A messaging framework is where your company’s story begins. As such, creating the right messages for your company deserves time, thought and energy.
Everyone loves a good story. Stories build emotion, impact and connection. When we hear facts, such as the features and benefits of a product or a service, the statistics are quickly forgotten. But when we hear stories, it engages our senses and becomes far more memorable.
All great stories start with a powerful message.
In a previous article I covered the Communications Brief, the first of the five tried-and-true core strategic tools you need to save time, money, aggregation and rework. In this article, we’ll cover the second of the core strategic marketing tools: the Messaging Framework.
- Communications Brief
- Messaging Framework
- Marketing Playbook
- Executive Dashboard
- Project Management Office (PMO)
The Messaging Framework
Whether you’re trying to grow a brand, turn around a company or deliver a seamless experience, getting everybody moving in the same direction can be challenging. With differing goals, agendas, bosses and budgets, messages can quickly become fragmented.
How do you prevent message fragmentation? It’s certainly not by taking away budgets or by funneling everything through a central headquarters for approval. Message integration doesn’t require centralization or budget consolidation. However, it does require leadership, persistence and a messaging framework.
A messaging framework can help you turn a cacophony of voices into a beautifully synchronized performance. The messaging framework defines why you exist, why people come to you, and what ultimately makes people want to buy your product. Everything you create, internally and externally, should lead back to this messaging.
Messaging Framework: What It Is
A messaging framework—sometimes called a messaging architecture or message map—is a set of statements arranged hierarchically to convey an organization’s messaging priorities. It embodies the core positioning of your company and its offerings. With a strong messaging framework, any employee should be able to talk intelligently and confidently about your organization’s products, services and company. It doesn’t matter if they are answering the phone, greeting a guest, delivering a presentation, briefing an analyst or closing a deal.
Messaging Framework: Why It’s Important
A messaging framework:
- Helps focus and amplify your core messages
- Aligns your organization around your company’s narrative
- Guides your messaging across every piece of content and every channel
- Reduces ad hoc and one-off messages that can confuse your various audiences
- Results in more cohesive, synchronized and impactful communications
Messaging Framework: What It Contains
The #1 rule when crafting a messaging framework is that it is not about you. You need to move beyond simple feature/function/benefit statements to messaging that demonstrates how you solve a real customer problem better than anyone else. That starts with knowing your target audience and their fears, frustrations, pain points and deepest needs.
A messaging framework should answer who you are, what you provide both tangible and intangible, for whom, why anyone should care, and what sets you apart. It is typically crafted in hierarchical order, starting with a positioning statement and ending with a concise elevator pitch.
As with the communication brief, you can leverage numerous messaging frameworks. Some are very basic, while others are quite elaborate and complex. I prefer a one-page-at-a-glance format covering the following:
- Positioning Statement: State your mission and brand promise at a high level.
- Target Audience: Identify who you are trying to appeal to and what they are like.
- Tone of Voice: Describe how the character of your business comes through in your written and spoken words—is it friendly and straightforward or sophisticated and professional?
- What You Do: Articulate the value you provide when someone buys your product or service.
- Why It Matters: State the customer problem you must solve or need you must address.
- How You Do It Better: List three key attributes that differentiate you from other companies or offerings in the market: Are you the highest quality, best value, most dependable?
- Supporting Messages: Provide three proof points or examples for each of the three attributes you identified in #6 (nine data-rich statements total).
- Elevator Pitch: Include a three-second message that serves as an attention grabber along with a thirty-second message.
- Strategic Hashtags: Define a focused set of short and memorable hashtags that characterize and help create a community around your business.
Messaging Framework: How to Get Started
Here are 5 steps I’ve found useful in developing an integrated messaging framework.
- Inventory existing messages, look for commonalities. Chances are you’re not starting from scratch so conduct a message inventory across an array of vehicles and look for commonalities. Be sure to include what your founders said about the company when it was first formed.
- Map to business objectives. Next, map the messages from your inventory to your company’s key business objectives. Do they help advance one or more of your business goals? If not, alter or cut it.
- Design collaboratively, not by committee. Third, armed with this insight and alignment, collaborate with key stakeholders from across your company. I call these your “audience champions.” You will need their buy in and adoption of the final message architecture. But make sure there is one person who “owns the pen” as I like to say. Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the original Mini car in 1959, famously said, “a camel is a horse designed by committee.”
- Craft one—and only one—set of core messages that defines who you are as a company. Spirited debate is good, but only one person should author the final messaging map. This will ensure there is one, and only one, set of crisply written and effective core messages.
- Rationalize to the vital few. Lastly, be ruthless in your prioritization. Focus on the vital few messages for which your company wants to be known. This is where less is more. Your mantra should be fewer messages, more stories.
Once your messaging framework is completed and approved, post and distribute it broadly throughout your organization, not just to the marketing ranks. Anyone and everyone can be a potential messenger for your company. There’s a better chance of getting your message right with a strategic messaging framework.
To tell a great brand story, you need to start with a powerful message. Adding the messaging framework to your leadership arsenal is one of the simple steps you can take to unify your internal narrative and advance your external voice and brand.
Whether you’re rebounding from the crises of 2020, or preparing yourself for an uncertain road ahead, enhancing your toolset and ability to adapt to change will be a key source of competitive advantage in the future. To find out where you fall on the agility continuum today, take my free marketing agility assessment.
This is the second in a five-part series on core strategic marketing tools every marketing leader needs in their management arsenal to maximize their team’s effectiveness.