Messaging seems more like a PR term than a marketing creed, but in reality key messages are perhaps the most important element of every marketing campaign. While paring down thoughts, opinions and aspirations to effective messages can be a daunting task, it is often the first step in launching a new campaign. It informs not just the way you talk about your brand, but also its look and feel and the direction of the creative. It conveys the themes that you are driving into the market.

Solid messaging is integral to many campaign assets, including campaign microsites and landing pages. It often drives blog posts from top executives as well as infographics. And it can be a key element in any organization’s search strategy.

Every new campaign should begin with a process that is designed to identify the right messaging, and—in the cases where that messaging doesn’t exist or needs refinement—develop fresh messaging. Here are seven tips for developing the best messaging to insure that your campaigns will be heard by the right audience:

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel, or yourselves. Begin with a thorough review of existing messaging to see if that is still resonating and hitting the intended mark. If there are new products or services, see if the existing messaging applies, or if more likely you will need some new directions.
  2. See what your competitors are up to. Conduct a thorough competitive analysis as to how they are positioning themselves in the market through their web site, digital campaigns, and advertising. If you have recent market research, that should be part of the review. If not, additional research might be a good idea if time and budget permit.
  3. Talk to a wide range of stakeholders. Initiate a series of in-depth interviews with key executives, members of the sales and marketing teams, and external stakeholders that range from customers to channel partners to board members. These interviews should be structured with similar lines of questions in order to get results that can be compared and synthesized. But also make sure to let these interviews have some free flow of discussion to go into new directions and ideas for the brand.
  4. Get buy-in from the team. Everyone will have an opinion on new messaging. It’s better to have that aired before implementing it. One of the best ways to reach consensus and maintain support is through a Message Summit, a closed door meeting with cell phones and laptops offs that includes the marketing team and key executives. The purpose of this meeting is to explore in-depth what you’ve learned, what you’re hearing and your initial thoughts, and to begin to gain perspectives how best to present the brand in the market. What is most important in the Summit is obtaining executive buy-in to the direction that you want to go. The goal is to reach consensus, not necessarily on the exact wording of the key messages, but on the tone and direction.
  5. Put it on paper. Follow up with a Message Guide to allow the team to respond to the proposed wording from the Message Summit.
  6. Follow the three “C”s. The best messages need to be Clear, Concise and Compelling:
    1. Clear is not as simple at it might look. There’s a great video of a 60 Minutes profile of Razorfish, the web enablement company. The reporter repeatedly asks the two Razorfish founders what the company does, and they are absolutely unable to answer the question without slipping into meaningless jargon. The frustrated reporter finally tries to explain himself what the company does–hardly an effective way of talking about your band. A clear message will remove uncertainty and insure that your target audience recognizes what you are trying to tell them.
    2. Concise is equally important. Brevity is important not just for campaign headlines, but also as the message plays out across a wide variety of collateral, including ads, direct mail and social media. In most cases, there just won’t be the space or the attention span to have a long message.
    3. Insuring that the message is Compelling may be the most difficult challenge, but it deserves the most attention. It is easy to have a message that might be an accurate portrayal of your products or solutions but that doesn’t convey the sense of value that you bring to market. A compelling message will resonate with key target audiences and entice them to want to learn more, to click on a button and download a piece of premium content, and ultimately to enter into the sales funnel.
    4. Align to your SEO. The right keywords based on search engine analytics can give a big lift to your search results. Make sure those terms are part of the your messaging, and use them strategically across your digital platforms. This can boost your rankings dramatically is best practices are followed.

The final messages can be leveraged for headlines and text throughout the marketing assets, and can jump-start the creative process of the right look and feel of the brand. They will give you the right tone to inform only the color palette and style but also the types of images that might be selected. It can extend to a refresh of the logo itself.

Messaging is too important to take casually or be an after-thought. A regular review of the messaging should be an integral part of every brand’s marketing programs.