Messaging—or verbal branding—is as essential to bringing your brand to life as your organization's name, tagline, and graphic identity.

Yet many companies—especially the bootstrapped kind—don't know they need it. They don't see when their startup messaging is past its sell-by date, or they throw up their hands when a relatively fresh platform isn't working.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same: The company can't communicate effectively with the people who matter most to its success.

Developing a strong message platform—think of it as a house style guide for messaging—and then activating it across your organization, ensures that everyone can communicate clearly and consistently about your company's value.

And that, in turn, vastly increases your chances of attracting the people you want to attract by helping you to...

  • Build a strong brand.
  • Stand out from competitors.
  • Connect with different audiences.
  • Support business development.
  • Explain complicated products or services.
  • Communicate efficiently as well as effectively.

If you're now wondering whether you need messaging work, you probably do if you're experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • You're undergoing a change in organizational culture or business strategy.
  • You're moving into new markets, or markets are shifting.
  • People have a hard time explaining what you do and why it matters.
  • Partners and other stakeholders—even your own employees—don't describe your company consistently or accurately.
  • You're planning a website redesign, new graphic identity, product launch, or similar project, and you want to be sure you get the best results.
  • Your messages are inconsistent across channels or product lines.

Nuts and Bolts: Elements of a Strong Message Platform

A corporate message platform typically includes the following:

  • A core message answers "What is [your business] and why does it matter?" It quickly conveys your value proposition, and it's also aspirational, reflecting your vision as well as what you are today.
  • Secondary messages amplify the core message or speak to specific audiences, such as investors, potential hires, and customers.
  • Product and service messages clearly define benefits.
  • Talking points will help people answer common questions and stay on message.
  • A boilerplate paragraph describes the company and its value proposition; it's for use in press releases, sales materials, and elsewhere.
  • An elevator speech answers "What is [your company]?"
  • Usage guidelines cover how and when to use the messages in both written and spoken contexts.

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image of Carolyn McMaster

Carolyn McMaster is a principal of Thinkshift Communications, which helps sustainable businesses, social enterprises, and cleantech companies boost brand value through compelling brand stories and thought leadership positioning. Thinkshift is a Certified B Corp.

LinkedIn: Carolyn McMaster