideas if your audience is primed and ready for them. This simple step is where many marketers, execs, and sales representatives go wrong. They assume their audience already understands the most important thing they should know about their business, product or service. For them, a complex web of ideas is easy to grasp because they live and breathe that content every day. So, they jump in, confidently spouting features and benefits. Then, they wonder why all that information doesn’t sink in.

Then, there’s this situation: You’re engaged in a discussion with a customer or prospect who latches onto a peripheral train of thought. If you respond without an intentional effort to bring the conversation back to where you want it, you allow the other party to control your narrative. The focus of the engagement veers away from the main points you wanted to make. And sometimes, you get dragged so far out into the weeds that it’s difficult to return to your original line of communication.

You’ve probably seen communications go supremely right, too. Regardless of the situation or audience, everything goes smoothly, and everyone understands, feels, and believes what they should about the company.

Messaging makes the difference.

The people in that last scenario don’t have superpowers. It’s possible that they got lucky. But more likely, they have a strong messaging platform and know how to use it.

A messaging platform starts with the most important thing anyone needs to know about your organization, product or service. And that number one thing has to be simple — ideally, only 10-15 words, uncomplicated by multiple supporting points (those come later). That top-line message doesn’t have to be a tagline (although it can be). But it does have to finish the sentence, “If people walk away from any point of engagement with us knowing only one thing, it has to be ________.”

If people understand that one thing, chances are they’ll wonder, “How do you do that?” or “What does that look like?” That’s when you can bring in those supporting points, which we refer to as “support pillars.” These single words or short phrases identify discrete things that make your organization, product, or service unique and special.


Messaging Platform


Then, under each of those support pillars, you’ll have proof points. These are pieces of essential content and information that reinforce each pillar. They can be as simple as key statistics or as complex as a case study. But each one enables you to demonstrate that you’re not just claiming certain qualities — you can back them up with proof.

The advantages of a powerful messaging platform.

Even though a good messaging platform should fit on a single page, it isn’t the kind of thing you publish or share externally. Instead, you should think of the messaging platform as a communications guide and metric. For instance, as a guide, the platform can help you:

  • See how and where the key points you communicate reinforce one or more proof points, as well as the top-line message.
  • Inform all communications — formal, informal, electronic, on paper, and in-person.
  • Address any challenges or concerns while keeping the narrative from veering into the weeds.

Likewise, as a metric, your messaging platform should help you:

  • Maintain consistency across multiple communications media and situations.
  • Evaluate how well your communications help audiences focus on your top-line message.
  • Adjust communications when necessary to ensure alignment with your overall brand.

The development process is exciting – but that’s only the beginning.

The power of a great messaging platform is often apparent before the platform is ever put into use. Indeed, when we develop one for a client, we often conduct internal workshops, external interviews, and an in-depth review of written communications. The result is a compelling and revealing experience that delivers value in and of itself. However, businesses that stop at this point risk turning the platform into shelfware. That is, everyone looks at it, agrees that it captures the essence of the company, and then disappears onto a shelf.

The messaging platform shouldn’t function as a script that changes natural communications into something akin to a repeated recording. Even when the top-line and supporting messages are crisp and concise, you want them to feel natural. After all, different people communicate in different ways. And individuals express themselves differently in person, online, and in print material.

In other words, it takes training and practice to feel comfortable using the platform on a day-to-day basis. But, as the messaging platform becomes a natural support tool for your communications, remarkable results become possible. No matter how or where people engage with your company, they’ll find consistency. They’ll grasp the most crucial things they need to know about your business. They will be primed and ready to eagerly absorb everything you want to share. And that paves the way for you to improve the solutions you offer, strengthen relationships, drive sales and take your business forward.