When we sign a new client, one of the first things we do with that client is what we call a messaging workshop. Having a clear and concise message allows you to build a solid foundation from which every other PR activity can be based on.
The purpose of the workshop is to identify key messages that clearly articulate what your company does and the benefits of the product or service your company provides.
As we conduct this messaging, the first question we ask the company executives is what the business does? I’m always surprised at how often executives can’t tell us what their business does. Usually, one person will start off trying to explain what the company does only to be interrupted by another executive that usually begins by saying something like, “no, we don’t do that, we do this.”
The ability to accurately describe what your company does is critical to helping potential customers, partners and investors understand what you do and the value you add. When I think of messaging, I always think of the episode on Seinfeld where Elaine can’t figure out a cartoon in The New Yorker. To get an audience with the magazine, she creates a ruse where she tells the editor of The New Yorker that the J. Peterman catalog is thinking of adding cartoons to their catalog in the hopes that if people laugh maybe they won’t be so quick to return merchandise.
As Elaine is meeting with the editor, she questions him about the cartoon, specifically what it means and why it’s funny. The editor tries to give a reason and Elaine still questions it, which leads the editor to give a different more vague answer. Elaine won’t relent and continues questioning the editor on why the cartoon is funny. The editor is unable to explain why the cartoon is funny and each attempt becomes weaker and weaker until he finally makes up a word. Elaine calls him on the made up word and the editor finally admits that he doesn’t know why the cartoon is funny and says that he thought the kitty in the cartoon was cute.
The episode is comical and uncomfortable because the editor can’t explain why the cartoon is funny. When a business can’t explain what it does effectively it’s every bit as uncomfortable.
When creating your company message, to make it clear and concise, I recommend the following:
- Get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush. Simply say what it is your business does. Approach it like you have a word limit and try to explain it in 25 words or less. Once you can do that, build out additional bullet points that expand on the 25-word description.
- Avoid jargon. Nobody wants to hear that your company or product is revolutionary or that it’s a turn-key solution. These are wasted words that get used so often they have no meaning. Avoid them and cut them out of your vocabulary.
- Be consistent. Your description of what you do should be the same every time you tell it. That doesn’t mean that you use the same words each time but that the message is the same every time. If you tell a different story each time you talk about your business it will create confusion. You’ll start seeing that as people talk about you or write about your business that what’s being said is inconsistent and inaccurate.
- Be honest. People think that PR is all about spin and that PR professionals are spin-doctors. That’s not the case. PR people help you find the best ways to communicate your message and the best places to tell your company’s story. When you get the opportunity to do so, be honest. Don’t try to embellish to make things sound better than they are. If you’re dishonest and a customer doesn’t get what they expect and are disappointed, they’ll likely talk to others and word will spread and cause more damage and create distrust amongst potential customers.
- Develop messaging around topics you don’t want to discuss. The Boy Scout motto is to be prepared. Even if you don’t want to talk about something, the question could come up and you should be prepared to discuss it. If you’re not prepared and the topic comes up it can rattle you or cause you do lose focus. These types of reactions can cast doubt and lead to more questions you may not want to discuss. If you’re prepared you can avoid looking flustered and quickly move on to more relevant topics.
- Features and benefits. Everybody wants to know how working with your company or using your product will benefit them. Be prepared to discuss the features and benefits and how they apply to your customers. When somebody clearly understands the benefits of the product or service you provide it builds confidence and spurs sales.
A clear, concise message and the ability to present that message consistently are critical in communicating to customers, partners and others your company interacts with. If the message you deliver is cluttered and inconsistent there is no chance your audiences will receive and understand it. If they can’t understand the chance of them investing in your product or service is greatly diminished.
About Jeremy Kartchner
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
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