Many (perhaps most) organizations are not aiming to reach “everybody” (the general public).
The bulk of businesses and other organizations we work with have a few to several narrowable audiences with which they need to engage and converse.
Taking time to plan/craft your core messaging is always important, but it’s particularly important when communicating with several specific audiences for different purposes.
Audience relationships determine your success or failure
An “audience” is anybody that has the capability of impacting your success or failure.
Audiences may include: customers/clients, employees/staff, a board of directors, potential partners, referral sources, national or local nonprofits, community/civic-minded organizations, government officials/agencies, industry trade groups, local business communities (perhaps via chambers of commerce, economic development centers, and other business-focused entities), influencers, decision-makers, the school down the street, and/or the neighborhood association.
Gathering data to create your Core Messaging Guide
Above are only examples – every organization is unique, and has finite resources. Internal communication is often a good place to start. The people that work for you and with you are your first “brand ambassadors” in your community, in your industry, and among partners. From leadership to front-line to back-of-the-house, learning how workers think and talk about your organization is not only helpful, it’s typically foundational to core message development.
Customers/clients of course provide another well of information. Depending on the audience, data-gathering could involve e-surveys, focus group conversations, select in-depth interviews, and/or a variety of other means and sources. It depends on your objectives, your relationships with each audience, and how we’ll be measuring success.
Tailored per your needs and situation, research for the development of your Core Messaging Guide (CMG) could begin with a communication audit of your existing online presence and communication materials; meetings, interviews, facilitated group-talks with leadership/representatives/stakeholders; and a study/assessment of the addressable market and competitive landscape.
Potential content of a Core Messaging Guide
The ultimate work product could be any length (from one page to dozens). There will likely be different variations and evolutions for different uses, though one key purpose is to keep core information/messages/language together in one place, so that we needn’t reinvent wheels.
Tailored per needs, potential contents are certainly not limited to: mission, vision, values/principles, media boilerplate, brand story/narrative, who we are, who we aren’t, where we are going, how we are getting there, per-audience messages (sometimes with mini-CMGs for each), FAQs, conversation-starters, elevator points, calls-to-action, more.
A Core Messaging Guide serves two functions
- Your CMG should be easy to skim for leaders and representatives as a refresher before media interviews, presentations, and speaking engagements. We sometimes say it helps with conversations “from the newsroom to the grocery store.”
- The CMG is often used as an internal brief to share with creative vendors and partners, as a resource for when they’re getting a feel for the brand, and with approved copy for select pasting and/or repurposing.
The Core Messaging Guide is not a script
With the CMG, we aim primarily to help ensure conversations about your entity are accurate, clear, and consistent.
The CMG can be shared with your internal team however you feel most fitting. This may or may not involve separate sessions or parts of meetings to gather info, ensure consensus on language, and help associates prepare to functionally converse about the organization/initiative. Customized message coaching sessions may be helpful for practice or refinement.
And of course the CMG is always a “living” document. It should be assessed, updated, and refreshed in accordance with changes in the organization, campaign, or initiative.