Why Messaging Matters to Your Writers

This post was written by John White on Wed, 02 Jun 2010 11:55:17 +0000
Posted Under: marketing communications writer,messaging,rapport with writer

Have you worked out your company’s messaging yet? How many different messages do you have? Have you shared them with your marketing communication writers? Better get on it.

I was at lunch with three execs of a prospective client the other day. They want me to help them tell their story with new content, so we spent the first part of the hour talking about white papers, Web content, case studies, brochures, blog posts and Facebook.

“Hold on,” I interrupted. “That’s all about format. We need to talk about messaging first. What is it that you want to say to people? How are you going to demonstrate to them what makes you unique?”

I need to understand how their company is different from the competition, and messaging is a big part of that. Otherwise, we’ll end up with a lot of me-too content.

This company operates in what is commonly thought of as a commodity industry: the average customer buys on price and (if the company is lucky) grows to discover and value unique differentiators. So the goal of the marketing content is to describe those differentiators from the start so that the initial sale is not strictly about price.

Here’s what they said, and how it struck me:

  • The business development manager said, “That’s easy. We’re quite simply the best at what we do.” Well, that’s pretty heartfelt, and it may even be true, but it makes for pretty lousy copy. I can’t go anywhere with it .
  • The CEO said, “We’re small and we’re private, and we plan to stay that way. Some of our competitors are focused too much on being acquired, so they take their eye off the ball and quality suffers. We don’t have that problem.” That’s worth being proud of, and it may even add up to a message, but most customers don’t care who owns your stock; they care about their problems, and a vendor’s ownership structure rarely matters to resolving those problems.
  • The director of sales says, “We’re able to help our customers align our services with their business objectives.” It sounds pretty dull and hollow when you put it like that, but it’s better than the other two. It’s the kind of thing a customer might say after a few years of working with the company. We might be able to take it somewhere as a theme.

The Point: This company is in need of content, but they have yet to decide on a message. There’s no harm in using each of these disparate ideas as talking points, but:

  1. they need to add up to something;
  2. they need to add up to something that customers care about; and
  3. they need to make sense to me so that I can use them.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. He also publishes a newsletter with more tips on working with your writers.

photo credit: Wilfrid CC3.0

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