09 Jan New Year’s Resolution: Focus On PR Messaging
Think about all of those New Year’s resolutions you’re now in the process of breaking: lose weight, save more money for retirement, save yourself some heartbreak by rooting for a sports team that’s not based in the Washington, D.C. area. Now, think about what it would take if you truly meant to keep those resolutions; the common denominator that helps us all commit to something and see it through.
One of the words that come to mind is “focus.” In order to succeed at most things, one needs to focus on the ultimate goal. And in order to do that, it often helps to eliminate anything extraneous that might impede a person from reaching that goal. That’s why we so often fail at New Year’s resolutions; as time passes, we become focused on other things – we want to take a trip to the Bahamas, for example (which could take care of the saving for retirement part), or end up indulging a little too much at dinner time or get tired of exercising (so much for losing weight). In other words, it takes a lot of commitment to get through an entire year of pure focus.
And yet, that’s what organizations have to do in order to have a successful communications program. They need to focus – not only on the ultimate goals, but on everything it takes to reach those goals, from the development of individual tactics to the components that comprise those tactics and beyond.
One of the most important areas companies should exhibit a great deal of focus is within their external messaging. Too often, organizations will launch products and attempt to make them appear so great, so “do it all,” that they end up trying to articulate too many things to too many people. They will list every last benefit, from specs to key features and more, to attempt to sway virtually all segments of all audiences. In the process, there’s a chance they’ll end up alienating and confusing just about everyone.
I’ve always found that the best way to describe the benefits of a product or service and get those benefits into the minds of potential customers is to focus on two, maybe three, messages that are designed not for different market segments but for everyone. Sometimes we call these “umbrella messages” because they encompass all of the things that make a solution unique; they’re a core part of any successful PR strategy. But when we do this we often also break these main messages down into sub-messages that are designed for IT managers, CIOs, etc. – in short, specific user groups.
I say don’t worry too much about the sub-messages, at least not initially. Focus on developing the key messages that will resonate across the board with all of your stakeholders. Delve deep into what truly makes a product unique, and then boil that down into two or three items that will elevate it in the minds of customers. These do not have to be highly detailed messages – press releases, blog posts and the like can flesh them out. They just need to be very succinct and really focus on the core of what an organization wants to get across.
Then, once those messages are determined, they need to be driven home, day after day, month after month, throughout the rest of the year. They should be reflected in some way, shape or form across all of your communications channels, including advertising, PR, analyst relations, social media, and others. This is always the hard part – staying on track and making sure that focus remains on delivering these core messages. Yes, they may change based on various things, including responses to the current state of the market, customer feedback and more. But the core of the messaging likely will not. As such, it’s on the company to retain the focus necessary to consistent deliver these messages as the year wears on.
As we all know, that’s not easy. But in order for a communications program to be truly effective – in other words, for it to be able to move the needle on sales, market penetration and increased awareness – it’s absolutely necessary. And the ability to bring focus and clarity to the program plays a very important role.
– Pete Larmey