WTF is a messaging document and why is it important for every company?
I know, I know, I know. PR people are looking at this article and thinking, ‘NO, even you don’t know the answer, no one does’. And the rest are reading this thinking, ‘Really? You PR guys waste so much time creating such drivel?’
Let me decode this for you. Among all the hilariously redundant jargon that PR people use (yes, I’m looking at you two guys - “repurpose” and “strategic”) messaging actually means something. In a nutshell – Messaging is what you want your key spokespeople to convey to the world. It’s about the titbits of crucial information that forms the pulse of a company. A messaging document chalks out the most important aspects of the company that can be conveyed in the simplest fashion to someone who asks you, “what does your company do?”
It’s almost an elevator pitch, except, it’s not as salesy or preachy, as much as informative. A messaging document captures this and a few other key elements of the company. Here’s what a perfect document should look like: (If you have more/better ideas, please holler me up)
1. The Grandma test: Explain your company in a way that your grandma will understand. Do it in 10 words, 25 and 50. This will help you better position your company. If technology is complicated, marketing jargon is its evil twin sister. De-clutter and speak in plain language.
2. The “Ok, so what?”: This is for a more detailed conversation with the media/investors. Have no more than 15 points (lesser if possible) that speak about how the company began, and where it stands now. Some additional pointers here:
• Talk about the problem statement the company wants to solve
• Personalise a story on the hardships of starting a business, what went through in assembling the initial set of generals.
• Narrate a story, make it interesting. Add meat on the many layers of doing business in different markets.
• Talk about your growth, numbers, clients, expansion – again, you don’t have to give real numbers if you’re not comfortable, but take stock of where the business stands.
• Future plans, areas of improvement, the bigger vision statement and what you want in the next 5 years.
3. We’re the Uber for XYZ: Ugh. How many times have you heard a startup founder say this? Ugh, it’s the worst way to pitch your company. Without differentiating your company from the rest, you’re just another copycat. To sell your company, differentiate. Identify 5 key differentiators from competition and what makes your company unique. Technology, talent – emphasise on why you’re better.
4. Numbers. Data. Proof points: The difference between claiming to be a “leader” and letting the numbers do the talking. Have a section on what numbers make heads turn. Why do you see this is a bigger play in the coming years? This substantiates the many reasons why the company stands where it is.
5. That witty remark:
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t - you’re right.” – Henry Ford.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney.
Sound bites are powerful story narratives and the media laps them up. Every document should have some snappy lines that a spokesperson can narrate. The bolder the better. Here’s where you can get creative. Remember, “Data is the new oil?” Overused now, headline news then.
6. The devil’s advocate: Wrap it all up with 10 FAQs, or potential questions that are uncomfortable. This is usually based on the industry one is operating in. It’s key to have the entire leadership speak the same language and this section attempts to answer some of the more uncomfortable questions directed at the spokesperson.
Over the years I’ve met some terrific businesses, but poor spokespeople. A messaging document structures the important points of a company. It’s a pitch document for the world and I’ve seen how it helps CEO’s, VP’s and business heads get more comfortable explaining what they do. Every year, re-look at what your ‘messaging’ is and spend time building a storyline around the company’s progress. After all, good PR does wonders for your business and requires enough effort.