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Re-tuning your key messages when things change

Since the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve had a few calls with people looking for help to adapt their key messages. To be clear, the questions aren’t about jumping on #hashtags. But rather how to make sure that what you’re talking about is still relevant.

A key part of promoting your brand and services is your content and that is built upon key messages.  This is a very important part of your Score (marketing strategy) as it helps you connect your value proposition with the problems it solves, and to what’s happening outside your organisation. It’s a good way to give your team the freedom to comment and promote you, without creating confusion or dissonance.

Of course, the starting point right now is to understand how your customers’ problems have changed. At its heart key messages are about honing-in on a handful of benefits that your customers can expect from your products or services, linked to the emotions behind their potential purchase and what they care about.  So, I always urge my clients first of all to understand if their clients’ needs have changed, or simply the way they want those needs met right now – a month ago I had a preference for low salt, low sugar Crosse & Blackwell beans. I’m now just grateful if beans arrive in my order, and I might want them in my cupboard as a backup.

The second thing that’s changed is the media environment and trending topics.  It’s even more noisy and it’s changing rapidly.  So I thought I’d share an approach I use in the Score section of The Orchestrate Method which is outlined in The Brand Symphony book.  It’s designed to help you go beyond the features of what you offer, to get to what you believe as an organisation that will be in tune with what your customers care about.

It’s good to do this with a functional cross-section and always include the most vocal or disruptive people you have.  The challenge you are giving them, as a team, is to come up with some thought-provoking messages that link to key stories in the media – and make sure they link back to your value proposition. 

The first step is to review and consolidate your internal opinions.  Every musical performance has a slant – two performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony can be very different if the conductor makes small tweaks but the best are those that tell a story.  They emphasise something in particular that they think is most important for people to hear. 

Think about the articles or media you read.  The people you follow are those whose opinion you either agree or disagree with.  I suspect that when you set up your business you did so with an opinion about how you could do things better or differently.  Maybe you want to challenge a norm or principle; Hussle started from the founders’ annoyance that fitting fitness into his busy lifestyle was more logistically difficult than it needed to be. 

Maybe you just want to do things better? IKEA thought you should be able to create the ‘wonderful everyday’ immediately, not wait three weeks for each piece of furniture to be delivered.  Or your opinion might be linked to a purpose.  Many charities actually believe they shouldn’t have to exist.  If no one abandoned or mistreated animals the RSPCA wouldn’t exist.  In a way, that’s their opinion.

When it comes to the world of social media it’s good to have a point of view.  It drives debate and by default it helps you find ‘people like you’.  However, for that point of view to cut through requires consistency of actions behind what you say.  Having an opinion will also help you recruit likeminded people. Which in itself will make it easier to create a common sense of purpose behind your value proposition.  Your team have to value it to push it.

So working through your key messages, and agreeing them as a team, is vital. Clarifying them as we move out of lockdown will help you differentiate too.

Once you have a list of your team’s key opinions in the right-hand side of the tuning fork, the next step is to research the main stories in the media that your target audience are commenting on.  You’ll have a sense of what to look for based on the research you did about their common challenges but spend a bit of time searching for other relevant stories.  Ask some of your clients what they read most.

List these in the left-hand side of the diagram.  When you have both sides of your tuning fork completed, review the cross over.  Which opinions relate to which media stories?  You’re looking for five key messages that your organisation can credibly get behind.  They should be the ones that best match both sides, they should be relevant for more than a week, and you should believe in them enough to act accordingly – even in tough times.

If you can it’s also helpful to break the messages down further to which product or service they best relate to.  This allows each functional area to better link what they do day-to-day to your opinion and to your overall value proposition.

You can then give each message to someone in your team who feels passionate enough about it to lead the charge. 

Using your most opinionated people will really help you here.

Jill Pringle is a Brand Marketing Consultant and classically trained singer.  She has worked in service-led businesses large and small for over 25 years, orchestrating their marketing strategy behind a clear value proposition and key messages.  To learn more visit brandsymphonymarketing.com or click here to book a free video call with Jill.

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