Messaging Matters

I’d be the first to admit I’m not the handiest person, but I can change a lock. So when I embarked on a lock-changing project at my home recently, I jumped right in. Instructions? Nah, I’ve done this before. Plus these things are foolproof nowadays.

I got the old deadbolt removed and the new one installed pretty easily. Everything was going smoothly until I tried to unlock my new deadbolt from the outside. The key turned, but the bolt wouldn’t budge.

I’d missed a small but crucial step early in the process, and as a result things looked like they were working fine, but the internal parts weren’t clicking and the job wasn’t getting done.

In a strategic communications campaign, messaging is a lot like the instructions for installing a new lock. Or the blueprints for a building. Or the recipe for a meal. Or … you get the picture.

Messaging tells everyone working on the campaign why we’re doing this in the first place, what points we want to get across, and the strongest arguments for making our case.

It’s typical for organizations of all shapes and sizes, from local nonprofits to Fortune 100s, to want to jump right into outreach, and there are certainly ways to hit the ground running and start generating meaningful conversations at the outset of a campaign. But the discovery and messaging process plays an important role in setting a course for the long term by clearly identifying goals and the strategies that will be most effective in reaching them.

The process is important for the people helping with your campaign — it helps us understand your organizational story, how you tell it and how we can shape it to appeal to both your media and end-stakeholder audiences whether they’re investors, regulators, potential customers or others.

But it’s also beneficial for your organization. Taking the time to think through your story helps you ensure your internal teams are on the same page about what makes your organization unique, and it helps you identify strengths to emphasize and weaknesses to work on.

The messaging and strategy frameworks that result from the discovery process guide earned-media, digital-media and executive-positioning efforts throughout the campaign, bringing unity and clarity to supporting materials from talking points to frequently asked questions to media briefings, interview prep, pitches, press releases, op-eds, videos and more.

You wouldn’t go into battle without a plan of attack. You wouldn’t start building a house without blueprints. You wouldn’t—or at least shouldn’t—start changing a lock without reviewing the instructions. And you shouldn’t launch a strategic communications campaign without knowing what you want to communicate and how you’re going to do it.

Nathan Burchfiel is Director of Messaging & Strategy at Pinkston, Inc. Stay updated on all Pinkston content by following us on Twitter (@Pinkston_co).