Sometimes when I face a complex project, I tell the client that I’d like to create a ‘messaging map’ or messaging document to get their approval on key messages before I proceed. I often get the response “We don’t have time for that” or “Just work with what you see on our web page, the messaging is implied.”
That’s kind of like a ship’s captain saying “We don’t have time to chart a course, just start sailing and we’ll figure it out as we go.” You just might end up on the rocks.
Adding a ‘messaging’ step to a marketing content project can be a hard sell. It’s another step and another deliverable, and if you’re close to a deadline, it might seem like too much.
Experience proves that if there’s any confusion in the exact messaging, it’s much easier and faster to iron it out up front – before you’ve started writing that paper or creating that website.
The difficult discussions happen around the core messages and positioning, not how they are executed. When you can separate the messaging from the execution, your first draft will be much closer and any review cycles much smoother. Reviewers can focus on issues of tone/style, presentation, precise wording, etc.
In many ways, the less time you have, the more you need a messaging review process. But you might need help selling it to reluctant clients. Here are some suggestions for pitching the benefits of a messaging review cycle:
- It will streamline the review cycles for the end product – probably removing one review cycle.
- The positioning is work you (the writer) need to do anyway to develop the content well.
- If the client thinks the messaging is already on their website, then it will be a good exercise for you to extract it and put it out for review. They may find that they’re not communicating exactly the messaging they think they are.
- The messaging document, once in place, will streamline development of additional resources, including web pages, papers, presentations, etc. It can become part of sales training as well.
In a future post I’ll write about potential challenges in this messaging process. Use the comments if you have something to add to the discussion.
The pain! You have completely captured the pain of working without clear messaging. We’ve recently done some messaging projects and they were a HARD sell. I will try using your rationale next time – it’s such a concise explanation!
It can be a hard sell, can’t it? People rarely ask for messaging, but they almost always need it!
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