It’s one tough job: to keep all your content marketing on message.
How can you keep your message consistent when you:
- Address multiple audiences, such as customers, partners, distributors, employees, analysts, reporters and investors.
- Work with various bloggers, agencies, spokespersons, writers and videographers creating content.
- Create content in separate business unit, geographic or department silos that don’t agree on what the message is.
- Create content across many media – social, digital, events, videos, print, earned media and more.
- Chunk out consistent content in various serving sizes – 7 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes and so forth.
Sound familiar? For many years, I’ve tackled these messaging problems with a tool called a 1-Page Message Map, which I co-created with Tripp Frohlichstein. Companies of all sizes use Message Maps, ranging from startups to giants like AT&T and Intel.
This blog will help you create and use Message Maps to make your marketing even more successful by keeping your content marketing on message.
Several people at Content Marketing World asked me to share Message Maps from my presentation (slides 35-39). See more examples below.
A clear, consistent message in your marketing wins people over. A Message Map helps you say it, share it, tweet it, blog it, post it, publish it, or debate it well.
Message Maps enable you to display a command of the facts, stay crystal-clear and tell your story consistently. When delivered well, Message Maps make your main message sticky. That’s crucial because:
- The average sound bite in news media is about 7 seconds or 23 words.
- The average American’s attention span is about 8 seconds.
- If you can’t tell your story in 7 seconds, you probably won’t get to tell your story at all.
Start Message Maps at the top – First, you need a top-level Message Map for your company. In a half-day or all-day workshop, moderated by a neutral facilitator, you can create and win agreement for your message.
In your workshop, show the anatomy of a Message Map with this example:
- Home base, in the center of the map, is the main message. It needs to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” as seen through the eyes of all stakeholders.
- One level out from home base are positive points. You need at least 3 points to support the home base message well — and no more than 4 points.
- Two levels out from home base are proof points. As the map extends out, its content grows more and more granular and quantitative. Each point logically links to the point above it, all the way back to home base.
- To support your proof points, use examples, quotes from customers or facts and figures.
- Include differentiating points: What makes your offering different? What can you say that competitors can’t say? These often are the hardest elements to ferret out.
- Offer an example of a simple message map like this one. Here’s a 19-word message about a hotel I often stay in: The Virgin Chicago Hotel. It delivers a great guest experience (home base) with a convenient location (positive point), comfortable rooms, ready for business (positive point), and “It’s Virgin! It’s fun!” (positive point).
At this point, we ask the execs to draw a Message Map and read out their stories. That’s when they find out:
- They’re all telling different stories.
- Sometimes, the stories don’t even sound like they come from the same company.
- They need one unified story that’s relevant to all audiences. (Separate stories for customers, analysts, investors and employees don’t work – they always break down because of the conflicting needs of various stakeholders.)
- A home base supported by 3 positive points is extremely powerful.
- Up to now, the company never had a simple tool to help it tell its story.
These realizations always lead to an intense discussion about which parts of the story work and which don’t. On a white board, a facilitator takes the best parts of each exec’s story and maps out a story co-created by the team. With only 23 words to work with, the execs debate each and every word. Passionately.
By the end of the workshop (generally 4 to 8 hours), the execs co-create a Message Map. With a Message Map in hand, you can build all your marketing, communications and investor messages with utter consistency.
Update your Message Map at least quarterly to keep it fresh.
Co-creating your message is key. You can use the same process to create the story for a single product or solution. Convene product managers, R&D, sales, marketing and all other relevant participants to co-create a Message Map. When you co-create the message, everyone shares a stake in its success.
Tripp and I have co-created Message Maps for companies such as AT&T, McDonalds, R.R. Donnelly, TeleDanmark, Ameritech and Tellabs. We showed that Message Maps can scale to fit any size organization – from a one-person shop, to a small nonprofit, to a medium-sized business, to a Fortune 500 company.
Tripp uses Message Maps to prepare executives for news media interviews, presentations, speeches, and by-lined articles. I apply Message Maps to marketing, websites, videos, infographics, annual reports, earnings releases, news releases, collateral, magazines, trade shows, employee communications and more.
Here’s how and why to color-code your Message Map for different buyer personas.
This blog addresses a question raised in my Content Marketing World presentation, How to Speed the Journey from Content to Cash. Other content marketing questions addressed in this series include:
- How can a content marketing flying solo make the biggest impact with limited resources?
- How does a B2B company start content marketing?
- How to deliver consistent content marketing messages to all buyer personas?
- How to keep content marketing always on message?
- How to link specific content marketing activities to sales?
- How to speed the buyers’ journey to a purchase?
- How to help buyers take the first step in the buying journey?
- How to measure meaningful web traffic and give content marketing the credit for it?
- What content marketing appeals to customers? What brings them back?
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.