February 2020

Your company’s unique. But what about its messages?

When it comes to your company’s messaging, lack of care or accuracy in identifying what should be conveyed to external audiences, or lack of diligent sharing internally, both risk harming your business’s market appeal.

It is necessary, therefore, to dedicate suitable effort and resources to message definition, in order to reach the appropriate target audiences and stakeholders effectively and credibly.

This is a ‘best practice’ that you can never call done, since changes in the business and those it communicates with mean regular checks and periodic updates are indispensable.  

And should the messages be out of date, or no longer fulfil their function, it is decidedly better to acknowledge this within the four walls of the business, rather than in public and under the gaze of journalists or analysts! Because sometimes a wrong message can even cause a crisis

“That’s unbelievable!”

This was how two participants reacted in one of our media training sessions a few years back – amazed and, above all, worried – when confronted with the responses they had given us, independently of each other, to the following question, in a simulated interview: “Can you summarise for us, in three short sentences, your company, its differentiators and its medium-term objectives?”

Why? Because between them, their words, far from painting a unified picture of their business, produced two snapshots with not a single point in common!

And it was all the more worrying for the fact that the people before us were not ‘ordinary’ managers from within the business, but the founders and operational leaders of a company experiencing clear and healthy growth!

However, then, could such misalignment arise?

It emerged that the success of the company owed much to a precise division of their two roles, for reasons of efficiency, at least when seen in purely commercial terms.

This had the collateral effect of creating two ‘blocs’ that, operating separately and with a different set of professionals and solutions, addressing equally distinct markets, had each come to perceive their own area as being the entire business.

The two partners therefore accepted the idea of organising a messaging workshop that would also involve other key figures from the business, with the intended result, subsequently, of delivering a turning point in the company’s communication.

How does it work?

Evidently, not every situation is the same. In some cases, a simple meeting to ‘fine-tune’ the messaging is sufficent; in others, more time-consuming and in-depth work is necessary.

In any event, it is important that the business’s key figures are all sat around the same table: the founding entrepreneur or CEO, as well as the heads of marketing, sales, product and whoever else carries specific influence in relation to the business.  

Every individual role and personality can make a contribution – through diverse ideas, perspectives and experiences – to the success of a messaging workshop. At the same time, however, the group must not become too large, in order to avoid fragmenting and slowing down the interactions, or losing sight of the objective and, thereby, making it more difficult to achieve.

Get there quicker with a guide!

Defining the team to be involved is something a communication consultant can undoubtedly contribute to, whilst at the same time taking on responsibility for proposing the programme of work, leading the meeting, time management, mediation, and – last but not least – summarising the ideas and proposals in a conclusory document, with a grid of all the possible messages.

Getting agreement from everyone on the first version of the above is difficult, but if the preparatory work is carried out in an appropriate manner, agreed final versions can be arrived at in a genuinely reasonable timescale.

From this point on, the messages must be present in the verbal and written communication of the entire organisation, at whatever level, and in every channel: media relations, social media, advertising, company website and blog, and so on.

And if they are supported by facts, figures,  authoritative quotes, quality storytelling and effective images, their resulting effect on the development of the business will be even more telling.

Like the song says…

Aside from general business messaging, workshops can also be organised with regard to a specific brand, product or service – and also to define key messages for the purposes of crisis management.

But whatever the motive behind the communication, there is a ‘Sting’ in the tail when it comes to the execution – for simply hoping that “someone gets my message in a bottle” (as the Police so memorably sang), is not an effective strategy!

Instead, it is fundamental that the message be clear, captivating, persuasive, and easy to recall.

But above all, it must also be capable of distinguishing itself (again, in the words of the song) from those “hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore”.

(In other words, the messages every other company is putting out there!)

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