In the beginning was the Word.
Unless you work in marketing, that is. In marketing, before the Word comes the Message.
Less cryptically: before you start writing any marketing materials, you have to know what it is you want to say, and to whom. You have to be sure that what you say will resonate with the person or people you want to say it to. And you have to be sure that everyone who writes (or speaks) for your brand is saying broadly the same things, so your proposition sounds and feels consistent.
Essentially, you need a core set of messages that everyone can use as a foundation for their external communications.
The basic aim of a messaging workshop is to establish what those messages are, and to capture them in a document that’s easy to share with everyone who will be writing and speaking on behalf of your brand.
Who should be involved in the workshop?
Unless you’re a very small business, you’re bound to have more than one person with a view on what you should be communicating to the market. The good thing about a workshop is that it gets all of those people together in one room to share their views and come to a consensus.
Different people bring different – but equally valid – perspectives to a messaging workshop. A product manager will have a good idea of what’s interesting about the product. A salesperson or consultant will have great insight into the problems customers need help with. A marketing person may have the best knowledge of what competitors are offering, and how to stand apart from them.
Different people bring different – but equally valid – perspectives to a messaging workshop.
There’s nothing to stop you running a messaging workshop internally, but the risk is that a lack of an external perspective leaves participants believing that what they want to say is what the customer wants (and needs) to hear.
What the workshop really needs is someone external to perform four key functions:
- Facilitate the session, to tease out the information that will form the messages
- Challenge any messaging that seems self-serving rather than customer-focused
- Provide a balanced, external perspective
- Mediate any differences of opinion
When Radix runs a messaging workshop, those are the roles we play: facilitator, mediator and constructive critic.
How does it all work?
Different agencies and consultancies run messaging workshops in different ways, but here’s a rough guide to how we do it.
First, we’ll have a pre-workshop meeting or call with you, to understand what you want to achieve from the workshop, and how you plan to use the messaging that results. (A workshop for a specific product may have a completely different goal from a workshop to reposition a brand, for example.)
We’ll ask who you plan to invite to the session, and what roles those people play. We’ll ask who your main competitors are, and if you have any customers we can interview, so we can get some insight into how your brand, product or service is perceived by your market.
We’ll also ask about logistics, like:
- How much time can everyone commit (our standard workshop session is four hours, but we can make it longer or shorter if need be)
- What sort of room we’ll have for it (we like to get everyone around a table, with a big whiteboard or flip chart to write notes)
- If everyone will be physically present (one workshop we ran recently had four people videoconferencing in from locations around the world)
That gives us enough information to create an agenda for the workshop and send it to you, and to start on our pre-workshop research.
For competitor research, we’ll analyse the websites of competitors you’ve mentioned, to help us collectively determine your differentiators and USPs during the workshop.
For customer research, we’ll ask you to set up short 15-minute phone interviews for us with three or four of your current customers. We’ll talk to those customers about why they chose your brand, their experience of working with you or your product, and where they think your strengths and weaknesses lie (this in itself can be a very valuable feedback exercise for your business).
We’ll present our findings from both of these exercises back to you during the workshop.
When it comes to the workshop itself, our view is that you’re not creating messages in a vacuum: you want to come up with a set of messages that actually resonate with your target audience.
So we’ll spend a lot of time in the workshop looking in detail at who your target audience is, what problems they’re trying to overcome, and what they need help with.
We’ll look at whether there are different audience personas with different needs (and who therefore might respond to a different messaging approach). And we’ll look at the different options your prospects have on the table – including the all-too-tempting option of doing nothing – and what might spur them to choose your product or service.
As well as looking at who you’re selling to, we’ll also spend time exploring exactly what you’re selling: what is it, what does it do, and how is it better than what your competitors are offering. We’ll also press you for proof points: what evidence you have to back up what what you’re saying.
Throughout all of these discussions we’ll be capturing everyone’s thoughts on a whiteboard or flipchart, ready for us to turn into a first draft of your messaging framework. Which brings me to…
The Messaging Framework
This is the output of the workshop: a document that sets out your key messages for your brand as a whole, or for a particular product or service.
The format of the document will vary depending on the scope of your messaging project, but typically it might include:
- An introduction: What the document is for, how it can be used, and by whom
- A description of your target persona(s): Who you’re selling to, what their responsibilities and motivations are, their buying triggers and what they’re looking for in a solution or provider
- Your value proposition: A succinct summing-up of the value your brand, product or service offers to its primary audience
- Key messages: The main things you would like the audience to know (or feel) about your brand, product or service. If you like, we can supply these as “copy blocks” that can be copied and pasted directly into marketing, sales and PR materials
- Supporting messages: Secondary messaging to support the key messages, also (if required) as copy blocks that can be copied and pasted into marketing, sales and PR materials
- Proof points: Concrete evidence that shows what you’re saying is true, rather than just telling. Proof points can be things like customer names and testimonials, analyst quotes, certifications, etc.
- Strapline options: Often used part of the brand mark, the strapline is a concise and memorable expression of your value proposition. We’ll usually give you three options to choose from
- Elevator pitches: A hardworking piece of copy that can be used in slide decks, “About Us” pages, press release boilerplates, LinkedIn profiles, etc. to explain succinctly what the brand, product or service is about. We provide 25-word, 50-word and 100-word versions for use in different contexts
Approving the copy
It’s very rare that everyone is 100% happy with the first draft of the messaging. If they are, it usually means they either haven’t read it properly, or aren’t invested enough to give it further thought.
You and your stakeholders know your business better than anyone, so it’s unlikely that an external writer will get everything you want to say absolutely bang-on, first time. That’s why we consider first draft approval to be a bad thing – and why we allow for up to two rounds of edits to the messaging framework
How that works: we give you a few days to review, then we schedule a meeting or call with you to go through your feedback. You could bring all of your stakeholders to that meeting, or collate their feedback in advance. Either way, we’ll take it all on board, ask you any additional questions, and go off and produce a second draft.
We consider first draft approval to be a bad thing.
If we’re doing our job properly, this next version will be very near to final – perhaps even the final version. If it’s not quite there, we’ll apply one more round of amends to get it to a place where it’s ready for you to share with your marketing, sales, and PR teams at will. Then we’ll deliver that finalised document to you as a PDF, Word doc or PowerPoint – whichever works best for you.
Sounds wonderful – but how much is all this going to cost me?
Aha, the million-dollar (not literally, you’ll be relieved to read) question. We find that messaging projects tend to differ quite a lot in scope, so we don’t have a standard price for one. But if you request our pricing guide, it will give you an idea of the kind of investment you’d be looking at.
And if you’d like to discuss a messaging project with us directly, do give us a call on +44 (0)1326 373592, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.