Spread your message to succeed
A client in a workshop asked, “Once you co-create your Message Map, what to do next?”
Delivering the right message for your brand is crucial. It helps you connect with people so they listen to your brand’s story. You hook audiences with your message in 7 seconds by using Message Maps.
Co-create to achieve the Ikea effect
Co-create your Message Map as a team. Include the people who regularly review your communications and marketing, such as sales, R&D, and executives. To boost your team’s creativity and dynamics, to assure everyone has a voice, and to keep your team on track, bring in a facilitator.
Co-creation enables you to align the team so that everyone buys into your message. You benefit from a cognitive bias called the Ikea Effect. It’s the feeling that your message is more valuable because your team put it together themselves.
Once you gain buy-in from the team that co-created your message, you’re ready for the next steps to roll out your new message successfully. Here are the steps to take:
Test your message length. Is your message 7 seconds, 23 words or less? If not, whittle it down.
Ask real people to listen to your message
Bring your message to members of friendly audiences – individuals, focus groups, or standing groups of employees or customers. As you present your message, ask these questions:
- It is clear, so even non-experts understand it?
- Is it concrete, since people recall word pictures better than words alone?
- Is it compelling, leading people to an emotional response that advances them towards a decision?
- Is it consistent, since consistency is the key to gaining credibility? Note: McKinsey calls consistency “the secret ingredient” of a great customer experience.
- Is your call to action (CTA) feasible and reasonable in the eyes of your audience? For example, message testing with people who support tree planting revealed that nine out of 10 had never planted a tree themselves – so they’d need a buddy or training to respond to that CTA.
Listen carefully to audiences’ feedback about your message. Make sure your words mirror your audience’s words. Most B2B companies’ websites fail at this job, Forrester found.
Avoid acronyms and specialized terms people don’t know. Never talk over their heads, which you may do unintentionally due to the Curse of Knowledge.
Make people into storytellers
Once your message has passed the test with audiences, you’re ready to:
- Coach your company’s leaders, key spokespersons, public relations, and investor relations. Rehearse them so they tell your story well by offering presentation training and media training.
- Train customer-facing employees in sales, service, and customer contact roles to deliver your consistent message.
- Revise existing communications such as websites, newsletters, emails, physical, in-person, virtual, and hybrid media to reflect your new message.
Put one manager in charge of implementing consistent delivery of your message to attract customers and business partners. Make sure everyone speaking for the company stays 100% on message.
Refresh your message routinely
Continuously update your Message Map to reflect what’s new. Incorporate new product and customer announcements as soon as they happen.
Review your Message Map at least quarterly, so it’s always up to date. Distribute it as both electronic and hard-copy documents so everyone is ready to tell your story at a moment’s notice.
A consistent message makes many jobs easier
Once your message is ingrained in your culture, it’s easier and quicker to:
- Create marketing and communications materials that tell your story across all media – digital, physical, live, and hybrid.
- Save time on content reviews, since your team buys into the Message Map you created together.
- Build or revise a website, presentation, or selling materials.
- Position and launch new products successfully.
- Frame clear strategies for growth that investors, customers, and employees understand.
- Introduce new leaders to your team.
- Recruit, engage, and retain employees with your on-target message.
- Increase investors’ confidence in your company.
- Build your reputation in your local communities.
- Secure approvals for mergers and acquisitions.
- Email subject lines
- Social media posts
- Sound bites for news
- An elevator speech.
Add three proof points to each positive point, and you get a two-minute Message Map. It prepares you to:
- Pitch prospects, customers, employees, or investors.
- Do a brief interview with a journalist.
- Create visuals such as infographics, posters, cartoons, or videos.
- Write a web page, news release, short article, or blog.
Add three examples to each proof point, and you get a 20-minute Message Map. It helps you frame long-form content such as:
- White papers
Do you need one Message Map or more?
In a small company, usually, one Message Map will do the job.
In complex organizations with multiple practices or many business units, take a top-down approach to messaging. It’s the best way to keep your company message clear, concise, and consistent at multiple levels:
- First, co-create an organization-level message with your CEO and executives. Organization-level messages reflect your purpose, mission, strategy, brands, customers, people, and performance.
- Once your organization’s message solidifies, build on it to create specific messages for business units, geographies, and/or departments.
- Add messages on technologies, product lines, individual products, and services.
- Create messages that frame the company’s position on current topics such as technology, sustainability, diversity, and recruiting.
- Build Message Maps that prepare leaders for events such as shareholder meetings, earnings releases, Town Hall meetings, speeches, trade shows, events, and news media interviews. (To save time, draw from higher-level Message Maps to create these messages. You don’t need to reinvent the message for every event.)
- Frame messages for initiatives such as new product launches, a new website, an annual report, a sustainability report, or a community report.
Avoid creating different messages for each audience
Certain companies tried to create their Message Maps with a different approach – creating a different message for each audience. They create one message for investors, another for employees, another for customers, another for communities, and so on.
Avoid this approach – it creates needless conflict among audiences. When you create messages for one audience at a time, you train people to sniff out inconsistencies that undercut your message. Journalists and analysts can damage you by identifying and magnifying inconsistencies.
Companies need to carefully balance the interests of all their stakeholders each time they communicate. That’s why it’s much better to start with an umbrella message – one high-level Message Map that encompasses the whole company – rather than starting with a message that’s meaningful only to one set of company stakeholders.
- Co-create your company or brand message as a team. You gain a great message plus crucial buy-in from your team.
- Test your message to make sure it’s concise, clear, compelling, and consistent.
- Train people to tell your story effectively, including executives, spokespersons, and customer-facing employees.
- Refresh your message as events and developments prompt it.
A great message will serve your company well for many years. Audiences need to hear your message repeated many times before it sinks in. That’s the key to delivering a successful, long-lasting message.
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