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How do you get everyone on the same page?

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Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is Chairman & CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, DC. Visit www.arnoldagency.com for details.

As a business, you have lots of target audiences — and lots of brand ambassadors. How can you make sure they're all singing from the same song sheet?

Whether it's your frontline receptionist, top sales person, company shareholder or the information depicted on your website, it's up to you to communicate your message in a consistent manner to get the best results. How can you control that, though?

A reporter calls for a quote. A current client is considering switching to a competitor. A potential customer wants to know what sets you apart from all the others in your field. A sales person needs a quick "sound bite" to do some cross selling. 

Imagine having all those messages on a one-sheet handout for all your brand ambassadors — employees, officers and board members. And the more times your key messages are repeated, the more your brand message is reinforced.

There are a number of branding processes out there. One that has been used successfully in West Virginia, as well as other states, is the Streamline Message Development Process. It's a one-day process, and here's a snapshot of how it works.

 

  • Gather your leadership team;
  • Be guided by facilitators through a series of questions to collaboratively develop message strategy and positioning;
  • Build the strategic platform that will act as the foundation for all communications efforts; 
  • Identify breakthrough, action and support messages that will lead to reward messages;
  • Break for one week while facilitators construct the Streamline Message Matrix, with customized messages for each of your target audiences;
  • Receive a report that customizes messages for each of your target audiences, boiled down to a one-page summary for each target group.

 

In its most basic sense, your brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer. It's not so important what you think about your brand. It's what they think that matters in terms of customizing your messages to them.

The Streamline Message Development Process identifies and extracts those perceptions most beneficial to your organization, and it insures that all who are communicating these messages are saying the same thing.

Steps in the Process:

 

  • Developing your organization's anchor message — your mission statement (company philosophy). This serves as the compass that will drive the entire Streamline process. Moving forward, only elements that support the anchor message are applied to the Streamline™ Message Matrix.
  • Identifying breakthrough messages — why the target audience should care and what they need to know to get involved with your organization. These messages serve to get the audience's attention in a way that's relevant to them.
  • Creating action messages — what we want the target audiences to do or how we want them to respond to your communications.
  • Developing support messages — how to keep people engaged by providing backup information to support your request for action. Facts, quotes, case studies and similar documentation help to keep your target audiences motivated.
  • Arriving at reward messages — identifying what people get in exchange for their support of your organization. How is their world improved or impacted? People want to know what's in it for them. This is where we tell them.

 

Once you have your Streamline Message Matrix, your business will have overall focus and clarity of communications. This system will allow you to inform your ambassadors at all levels, train new employees, educate community partners, update your website and generate press releases, op-ed pieces and other company communications so that everything is consistent – and everyone is on the same page.

It also serves to help guide content, copy and creative development for marketing materials and media campaigns, including traditional advertising and public relations, as well as social media strategies and digital delivery systems.

With the Streamline Message Development Matrix, you'll get it all boiled down to one blueprint sheet for each target audience. Another advantage of this system is that it can be revisited over time for purposes of updating. 

A branding strategy for your individual institution is something you may want to consider developing or updating in 2013. Creating consistent messages – and cutting through the clutter to get them heard – is more important than ever in today's crowded field of consumers.