From Noise to Clarity: A Complete Guide To Drafting A Consistent Messaging Strategy

Just like you can't wear all the clothes in your closet at once, your company can't communicate all of its messages at the same time. That's where a messaging strategy comes in. 


3 Big Ideas

  • Every company should have a messaging strategy, regardless of size or industry
  • Focus on benefits not attributes
  • How you say it matters just as much as what you say

Consistency, consistency, consistency. At Motive3, we can’t underscore enough the importance and profound impact of having a messaging strategy - knowing what you want to say and how to say it. To drive this point home, let’s take a look at one of the best known speeches in American history:  US President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…” 

Sound familiar? Most Americans, and anyone that has studied US history, have some familiarity with the Gettysburg Address delivered by Lincoln. But why is that?

In just a few brief lines (272 words in total) and delivered in just two minutes, Lincoln not only conveyed the purpose and meaning of the Civil War, but he did it in a way that was powerful, memorable, and deeply moving. The carefully chosen words and simple yet eloquent phrasing of his speech continues to inspire people today. 

This highlights the importance of not just having a message, but also crafting it in a way that resonates with your audience. When companies take the time to carefully consider what they say and how they say it, they can create messaging that not only informs but also inspires and motivates their audience to action. A messaging strategy is essential to making this happen.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

What do we mean by a ‘messaging strategy’?

Let’s begin by getting the boring yet critically important definitions out of the way.

A messaging strategy is a comprehensive, high-level plan that defines how a company communicates its value proposition and key messages to its target audience. It’s the foundation of all communication efforts (internal and external) and plays a vital role in shaping the perceptions and opinions of customers, employees, investors, media, and other stakeholders. 

There are two key components to an effective messaging strategy

  1. Brand positioning (who you are as a company)
  2. Brand messaging (the organization and structure of the messaging content)

Think of the messaging strategy as the house (it defines the overall messaging plan) and the brand positioning and brand messaging as the blueprint or the design plans for the house (they define how you do it). The below diagram illustrates the various components or “layers” that make up “The House”.

The House: Messaging Strategy

  • The upper half of “The House” is the brand positioning - it’s the unique and distinctive identity a brand holds in the minds of its audiences. Think of this section as the cornerstone or anchor of a brand’s overall messaging strategy. Without it you won’t be able to build out the rest of “The House”. Here is where you identify the unique value proposition of the brand, defining the specific target audience(s) it aims to reach, and determining the messaging channels that will be used. Based on this information, a brand can develop a messaging strategy that communicates its unique identity and value proposition to consumers in a clear and memorable way.
  • The lower half of “The House” is the Brand messaging - this refers to the structure and organization of the messaging content. It involves creating a messaging framework for how messaging is created, organized, and managed. This framework can include messaging hierarchy, guidelines, content types, templates, and other tools that help ensure consistency across all messaging channels. A messaging framework also takes into account the company's brand voice and tone, as well as any legal or regulatory requirements that may impact messaging. The diagram below shows how the messaging framework is constructed.

The Blueprint: Messaging Framework

Brand positioning and brand messaging work together to develop a messaging strategy that is clear, consistent, and effective.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into 

  • why every company (regardless of size or industry) should have a messaging strategy; 
  • how you know if you have a messaging problem; 
  • steps you can take to create a messaging strategy; 
  • challenges and pitfalls to avoid; 
  • and, how to implement and evaluate your messaging strategy as you go forward.

Why a messaging strategy is important

A company without a messaging strategy is like a musician without a melody. Just as a melody is the backbone of a song, a messaging strategy provides a framework for your company's communication efforts. Without a clear messaging strategy, your communications may lack coherence, resonance, and impact, much like a musician playing a series of disconnected notes without a clear melody may produce a cacophony of sound rather than a cohesive and memorable tune.

When your company has a clear and effective messaging strategy, you’ll experience the following benefits…

  • A strong brand identity: A messaging strategy is the foundation of your company’s brand identity. It’s the way your company communicates who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer to your customers. When customers see the same messaging across different channels, they begin to associate it with the brand. This helps create a consistent and recognizable image that helps customers identify and remember your brand.
  • Differentiation from competitors: By communicating what makes your company unique and special, customers can understand why they should choose your brand over others in the market.
  • Improved ability to attract and retain customers: When customers feel a connection to your brand and its message, they are more likely to continue doing business with you, and recommend your company to others.
  • Help set customer expectations: By clearly communicating what the company stands for and what it offers, customers can understand what to expect from your brand. This can help build trust and loyalty among customers.
  • Drive sales: By creating a consistent and compelling message that resonates with customers, you can create a sense of desire and urgency that leads customers to make a purchase.

Dove is a great example of a company that got it right. In response to a major global study, The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, which had revealed that only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful (Etcoff, Orbach, Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004), Dove launched a campaign it called Real Beauty. Their messaging strategy focused on celebrating beauty in all its forms. One of the greatest achievements of this strategy is that it initiated a global conversation to widen the definition of beauty.

Here’s how Dove got it right…

  • Authenticity: The messaging strategy focused on promoting real beauty and inclusivity, and it has consistently communicated this message through its campaigns and product offerings. This message resonates with consumers, who appreciate the brand's authenticity and commitment to promoting body positivity.
  • Emotional appeal: Dove's messaging strategy is designed to evoke strong emotions in its audience. Its campaigns often feature heartwarming stories and relatable experiences that encourage viewers to connect with the brand on an emotional level.
  • Consistency: The messaging strategy has remained consistent over the years, and the brand has built a strong reputation for promoting real beauty and inclusivity. This consistency has helped to establish Dove as a trusted and respected brand in the beauty industry.
  • Innovation: Over time, Dove's messaging strategy has evolved to reflect changing societal norms and cultural values. The brand has been at the forefront of promoting body positivity and diversity, and it has continued to innovate its messaging to stay relevant and appealing to consumers.
  • Integrated: The campaign was not limited to traditional advertising channels such as TV or print ads. It was integrated across a range of media, including social media, PR, events, and partnerships with influencers, which helped to amplify its message and reach a wider audience.

Dove's messaging strategy is a great example of how a company can use a clear and consistent message to build a strong brand and connect with consumers on an emotional level.

How do you know if you have a messaging problem?

Like solving any other problem in life and in business, you must first be able to recognize you have a problem. Companies of all sizes communicate with their employees and customers on a daily basis, but I guarantee you they don’t all have a clear messaging strategy.

Before the launch of the "Real Beauty" campaign, Dove had a reputation as a traditional soap brand with a focus on moisturizing and gentle cleansing. Beyond that, the brand did not have a distinctive or strong brand identity, and it certainly wasn’t known for promoting body positivity or diversity. By taking a harder look at their target audience (women of all ages) they discovered key insights to help them develop their new messaging strategy. The result…Dove's sales increased from $2.5 billion to $4 billion in the first ten years of the campaign, representing a growth rate of 60% (Ogilvy).

If your company suffers from any of the following, you have a messaging problem...

  • Lack of clarity: If customers or employees are unclear about what your company does or stands for, it’s a sign of a messaging problem. If people are confused about what your company does, they will be less likely to engage with or purchase your company’s products or services.
  • Inconsistent messaging: If the messaging is inconsistent across different channels or employees, it can be confusing for customers and reduce your company's credibility. This inconsistency can also lead to a lack of trust among customers, making it more difficult for your company to build a strong brand.
  • Poor engagement: If your company's messaging is not resonating with its target audience, it may lead to poor engagement. This could result in low website traffic, low social media engagement, or low sales, which are all indicators that the messaging may not be resonating with the target audience.
  • Negative feedback: If customers are providing repeated and ongoing negative feedback about your company's messaging or brand, it’s a sign that the messaging is not effectively communicating your company's values or benefits.
  • Brand confusion: If the company is frequently mistaken for a competitor, this means your messaging is not distinct enough and is causing brand confusion. This confusion can make it difficult for your company to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

If you relate to any of these issues, no need to panic. We’re going to show you steps you can take to create your own messaging strategy and improve your competitive positioning.

How to develop a messaging strategy

Developing a messaging strategy doesn’t have to feel like you’re doing brain surgery. While it does involve a deliberate and thoughtful process, by following the steps we’ve outlined below you’ll be well on your way to creating a cohesive and effective set of messages. 

In addition to using “The House” and “The Blueprint” visual frameworks above as guides, follow these steps to develop your messaging strategy…

  1. Define your goals: Before you can develop a messaging strategy, you need to identify the specific goals you want to achieve. Consider what you want your audience to know, think, or do (actions to take) as a result of your messaging.
  2. Brand positioning: Your brand positioning is the foundation of a messaging strategy. It defines a company’s mission, vision, values, and personality. It is a summary of what the company stands for and what makes it unique and provides a framework for developing key messages that are consistent with the company’s brand identity.
  3. Identify your target audience: Determine who your messaging will be aimed at. Consider their demographics, interests, behaviors, and motivations. Create detailed personas so you know exactly who you’re talking to.
  4. Conduct research: Gather data and insights about your target audience, including their needs, pain points, and preferences. Also, conduct research on your industry, competitors, and market trends.
  5. Craft your priority messages: Develop clear and concise messages that communicate your brand's unique value proposition, key benefits, and differentiation. They are the most important ideas that the company wants to convey. Your messages should resonate with your target audience and be memorable.
  6. Message hierarchy: Define a message hierarchy that prioritizes key messages. The most important messages should be emphasized more than secondary messages. This helps ensure that stakeholders receive the most important information first.
  7. Tone and style: Define the tone and style of your communication with customers and stakeholders. The tone and style should be consistent with the brand positioning and appropriate for the target audience. The tone may be professional, conversational, or authoritative, depending on the company’s brand identity and the context of the message.
  8. Proof points: Proof points are facts and data that support key messages. They provide evidence that the company’s claims are credible and persuasive. Proof points may include statistics, case studies, testimonials, or other evidence that supports the company’s key messages.
  9. Choose your communication channels: Determine the channels you will use to communicate your messages, such as social media, email marketing, public relations, or advertising. Consider which channels your target audience is most likely to use.
  10. Create a messaging framework: Develop a messaging framework that outlines your brand's core messaging pillars and map key messages to specific channels and target audiences. This framework should guide all of your communications and ensure that messages are relevant and appropriate for each channel and audience.
  11. Test and refine: Once you have developed your messaging strategy, test it with your target audience to ensure it resonates with them. Use feedback to refine your messages and make adjustments as necessary.

By leveraging the visual frameworks and following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing a messaging strategy that effectively communicates your brand's value proposition and resonates with your target audience.

Challenges and pitfalls to avoid in messaging

Of course anything worth doing doesn’t come without challenges. The important thing is to recognize those challenges and be honest about how you assess and evaluate your messaging strategy along the way. Otherwise it will just be an exercise in futility.

The most common challenges and pitfalls we come across are when companies overcomplicate their messaging, don’t focus on the benefits, and fail to adapt. 

#1 Don’t overcomplicate the messaging

If you’re trying to say everything, you are saying nothing. How can this be? Blame the human attention span. The human attention span is fragile and can be quite limited. Whether you believe the oft-cited yet dubious 8-second attention span myth or not, it’s obvious that people can become easily distracted, particularly in today's information-heavy world. So trying to say everything is like trying to wear all your clothes in your closet at once - it can’t and shouldn’t be done. 

By trying to convey too many ideas or messages at once, you will likely end up confusing your audience and diluting the impact of your message. It’s better to focus on a few key points and communicate them clearly and effectively, rather than overwhelming your audience with too much information. By trying to say everything, you risk losing your audience's attention and failing to make a lasting impression. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your messaging and ensure that each message you communicate is clear, concise, and impactful.

#2 Focus on the benefits

Focusing on benefits in your messaging strategy is like giving someone a map with clear directions to their desired destination. Just as a map provides guidance and direction to help someone reach their desired location, focusing on the benefits of your product or service provides a clear understanding of how it can help your target audience achieve their desired outcome.

By emphasizing benefits, you're essentially creating a roadmap for your customers that helps them navigate their decision-making process. This roadmap shows them exactly how your product or service can solve their problem or fulfill their needs, making it easier for them to see the value and relevance of what you're offering. This is precisely why “The House” and “The Blueprint” have a strong emphasis on the benefits  - all roads should lead to the benefits. Everything your company stands for and does should ultimately pay off on the benefits to your customers.

#3 Adapt as your business and audience change

A messaging strategy should be treated as a living and breathing thing that requires ongoing care and feeding. It needs to adapt to changing circumstances, evolve with the audience, and stay aligned with the overall goals of the organization. Without ongoing attention, a messaging strategy can become stagnant and lose its effectiveness over time. Regular assessment and refinement are necessary to ensure that the messaging is resonating with the intended audience, reflecting the organization's values, and helping to achieve its desired outcomes. Just like a plant needs water and sunlight to grow, a messaging strategy needs ongoing attention and care to thrive. Failure to do so can result in messaging that becomes outdated and irrelevant.

Don’t overlook the importance of involving key stakeholders in the process. This includes individuals from different departments and levels within the organization, as well as external partners and customers. By seeking input from a diverse group of individuals, you can ensure that the messaging is comprehensive, relevant, and resonates with your target audience. It also helps to build buy-in and support for the messaging strategy, which is crucial for its success. By treating your messaging strategy as a collaborative effort that requires ongoing attention and care, you can create messaging that is effective, impactful, and reflective of your organization's values and goals.

Implementing and evaluating your messaging strategy

Once you’ve developed a brand messaging strategy, the next step is to operationalize it across the organization. Here are some best practices for successfully operationalizing your messaging:

  1. Develop messaging guidelines: Develop messaging guidelines that provide clear and concise instructions for using the key messages in various contexts. Guidelines should include tone of voice, language to use (and avoid), and best practices for using key messages in different channels.
  2. Train employees: Train all employees, especially those who interact with customers or the public, on the brand messaging strategy and guidelines. Ensure that they understand the messaging hierarchy, key messages, proof points, and how to use them effectively.
  3. Create messaging templates: Create messaging templates for different channels, such as social media, email marketing, and press releases. Templates should include key messages, tone of voice, and messaging guidelines to ensure consistency across all channels.
  4. Monitor messaging: Regularly monitor messaging across all channels to ensure that it is consistent with the brand messaging strategy and guidelines. Use tools such as social media monitoring software to track messaging across all channels and ensure that employees are following messaging guidelines.
  5. Continuously refine: Continuously refine the brand messaging strategy as needed. This may include revisiting key messages, proof points, or tone of voice to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.

Successfully operationalizing a brand messaging strategy can ensure consistent and effective messaging across all channels, which can help build brand awareness, loyalty, and differentiation in the market.

Measuring your messaging strategy

“What gets measured gets managed.” This quote is often attributed to the management consultant and author, Peter Drucker, who emphasized the importance of using metrics and data to make informed decisions in business and management. If you want to know whether something is working or not, you need to start by measuring it. The act of measuring something creates awareness and accountability, which can lead to more effective management and improvement.

There are several ways to measure the success of a messaging strategy depending on the specific goals of the strategy.

Here are a few possible metrics that can be used:

Ultimately, the best way to measure the success of a messaging strategy depends on the specific goals and objectives of the strategy. It's important to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most relevant to your goals and track them consistently over time.

The Bottom Line

Every company, regardless of size or industry, should have a messaging strategy. It helps clarify a company’s values and mission, ensures consistency, builds brand recognition, helps differentiate the company from competitors, and improves customer loyalty. By following the steps outlined above, you can develop a messaging strategy that reflects your brand and resonates with your target audience.

If you're interested in learning more about how we help companies define and craft their brand messaging, get in touch!

From Noise to Clarity: A Complete Guide To Drafting A Consistent Messaging Strategy

Just like you can't wear all the clothes in your closet at once, your company can't communicate all of its messages at the same time. That's where a messaging strategy comes in. 

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