4 questions to perfect your brand message

Brand messages should be consistent through website copy, advertising, press releases and elsewhere. Are yours?

How much thought have you put to what your brand message is? These days, it’s really tough to get through to your audience, whether your message is audio, an email or a sales pitch, but hopefully it’s always on message.

Your organization’s brand message should maintain a consistent corporate image across all channels. It’s the message you memorize, then deliver eloquently and succinctly. That way you have the greatest chance of being met with understanding, hopefully leading to acceptance, ending in the purchase of your product or service.

I’ve written in the past about how the “fifth time’s the charm” in the sales cycle. That’s what it takes to start to convert your prospect to a customer: reaching them via five channels or platforms to increasingly raise awareness, credibility, profile and the chance they’ll embrace your brand with all the more readiness and zeal.

At the core of that process is your company’s product or service and its one and only custom, individual message. This lesson is designed to help you come up with yours.

Let’s get pen and pad ready to start to define and detail the message platform (positioning, as it’s called in marketing speak) and supporting messages. Get input from executives on these four critical questions:

1. Who are you/your company? What’s your formal brand name? If it’s initials (IBM) or a proper or a familial name such as that of a law firm, accounting firm or marketing/PR firm, then it’s all the more critical that you attach your name to what you do. Who you are may relate to your vision and mission, too. Who do you want ideally to be and how do you plan to leave your mark on the world? Don’t get bogged down here. This is not a strategic plan, just messaging that embodies the core of your being, your values, and your competitive advantages.

2. What do you do? In basic terms, clearly and succinctly articulate what product or service you represent or provide to your clients and prospects. Don’t get “salesy” just yet. Stick to the facts. We often work to develop a descriptor that, in five to eight words, spells out the organization’s primary offering. Slogans may come later, but are more creative and may be a call to action that supports the descriptor and sums up with flair how your brand is unique. You don’t want to be too clever or cute with the descriptor. Tap all of your creativity with the slogan, but keep in mind it’s a distillation of the message and should reflect that.

3. Why does it matter? What benefit do you bring to the audience you serve? What’s your reason for being, and why should I care or take note of what you’re offering? Is there a compelling reason to believe that your product or service will significantly enhance my life? If so, I want to hear it, but please don’t sell me. Tell it as if someone else, an objective third party, was sharing it with a friend or colleague. It’s easier to trust that third-party voice, and it’s the same voice journalists write in, so it may help your story get picked up if your message is well-crafted.

4. Can you offer any proof? It’s pretty easy to make claims about how dazzling you and your products are and why I should buy, but do you have any evidence to support your position? An increase in sales or having best price in the marketplace are good starts, but outside validation of your product/service is the best proof. That could be in the form of awards, recognition or testimonials from your best clients. Anything you can offer to validate your claims will enhance your credibility and the chance the prospect will trust you and whatever you’re offering.

When you get through with this exercise, you should be set to put a messaging document together, which starts with an overarching or core message, the top paragraph that sums up the most critical information. Underneath that, you’ll develop four or five supporting messages, cascading in order of importance. Then list your proof points at the end, or ideally, use them to punctuate, support and validate the messaging throughout.

Once you have the messaging developed, it becomes your bible to inform and influence all content development, from the company website to a media kit document and the boilerplate of press releases. It will also play into advertising content, if you place paid media. So now there’s a consistent voice across all platforms: earned (editorial), owned (website and social media) and paid (advertising) for optimal integration of your communications efforts.

Once you’ve articulated your core message eloquently and powerfully, your audience will soon know what you stand for and they’ll start to get the message. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece first time out, but with time and teamwork, you’ll be amazed at how often your messages actually get returned as you successfully convince, persuade and convert the sale. Better yet, instead of leaving messages, they’ll soon be calling you.

Elizabeth L. Boineau is the founder and owner of E. Boineau & Co., a strategic marketing communications, public relations and crisis communications firm based in Charleston, S.C. You can reach her at eboineau@eboineauandco.com.

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