Strategically aligning communications teams is always a challenge.
I get it. Of course, marketing, copywriting and communications experts need to be able to express themselves and add their own flair (and we've hired them so we don't want to crush their brilliance - right?) They need to be able write in a number of different contexts - from short-form social media through to long form white-papers - from short form phone alerts through to long form explanations to service outages. We want creative thinking and eye catching brilliance from them. No question.
BUT - just because there is a wide array of contexts the modern brand needs to operate in does this mean the communication teams should be left completely to their own devices, each creating their own 'take' on the brand, its message and its voice?
Unless you want a scrambled egg style of communication which confuses prospects, customers and staff then it's obvious some level of control around the brand voice is essential.
I also find when speaking to marketing teams (and especially more junior members of those teams) that they are crying out for some help in understanding some agreed principles they can operate within. A good framework should give confidence and clarity to teams. Typically brand and marketing teams do this through a "Tone of Voice" guide (which I'm all for). A tone of voice guide is a set of high-level principles which helps to create a way of speaking aligned to a brand personality. It explains HOW to write and speak. But this post is not about tone of voice.
What this post is about is how to align teams around WHAT a brand says. Especially across its external facing marketing and advertising.
This is when things can get really complex. Teams need to understand the core message of the brand. They need to collectively communicate its value. The right value, to the right audience. And yes, all of that needs to be expressed in the right tone of voice. But how do you help communications teams with the right content? Also how do you ensure you don't dictate too much detail so your creatives feel too constrained, feel the guides are not-fit for most purposes and your efforts get ignored?
Ok folks. Never fear. This is why a Brand Messaging Framework is needed. I've been working on a few of these for clients in the last year or so and so I thought I'd share this simple, yet powerful tool that I use to help rally teams around the core messages of a brand. Here it is:
Components of The Brand Messaging Framework
Let me walk you through each of the components of the framework.
Brand Big idea
The brand's big idea is the reason the brand will be attractive to its audiences. It’s the brand's rally cry. A 'flag' the brand waves and marches behind and the message it screams from the roof tops. This is usually a core idea which comes out of a brand positioning work and typically is agreed at leadership level because it should connect all functions of a business. It's connected to the brand's purpose, vision and mission. It should encapsulate why anyone should care about the brand.
Brand Value proposition
The brand's Value Proposition is a statement which communicates the compelling value that the target audience will experience. This should explain the problem to be overcome or the utopia to be achieved- and where possible, be uniqueand different.
In the framework you should detail multiple brand benefits. These are highly relevant and desirable outputs that customers will experience. They should make the brand compelling and which must be understood by audiences. They are our promise to the customer. Ideally at least one of these will be unique to the brand.
Reasons to believe
Nobody likes empty words. Prove it. Linked to every 'Benefit' a number of pieces of evidence should be gathered. These 'reasons to believe' are supporting points making the message tangible, evidence based and realistic.
The versatile nature of the framework
This framework is simple. Yes. If you want your communication team to align and use a core messaging framework then it will need to be. I can tell you from experience that 200 page documents are not used on the creative studio floor.
But it is versatile and memorable. It gives just enough structure to help communications teams know WHAT they need to include in their work without being too restrictive.
This can also be highly adaptable. You can adapt elements (such as adding more benefits and 'reasons to believe'). You can use it on a product by product basis as well as at the highest brand communication level - going deeper and deeper into the message of the brand. It can be used by leadership teams before they write a speech or by sales teams before they walk into a pitch. By marketing teams producing websites or interior designers kitting out the reception.
Once completed and communicated out to an organisation it is versatile. And that makes it powerful.
The challenge of the framework
But my parting message is a warning against creating a fake veneer. Done properly this framework will take some time to pull together in an authentic and compelling way. The 'reasons to believe' section has to be true. This means this framework does not simply sit in the realm of communications teams. If there are no unique or compelling claims that the brand can make and back up with evidence then more innovation will be required from other parts of the business.
So - enjoy unleashing this. But remember that it needs to be true. And if you find yourselves 'fudging' it know that you need to work on your offering and not on your communications.