In today’s content-centric world, every company is in the business of communications — but not all communications are created equal. To make an impact, your communications need to be consistent and meaningful. Talking about what your product is or what your company does won’t help you stand out from the crowd, or get your audience excited. You need to be more thoughtful, more human and definitely more creative. That’s where your brand platform and messaging come in.
To create a meaningful connection with your customers you have to convey why your product or service is better than anything else on the market, and why that matters to them personally. That means you must think about what your customers care about, and how you can make that connection for them. These are your key brand messages.
Finding your most ownable, most compelling brand messages is the foundation for consistent, effective communications. With clear focus on these key messages in external and internal marketing efforts, you will forge a powerful unity and purpose for employees and stakeholders. Plus, if you have multiple people helping you with communications, whether your internal team or external agency resources, you want everyone writing and “speaking” for your company with a common voice. This is why a messaging platform is so important. It’s your sounding board, your brand bible, your centering point for every communication. And it all starts with your brand platform.
Brand platform: who you are
At the heart of any strong messaging platform is a strong brand platform. By defining who you are as a company, what you stand for and why it matters, your brand platform is the foundation for what you have to communicate. Your platform should include your company’s vision, mission, positioning (what makes you different), promise (what you deliver to your customers) and personality traits. Defining all of these gives your messaging a strong focus and helps shape the way your brand will sound and feel out in the market.
Start with your point of distinction. What makes your brand different? What sets you apart from the competition? Why should your customers care? What can they count on you for? It’s useful to think about these attributes from an internal perspective as well — what does it mean to work for your company? Why should your employees care? An internal facing brand platform can add value through elevated employee buy-in and brand evangelism. In today’s market, that kind of inside-out authenticity and organizational alignment is incredibly valuable because savvy consumers see right through posturing and pretending.
Messaging: what you have to share
Once you have a clear understanding of your brand, you’re ready to develop your messaging. Messaging is the bridge between establishing the “why” that sets your brand apart in the market, and turning it into meaningful, impactful communications that your customers can relate to.
Start with your tagline. It’s the snappy, external-facing, most essential expression of your brand. Your tagline needs to evoke a feeling, an emotional response in your customers. A tagline is typically only three to five words (you want it to be memorable), so it can’t embody everything about your brand. You need to decide which element of your brand you want to showcase, and then find a simple, emotive way to express it. The tone should reflect your brand personality and put forward your positioning in the market — not literally, but as it will be interpreted. For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline evokes feelings of competition, courage and winning, without explicitly addressing or naming any of those things.
Now it’s time to dig deeper. What are the messaging pillars that support how you’re different? These are the 3-5 concrete messages that prove out your story. Think of the pillars as part of your language toolkit. You’ll want to flesh these out to make them meaningful and compelling. Beyond the three to four word pillar essence, you might have an explanatory copy block and sample headlines to bring each pillar to life. These should be crafted in a way that builds understanding among those that need to communicate for you and gives them actual copy they can use verbatim or as a jumping off point for any kind of communications — headlines, copy, campaigns and more.
How do you identify the pillars that support your brand positioning? Think about your messaging from your customers’ perspective—how can you connect with their needs, and what will benefit them the most? What can you most effectively substantiate? Instead of just telling, your messaging should show why you’re different. Provide supporting proof points whenever possible. These are statistics, facts, customer stories or anything that gives each pillar more depth and meaning.
Once you have the components of your messaging, it’s time to weave them all together to create your brand story. This is a simple prose piece that is exactly what it sounds like — the story of your brand, where it came from, what it means and why it matters. Use your mission and your vision, and dive in to create a rallying cry for your team and a point of alliance for your customers. Think of this as your company manifesto and the culmination of what makes you, you.
Settling on a style
As you’re creating your platform, your company’s writing style will begin to take shape. Be purposeful in this. Use your personality traits to define your tone. Think about what each trait means for the written word and create the rules. For example, if “direct” is a brand trait, using simple language and avoiding jargon may be important when it comes to your writing. Establish the rules and provide examples of “good copy” and “bad copy” to make it very clear what they look like for your company.
Your message, your way
Now you’re ready to share your brand’s unique message with the world. Remember, your messaging platform should not be a static document. Think of it as a living, breathing thing that is constantly evolving, adapting and being updated. While it’s important to clearly define your core message at the outset, you may find that you will need to tailor your messaging to your different target audiences based on their specific needs. You can establish internal messaging to encourage employee buy-in and loyalty. You can create targeted messaging for different customer segments — as few or as many as you need depending on your business size and structure. The most important thing is to make sure that every “spin” of your messaging aligns with your north star — your brand platform.
By defining who you are as a brand and what key ideas you want to communicate you will establish a unique voice, style and message that feels authentic, is instantly recognizable, and can’t be copied by your competition. This is the powerfully defensible foundation you need to win. And it’s the starting point for the kind of strategic, consistent, and impactful communications that will make your audience stand up and take notice.