Posts Tagged ‘Key Messages’

People are full of contradictions.  For example, studies show that people will usually believe what they read, no matter the source.  If it’s printed in a magazine, newspaper, blog or company brochure, then they will believe it.

One of my friends even said to me (verbatim), “They can’t print it if it’s not true.”

Be that as it may, when it comes to people parting with their money, they tend to be more circumspect.  When someone is spending money, either their own or their company’s, they want to be sure about what they are purchasing.  Yes, they may be willing to believe what you tell them.  But they will want to see proof of your claim.

“Proof points” do just that.   A proof point is evidence that supports a claim of value that you make about your product, service or company.  These claims of value are called “key messages.” 

Proof points can be formulated in many ways, including:

  • Quotes from a trusted or credible source
  • Research that provides statistics
  • Written material from third parties (newspapers, blogs, twitter postings)
  • Video material from third parties (news interviews, training sessions)
  • Awards and certifications granted by third parties (industry associations, newspapers, rankings)
  • Refererences or referrals from third parties (business associates, customers, friends)

You’ll notice that third parties play a critical role in the creation of proof points.  This reveals a common “human” characteristic — we will accept a supposedly independent recommendation from another source as a validation of a claim.  As a result, companies will spend considerable amounts of time and money to influence the development of proof points via marketing and public relations.

Some examples of (completely fictional) proof points:

Key Messages with Proof Points


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One of the most frequently voiced complaints I hear about marketing is that it’s “squishy.”  People have trouble drawing a connection between the research, branding, positioning and communications that we do into real-world, value creating action.  One of my favorite illustrations of how a company successfully has translated “theory” into “action” is a recent advertising campaign from Symantec.  

The messaging in the advertising focuses on the customer – what their concerns and fears might be surrounding security.  Then, they created scenarios that illustrate their fears — but not in a frightening way.  Instead, they opted for entertainment value to create memorable scenarios that drive home their key messages without intimidating their viewers.

The TV commercials in the campaign showcase scenarios of cybercrime (watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avG0Eh-Uq2g).  For example, in “The Bank of Nikolai” you meet Nikolai, a cyber thief.  He tells you that he has a bank, it’s very safe and if you give him your money, it will be very safe — “right here, in my front pocket.”  The video closes with Symantec’s key message for that commercial — a statistic about cybercrime, “Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker.” 

Symantec effectively created an entire series of these commercials that showcase their key messages.  They have been very effective in communicating these messages in an entertaining way and on a medium (YouTube) that makes it easy to forward the video to your friends.

Symantec did one thing very well — they focused on translating all that research, positioning and messaging into something tangible that created value for their company.  Bravo!

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A brand messaging architecture is the first thing you should develop to help you manage your brand image and communications.  It is primarily used by internal departments and external vendors (such as PR firms) who communicate externally to customers, partners, and influencers.  The brand messaging architecture is a formal structure that summarizes and communicates messages about your company, products, and services. 

There are a lot of components to messaging and not all of them will be needed for every brand messaging architecture.  Depending upon your situation, you will choose from the following components to develop the messaging that you need:

– Vision Statement
– Mission Statement
– Positioning Statement
– Value Proposition
– Key Messages
– Proof Points

Here’s an example of a brand messaging architecture for a global non-profit professional association, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (it’s an older version of the brand architecture, so I can share it).

Example: Brand Messaging Architecture

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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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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On July 14, I presented Part 2 of how to conduct a Strategy Workshop, centered around the agenda and how to get the attendees engaged and creating the Positioning Statement.  Today, I discuss post-workshop activity, including finalizing and validating the messaging you’ve created.


Now that you completed the first two phases of the messaging process, Discovery and the Strategy Workshop, you’ll move into the final phase.  in this phase, you will finalize the messaging, then validate it with key influencers to be sure that you have hit the mark.

Finalizing the Messaging

To finalize the messaging, review the positioning statement that the participants created in the Strategy Workshop.  You may want to word-smith it a bit to make it flow more smoothly.  Then, taking the positioning statement and the information gathered during the Discovery phase, you should have enough information to draft the following two deliverables:

  1. Brand Architecture.  This consists of the Positioning Statement, Key Messages and Proof Points, and, if your messaging process was extensive, you may also have developed a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Tagline.  Read my post from April 8, 2010, for more detail on creating a the Brand Architecture.
  2. Messaging Document.  These are commonly used by company executives to stay in alignment on messages around different products and services.  But they are primarily used by PR people and marketing people to produce marcom materials.  They usually consist of the following information:
    • Boilerplates:  25 and 50 word descriptions of the topic.
    • Specific Messages:  Then you’ll produce messages in the following format for Industries, Audiences, Partners, and Customers:
      • Introduction
      • 3 Key Messages
      • Descriptive Paragraph

Read my post from April 14, 2010, for more detail on creating a Messaging Document.

Messaging Validation

Next, it’s time to test your messages to see if:  a) they capture the points you were trying to make, b) they communicate what you are trying to say clearly and succinctly, and c) they resonate with your key audiences.

Most validation processes are not fancy.  It may be as simple as sending the document to a select group of people who can represent the interests of core audiences or industries.  In more elaborate messaging processes, you can actually conduct a formal validation, with surveys, demos and even focus groups.  It all depends upon the scale — and strategic value — of the project you have undertaken.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to evangelize your new messages.  After all, if you create them and no one uses them, then what was the point in creating them?

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When I speak with marketing professionals, one of the chief benefits that they point to in implementing a messaging process is that it helps them align their organizations around one message architecture.  And when one message architecture is in place, it’s much easier to get the organization moving in the same direction.

But how do you get all these executives, influencers, company employees and partners aligned?  Just what are the mechanics of the messaging process?

The messaging process has four steps:

  1. Gather the Team
  2. Establish a Schedule
  3. Execution Phases:
    • Discovery
    • Team Strategy Workshop
    • Messaging Validation
  4. Evangelism

1.  Gather the Team

When gathering a team together, it’s best to select and involve the team members based upon role, and to define roles in relationship to the messaging process, rather than relationship to the company.  For most projects, team roles boil down to (in order of depth of contribution):  Team Leaders, Core Team, Extended Team and Influencers.  This implies a hierarchy of importance by role and helps prioritize the weight given to input and involvement for each team member. 

For example, you may have a particular customer who has been extremely active in defining a new product or category – plus they just “get” your business.  You really want their active participation in the project and will weigh their input heavily when crafting the final messaging.  In that case, you may assign them to the Extended or even the Core team. 

On the other hand, you may have a powerful executive within your company.  You need to include them in the process, but their input just won’t be that hands-on.  Therefore, you may opt to assign them to the Extended team or even as an Influencer.

2.  Establish a Schedule

The complexity of your project schedule varies according to complexity of the messaging project, such as how many people are involved, how many brands need to be positioned, and how complex a messaging hierarchy is required.

It makes sense to break the schedule out to align with the Execution Phases of the process:  Discovery, Strategy Workshop, and Messaging Validation.

3.  Execution Phases

There are three execution phases to the messaging process:  Discovery, Team Strategy Workshop and Messaging Validation.  The execution phases involve a lot of tasks, people and documents, so it’s helpful to use some sort of project management tool to help you manage the project.

I’ve developed what I call a Project Navigator, which I would post to my blog as a file, except, my blog subscription doesn’t let me post files.  So, instead, let me just tell you what’s in it, and you can create your own.

Tool:  Project Navigator

Using Microsoft® Excel™, create a series of tabs at the bottom of the document — basically, you’re creating worksheets.  On these, I put:

  1. Project Schedule:  A high-level schedule for the project itself.
  2. Roles & Contacts:  Tracks the role of each team member and their contact information.
  3. Status by Team Member:  Tracks what each team member is contributing and status.
  4. Bibliography:  Provides a repository (bibliography) of all inputs, such as presentations, videos, books, web site articles, etc., and their sources.

It’s a great little tool but you’d be surprised the big impact it can have.  Just tracking the bibliography of inputs can be daunting, especially on enterprise projects.  Plus, in the end, this tool demonstrates what went into the project for anyone who needs to know.

In my next post, I’ll break down the steps to the Discovery phase in the execution of a messaging process.

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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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