Sunday, May 15

Crafting A Core Message

While I often advise clients that consistency remains the rule rather than the exception for a business blog, there are times when I place blog posting on the back burner for a few weeks at a time. It's par for the course. Like almost every firm in our industry, client communication needs supersede our own.

The pace we've set in May is partly attributed to integrating several new accounts into our schedule, but the primary reason I had to place posting on hold for a few weeks is because we've been implementing core message strategies for two different companies. The first is an innovative manufacturing firm that is continuing to capture a significant market share in the outdoor living/garden market. The second is a new national cable network that will break from traditional programming trends and provide viewers, particularly families, a true choice on television.

While I cannot share specifics on what we are doing with either company because it's our policy to never reveal work in progress until it becomes past tense, I can share some details about our core message system. Simply put, this strategic product is a process that extracts internal and external research, stakeholder information, and market knowledge in order to identify, determine, and develop specific key messages that can be clearly, consistently, and convincingly communicated to a variety of audiences under very diverse circumstances.

Upon completion, the organization benefits from a consistent message that can be employed in communication materials and one-on-one communication at every level to demonstrate a true contrast between the company and the competition, defend against critical review, and encourage a consistent message regardless of the situation, scenario, or circumstance. It moves beyond the traditional model of identifying the sometimes introspective benefits of a unique selling point and more toward an external view that discovers the primary contrast between a company (its philosophies, products or services) and its competition (their philosophies, products or services). We did not invent the concept, but we did refine the original model to work even better for companies and non-profit organizations than it does in the political arena. That's where the original model comes from.

I learned about contrasting messages a few years ago when a now-retired political campaign manager and dear friend of mine, Benay Stout, invited me to attend a grassroots workshop hosted by the Leadership Institute, a training organization for public policy leaders founded in 1979 by Morton C. Blackwell. One of the session segments included how to develop contrast messages for candidates (especially useful when two candidates seem to share similar philosophies on the surface). Shortly after this introduction, it occurred to me that businesses could benefit from such a process with some adjustment. Later, I discovered this process works better than I ever imagined on the front end.

To date, of more than three dozen core message strategies developed for clients and client accounts, we have a 100 percent track record. If the company embraces and implements a core message strategy, they will succeed. It's that simple.

With it, we've helped a tech services firm increase its client base by 720 percent in record time, a commercial real estate company move up two positions to be ranked number one in the market, a business philanthropy organization secure a national grant and increase membership by 80 percent, preserve funding for a state commission at a time when the state legislature had targeted it to be cut ... and the list goes on. In each case, every company and organization that has worked through the process and implemented the core message strategy has succeeded.

The businesses we work with direct love it because of its implementation versatility, making an impact on not only external communication but also internal operations such as human resources and product/service development. The agencies we work with love it for their accounts because the process not only produces results but also solidifies their relationship with the business. For internal communication professionals, it is one process I know of that permanently puts them at the table with senior management.

We love it because there is nothing more rewarding for us than to see our clients and our clients' accounts win. So sure, it might mean that we have to put our own communication strategy on hold from time to time, but then again, I never really set out to write about my own company. For us and those people who work with us, we find fulfillment that is best summed by a quotable I wrote a few years ago to help launch one of the most successful advertising agency starts in Las Vegas: ''follow other people's dreams, my friend, and you may just find yours along the journey.''

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