Sandra Stewart | July 17, 2014
A strong messaging platform is clear and simple—but it also should come with a user manual. Why? For new messaging to take hold, everyone will have to use it. A thorough messaging handbook boosts the chances of that happening by making it easy to incorporate messaging into all kinds of communications, written and spoken.
A handbook typically provides:
- Core and supporting messages
- Guidelines on how and when to use the messages
- Talking points that will help people answer questions and stay on message
- A boilerplate paragraph describing your company and its value proposition, for use in press releases, sales materials, partner communications, and so on.
- An elevator speech that provides a short answer to the question, “What is [your company]?”
Usage notes describe the point of each message and its most common or effective uses. The core message, for example, is meant to be present in all communications to anyone who may not be familiar with your company. Supporting messages provide ways to flesh out presentations and marketing materials; taken together, they provide a clear picture of your organization, helping you tell your story.
Messages are crafted for verbatim use, but treat the messaging platform a guideline, not a straitjacket. The concepts are the most important part, and people should learn to express them in their own words. That said, if your organization is full of people who like to color outside the lines, the marketing team may need to issue some rules: “Always use this phrase when talking about X,” “Never use the term Y,” “Include the core message verbatim in every Z,” and the like.
One caution: make sure you get a user-friendly handbook. People should be able to scan it easily and cut and paste from it. If it’s dense and tedious, or just a pretty brochure with little substance, it will be ignored—and so will your messaging.
This is part three of a series of posts on messaging and how to use it. Missed the first two? Check them out here and here. Can’t wait for the rest? Get the complete scoop in our Strategy>Shift guide, Messaging 101: 5 Keys to Unlocking your Verbal Brand.