Core messaging is something many marketers try to avoid. It’s so difficult to nail down not least because everyone has an opinion but not many people want to put their heads on the line and take responsibility for it!
If you manage to articulate a clear, accurate, compelling message, your next job is to protect that message at all costs as rogue marketers, agencies and even senior board members seem hellbent on undermining it (either by accident or design).
So why bother? Done well, a core messaging framework is a joy to behold. It does so much more than inform your brand marketing content. If you’ve nailed it you’ll find it can even have a transformative impact on your brand’s culture – although don’t expect HR to give you the credit!
For those marketers and business owners who have been putting this job off, read on. I hope this article will help you get started with the least stress, and then reap the rewards of more successful brand messaging.
Core messaging framework – when do you need it?
The best time to develop a core messaging framework is when your company is a start up. If you’re using a messaging matrix or step-by-step guide to do it, don’t worry if you leave boxes unfilled. It’s much easier to develop it organically as your business grows and evolves, rather than when your brand is more established and you’ve got vast numbers of conflicting messages disrupting everything you do.
Unfortunately, we generally get asked to develop core messaging frameworks for our clients in the latter scenario. Called in to troubleshoot issues around messaging that’s inconsistent, not aligned with customers or products, or not reflective of the brand’s culture.
Still, it’s never too late to get your core messaging framework in place and the sooner the better.
What does a core messaging framework do?
In case you’re not sold on the idea, here’s what it will do for your marketing team and for your brand:
The purpose of a core messaging framework is to identify the a strong value proposition and clear messaging.
Your core messaging framework personifies the core customer, partner, internal stakeholders and positioning of a product or service. With a strong messaging framework all brand communications (marketing, PR, internal comms etc.) are consistent, compelling and are optimised to deliver on core business objectives.
Now you know why you need one, here’s a 6 step plan to do it:
6 Steps to a create a core messaging framework
Step 1: Research
The following information is required to gain a clear understanding of the brand, products and customers.
Buyer personas / customer avatars – an in depth understanding of each persona is required to understand what makes them tick, what they need from the brand, what interests them and how they like to be spoken to.
Product specifications – all available content and documentation about the product (s)
Brand values – all messaging currently available about values, culture, vision etc. and feedback from key stakeholders on the things they like and the things they don’t
Value proposition framework – the table below illustrates what this could look like. The recommendation is to get key stakeholders in the business to complete it, a trusted 3rd party subject matter expert or customer, and a brand marketer. Where input overlaps we can identify the core value proposition. Where input conflicts we can identify issues with the current messaging. Where input diverges we can identify potential opportunities, differentiating factors and red herrings.
|FOR||Your customer / audience|
|WHO||Your customer’s problem/s|
|PROVIDES||The solution your company / product/s provide|
|UNLIKE||Alternative or existing solutions|
|ONLY||Why you’re unique|
If you have written detailed buyer personas this framework will be easier to complete.
Step 2: Product messaging
Using the buyer personas and the VP framework, break down each product or service into key features and the benefits they deliver customers. Use the table below:
|Product Key Feature||Description||Customer pain point||Customer requirements||Benefits||USP|
|Feature 1: e.g. Speed of implementation||Brief description what it is and how it’s achieved||What is the customer pain point it addresses?||What does the customer need it to do?||What benefits does this feature deliver?||Does everyone have this feature? Does it help the brand differentiate? Is this innovative or unique?|
|Feature 2: affordability etc.|
Step 3: Use cases
Customer use cases are the reasons a buyer is attracted to the brand or product, the reasons they buy it and the reasons they continue to buy the product or services. The key messaging that comes out of this exercise is the use case – combining all reasons into a succinct engaging message.
Use the table below to identify use cases by persona and product, using real life examples where possible:
|e.g. persona 1||e.g. product b||Reasons they initially engaged with brand e.g. price||Reasons they became customers e.g. flexibility of service||Reasons they remain customers e.g. added value||Concise message that nails down the key points identified|
|e.g. persona 2||e.g. product b|
Step 4: Tag lines / straplines / boiler plate / elevator pitch
Using all the information identified above it’s time to explore key messaging.
Review existing tag lines / straplines – are these set in stone, can they be enhanced or amplified using the insights above?
Write boiler plate / elevator pitch – this is the key message that explains what the brand is and does, who it’s for, how it does it, what it stands for and why. This statement can be used across different assets, for example social media profiles, press releases, employees’ LinkedIn information etc. This statement can be used by anyone when talking about the brand.
Step 5: Create messaging matrix
The messaging matrix is a quick reference tool that can be shared with all parties that create content or communications on behalf of your brand. At a glance they can see the key messages that should be communicated to different personas and when talking about different products.
The messaging matrix looks like this:
|Boiler plate / Elevator pitch|
|Persona 1||Persona 2||Persona 3||Persona 1||Persona 2||Persona 3||Persona 1||Persona 2||Persona 3|
|Core product messaging (for each persona)|
|How we deliver|
|How we add value|
|Results for customers / our promise|
|Tone of voice|
Step 6: Review existing content and assets / edit and amend
With the above frameworks and a clear message all existing content should be aligned for consistency and to deliver results.
Getting buy in for your core messaging framework
When broken down into these 6 steps, developing the core messaging framework is not has daunting as you might have thought. However, unfortunately that’s only the half of it.
Getting buy in from stakeholders and controlling the core messaging is another job in itself.
Buy in can be obtained when you ensure all stakeholders are involved in the process. I would recommend getting feedback and sign off for each step outlined above as this gets a commitment from stakeholders and also reinforces the core messaging as it develops. In my experience, it’s the first few steps that take time to get signed off. Agreeing on who your customers are and what their use cases are can throw up a few curveballs as different stakeholders reveal their stripes. However, once that’s achieved the core messaging matrix almost writes itself.
Controlling the core messaging framework can be more problematic. If you’ve involved the right stakeholders in the process they should become effective advocates that help keep it from mutating into something you have no control over.
Also practice what you preach. Naturally any marketing content you create will adhere to your core messaging framework, but look beyond those communications to all comms. Internal emails and messages you send to other employees, and external comms to partners, suppliers etc. should also reflect the core messaging framework to really drum it home!
It’s also worth enlisting the support of your HR, internal comms and customer services teams and ask them to align all their communications with the core messaging framework. It may seem like overkill but the aim is to get everyone using consistent messaging when talking about the brand; strengthening those messages in the process.
Finally, your core messaging framework isn’t a one-off project to complete and then to archive. It should be an ongoing, organic document that’s regularly revisited to ensure it accurately reflects your customers, partners, internal stakeholders and positioning of products or services.
Need help? Get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the above with me.