Before launching a public relations campaign, or even sending out a single press release, there is a step small businesses need to take. You should determine your company’s story and the tone and language that you are going to use to communicate it. In other words, you need to develop strategic messages.
Strategic messages are a set of statements about your company that address the needs and problems of your customer base, highlight your company’s strengths and differentiate your company from the competition. Once you have developed and tested your strategic messages for effectiveness and simplicity, you will not have to reinvent the wheel every time you communicate with the public. Whether you’re writing an article for a trade publication, sending out a press release, delivering a speech or posting on Facebook, the same strategic messages should be used.
As you develop messages, it is important to use clear, specific, language that resonates with your target audience. So, if you’re a messenger service and know that your customers value speed of delivery, you may want to use terms like “lightning fast” or “in the blink of an eye.” By contrast, if you’re a financial advisory firm and your customers value trustworthiness above all else, you will want to use language with more gravitas and dignity, i.e. “long history of success in the financial markets” and “the partner you can depend on.”
Finally, the venue and tone you choose to deliver your messages must be tailored to address the demographic and psychographic attributes of your customers. For example, if you own a knitting supply store, you probably won’t use a lot of pop cultural references, or Twitter to reach potential customers. If you own a wine store for young professionals, creating an online YouTube video about wine tasting would be strategic. And if you own a bookstore that seeks to attract families, it would be best to come across as friendly and energetic instead of edgy and aggressive.
How do you come up with the key messages you want to convey? Here are some tips:
- Perform a “SWOT” analysis to define your market position, i.e. articulate your Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), market Opportunities (O) and market Threats (T).
- Undertake a competitive analysis of what your competitors are saying about themselves in marketing collateral, websites and media coverage.
- Use your analysis to develop messages that speak to customers’ problems and needs.
- Know when to appeal to customer emotions with a “voice” that will speak to them. Or, when to appeal to their intellect via detailed information.
- Do not highlight generic company attributes that would be expected of almost any company large or small, i.e. “quality products” or “great service.”
- Avoid making claims that your company cannot deliver.
- Always keep messages simple and clear. Be even more concise and snappy when delivering messages via online and social media.
- Update your messages as market conditions and trends evolve.
- Refine messages based on customer feedback.
- Keep in mind that you are speaking to customers – not reporters; the media is simply the conduit to your customers, partners and investors. A different tone will need to be used for each.
Remember that a handful of informative articles that reflect your company’s strategic messages are more valuable than a stack of press clippings that mention your company but do not address your customers’ needs. Take the time to develop messages and then you can launch a media campaign that has true business value.