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I just saw a great slideshare presentation from Sarah Goodall, Head of Social Media – EMEA, at SAP.  Entitled, “Storytelling to Storyselling,” it’s exactly the type of resource I’ve been searching for to help put pattern and process behind that elusive — yet incredibly important — art of storytelling.

Her premise is this — in an age of information overload, getting your audience to remember anything is a challenge.  Yes, you could keep repeating yourself, and at some level that may work, but it’s more efficient to tell a story.  Why?  Because stories are how we are “wired” to remember things.  Think of it as the Three R’s: we Relate to what we’re hearing and therefore build a context that we can Recall and Refer to later on.

As for process, I really like this chart Sarah presents, because it helps me see the pattern in storytelling:

So How Can You Move to Storyselling?
The value in this chart for me is that it demonstrates that storytelling begins with positioning – you need to know who your customer is, what problems they face, and how you solve the problems before you can tell them a story.  Once positioning is established, you move on to messaging, which is where most people “stop.”  I remember hearing Lou Hoffman, the storytelling guru, say essentially that messaging is useless in this day and age.  He posits that executives are so “trained” to parrot messages, that what they say ends up not resonating with their audiences because it sounds too “canned.” 
 
I think he’s got a point.  But messaging is still a key step to the storytelling process, because it customizes the value propositions for each audience.  It’s also an invaluable tool to communicate those value propositions within your organization, not only creating alignment among groups, but also giving the individuals in your organization the opportunity to evangelize your value to their networks.
 
Next comes  storyboarding.  If you’ve never heard of storyboarding, it’s a technique used in theater and film to visibly express a story, scene by scene.  My own belief is that it is this step that is the “missing piece.”  Okay, what do I mean by that?
 
What I mean is that traditional case studies don’t give you a story!   Not only that, they can be really boring — problem, solution, result.  Yada yada yada.  Who cares?  Especially nowadays when communications are everywhere and our attention is diverted so easily to other topics?
 
So, how does storyboarding solve that problem?
 
Storyboarding gets story tellers to think visually.  That is the missing piece, critical element or communications “chasm” to cross (to mix my metaphors).  Once you start thinking of telling your story in visual blocks, it makes you think multidimensionally — and encourages you to use multiple communications strategies to communicate your message.  This means that you gone from appealling to just the logical mind (via the written word) and extends your engagement power by introducing visuals — pictures, sequence & scene, texture, sounds.
 
More on storyboarding in my next post.

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It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

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I’m pleased to let my readers know about some great new partner marketing workshops that will help them with their co-branding, co-marketing planning, and positioning and messaging with and for partnerships.

Take a look!  And feel free to send me questions at events@phoenixcg.com.

Co-branding and Co-Marketing Planning for Collaborative Business Relationships

Instructors:

Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, Principal, PhoenixCG

Leslie Sutherland, CA-AM, Market Development Practice Lead, PhoenixCG

Let’s face it – when it boils down to it, we partner to meet specific business goals that will ultimately profit our organizations in some tangible way.  To achieve these benefits, it’s essential that the parties agree upon their core value proposition and marketing strategies.  In this workshop, you will use structured processes to formulate your own winning value proposition that appeals to you, your partner and your joint customers.  Then, you will formulate and plan an effective marketing program.  Included in the workshop are tools and templates to take with you to apply to your partnerships and collaborative business relationships at work.  To find out attending a workshop or hosting one at your organization, send an email to events@phoenixcg.com or go to our Website http://www.phoenixcg.com/what-we-do/marketdevworkshops.htm.

Positioning and Messaging for Collaborative Business Relationships

Instructor:

Leslie Sutherland, CA-AM, Market Development Practice Lead, PhoenixCG

Organizations collaborate to achieve specific objectives that they cannot reach on their own.  While the value proposition of the partnership and your product offering may be agreed to, aligning your larger organizations around a joint market position and clear messaging can be a real challenge.  In this interactive workshop, you will learn road-tested strategies to align your organizations.  You will also formulate a clear messaging hierarchy for your partnership or solution using defined processes and tools.  Included in the workshop are tools and templates to take with you to apply to your partnership and collaborative business relationships on the job.  To find out attending a workshop or hosting one at your organization, send an email to events@phoenixcg.com go to our Website http://www.phoenixcg.com/what-we-do/marketdevworkshops.htm.

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On July 6, I introduced the second stage of the messaging process, the Strategy Workshop.  Today, I dig into the workshop in more detail by reviewing the workshop agenda.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Agenda

I like to segment the agenda for the day into two three-hour segments, with about a 90 minute break in the middle.  This enables the participants to focus on the process and produce results — while giving them time during the long break to not only eat, but to catch up on phone calls, etc. 

The trigger for discussion (and ultimately, decision making) is a review of the Discovery findings, which has seven sections.   The Discovery findings are presented using the format of the positioning statement, and we discuss trends, gaps and review relevant quotes from the interviews.  Then, as a group, we discuss what the answer to that section of the positioning statement will be.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  It goes like this:

Section 1:  Define Specific Market

The positioning statement opens with a phrase describing the specific market for which the product or service is intended.  In the Discovery Interview Guide, we capture what the content of the phrase should be by answering the following questions:

For: [define specific market]

 1)     What is the target market?

2)      How do you segment that market?

3)      Who are the decision makers (role/title)? 

In the Strategy Workshop, you’ll review the answers to these questions from not only the people that you interviewed, but also from Web sites and other collateral which discusses the target market for the product or service.    Then, guide them through the Discovery findings:

  • Trends:  Commonalities.
  • Gaps:  Disconnects or gaps in knowledge/opinion.
  • Relevant Quotes:  These can frequently be the most revealing, especially the quotes from company executives and industry influencers.

While you are reviewing this information, there should be a lot of discussion among the group.  If there isn’t, prompt them with open ended questions like, “What do you think?” “Do you agree?” “Is this a trend or gap?”  I find it’s most effective to just let the group talk — not over each other, of course, but with one another.  After they’ve said what they have to say, then it’s your job to take them to the next level.  This is where you ask the six million dollar question:

“Let’s complete the phrase.  What should it say?”

Then, guide the group through the process of completing the phrase.

Total time on each section of the positioning statement will take about 45 minutes.  I like to cover four sections in the first half of the workshop, take a break, and return to the final three sections in the second half.

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  In my last post, June 18, I discussed the execution of the Discovery phase of the messaging process.  In this post, I talk about analyzing the findings in the Discovery phase of the process.  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Discovery phase of the messaging process produces an extraordinary amount of information which must be sifted through, organized, and then analyzed.  Just sorting through the information is a daunting task.  The Discovery Findings Template provides a way to sort through and synthesize the information collected in the interviews themselves.

 Tool: Discovery Findings Template

In a messaging process, the information gathered will consist mostly of qualitative information, rather an quantitative information.  That means that rather than being about to present results in pretty charts and graphs, you’ll need to sort through answers, opinions, prejudices, and judgements revealed during the interview process.  You’ll also want to incorporate messages and themes revealed in written and multimedia materials contributed to the process.

I usually break this process into two steps:  1) synthesizing the information, and 2) analyzing the information.

Information Synthesis

The easiest tool for me to use is the ever-handy Excel workbook.  I create tabs at the bottom that correspond the sections in the questionnaire.  On the left hand column, I put specific questions.  Across the columns at the top, I put either the names of the people that I interviewed or the topic areas being discussed.

Then, in a laborious but invaluable process, I go through each and every interview, step by step, and cut and paste question responses into the Excel worksheet.  There are some benefits for this.  First, you’ll re-read every interview and begin seeing trends and gaps that are emerging.  Second, the column format allows you to see responses to the same question side by side.

Information Analysis

So I guess you can see where I’m headed with this?  Yep, in the top column, at the very end, I add three last columns — Trends, Gaps and Quotes.  Then, I go through each question and read the responses – side by side – and I pull out the trends and gaps that I see and I put this information into the Trends and Gaps columns.  As I go, I’ll pull out quotes that I see that either express the essence of the trends or gaps, or that are particularly colorful or articulate.

It’s pretty straightforward and it’s a lot of work.  But I’ve found that this message is probably the best for synthesizing qualitative data into a digestable and actionable format.

In my next post, I’ll review the second phase of the messaging process, the Strategy Workshop.

 

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In my last few posts I’ve been writing about building a messaging document, what it is used for, and what the components are.  A  messaging document is distributed  to customer-facing representatives or employees who will be communicating about the topic you are presenting (a program, launch announcement or technology, for example).  These customer-facing representatives could be company executives, PR agencies, sales and marketing people, customer service representatives, and the like.

How Partner Messages are Different

Partner messages are intended for organizations with whom you have a relationship — whether it is negotiated, regulated, or casual.  In the high tech industry, for instance, it’s common to have technology agreements with other organizations that either influence or own the solution you will ultimately deliver to your customer.  In many cases, companies have sales relationships with other companies, commonly referred to as sell-through, sell-with, sell-to or meet-in-the-channel relationships. 

The intended audience for these messages are partners.  So, the first question to ask is: 

  • What types of partners do we have? 

The reason you ask this question is because each type of partner has different things they care about (or “care-abouts” as my colleagues often say).  The messages you create would then need to answer the following questions:

  • What partner care-abouts does it impact or resolve? What should happen to the partner as a result?
  • How will the partner benefit or make money?
  • How will it help/benefit the partner’s customer?
  • How will it affect the partner’s relationship with you?
  • What is the impact on the industries in which you and your partner go-to-market?

User Stories as the Tipping Point

But the most important thing you can do in any partner message is include user stories or testimonials about how the announcement you are making has worked with a partner and the partner’s customer.  User stories give the announcement credibility and make the announcement real. 

Why is this essential?  Because, unfortunately, often-times companies will make an announcement, create a lot of excitement about it — but ulitmately fail to execute on the promises they are making.  Partners come in all sort of “flavors,” from big, to small, to industry-specific, but one thing they all have in common is that they are tightly monitoring where they invest their resources.  If the announcement you are making requires any resources to implement (such as training of consultants or other financial investments), partners are going to think two or three times before the commit to it.  User stories are often the tipping point for early adoption by the partner, because it tells them that it’s worth the time and investment to commit to it.

Thank you to Norma Watenpaugh for her contribution to this post!

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Once you have created a brand architecture, you’ll want to translate it into usable, practical copy blocks that are customized either by function or audience.  In my post on May 4, I discussed copy blocks used for launch messages.  Copy blocks usually follow some sort of “format,” and the one I like to use is:

  • Introduction
  • Three Key Messages
  • Descriptive Paragraph

When you produce messages specific to a function (such as a product or program launch) or audience (such as a key industry), you can use that format as a guideline, but go ahead and customize it to your own needs as the situation warrants.

Audience messages are a practical application of the brand architecture.  This blog post focuses on copy blocks for specific audiences — in this example, “Industry Messages.” 

Industry messages are put into a messaging document that is distributed  to customer-facing representatives or employees who will be communicating about the announcement — such as company executives, PR agencies, sales and marketing people, and customer service representatives.

Industry Messages

If you’ve done your positioning exercise, you should know who the top industries are that will find your product, program or service appealing and of interest. 

The industry messages that you create should therefore answer these questions:

  • Why is this announcement compelling to my industry?
    • What are my biggest industry problems? 
    • How does this announcement relate to or solve those big industry problems?
  • What are attributes that the industry will find compelling?
  • Who is using it now?  What are they doing with it?

Answers to these questions will accomplish your main goal:  place the announcement in a context that readers from the industry will understand and value.  If what you are announcing is relevant to them, they will sit up and notice.

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