Rethinking your business messages? Start here

By Paul Farrow, consultant and coach, Benjamin Ball Associates

What does the reverse back to lockdown mean for marketing and communications? And what does it mean for your business messages?

You may have encountered one of these knee-jerk responses to this question from your CEO:

  • One is to act as if fundamentals haven’t changed – “just get on with it”.
  • The other is to act as if everything has changed. Welcome to a “new normal” in which your old messages are as relevant as a bicycle to a fish.

In reality the right answer for most businesses will be somewhere in between.

Some sectors – high street shopping, hotels and pubs – have certainly changed for now, but not necessarily for ever. Others – commercial office property, aviation – may have entered a period of fundamental and lasting restructuring. And what about pension providers, banks and fund managers? Is it business as usual, or time for a fundamental rethink for financial services providers?

In all these cases there are big implications for your marketing and communications. That means you need to look at your messaging and do it the right way:

Six ideas for better business messages in Q4 2020

  1. Involve more people – include even more people from within the organisation in your thinking. A wider range of views (and different perspectives) makes it less likely that you will simply do what you did before. Go for a “bigger tent”.
  2. Really think about your audiences – a lot of people have already seen their lives and livelihoods damaged, if not destroyed, during the Covid 19 pandemic. You need to speak to them on their own terms, focusing on their concerns – not yours. If those concerns have changed, so should your messaging. For example, are green issues more important now to your target audiences, or do customers have more immediate worries like value and security of supply?
  3. Find the magic words – what are the words that will really resonate with your target audiences? A changed situation means that you may well need different words to achieve cut-through.
  4. Don’t be vague – don’t rely on a fluffy, generic “we’re all in this together” message. That may have been fine for the first lockdown, but this time perhaps you should focus more on what your services deliver to clients and customers rather than your corporate purpose or good to society.
  5. Prove it – messaging without proof is just wishful thinking. And if you fail to prove one part of your messaging, the audience will doubt the rest of it. You need to prove what you say with facts, but also with informed observation, case studies and anecdotes that reinforce what you say.
  6. Make sure that everyone is on side – a big advantage of involving more people in a messaging programme is that they tend to buy into the result more. If your messaging represents a change of tone or focus, it is essential that everyone is on board before you begin to flow the changes through your marketing materials, website and presentations. The time for doubts and challenges is during the messaging process, not after the launch.

Paul Farrow is a coach and consultant at Benjamin Ball Associates. He helps organisations to redefine their messages then turn them into presentations, speeches, websites and marketing material.

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