This article is excerpted from the book: “Spark: The Complete Public Relations Guide for Small Business” by PRSA-NCC member Robert Deigh
Remember the “telephone” game we used to play as kids? You’d whisper into the ear of your friend something like: “Alf doesn’t know where Kate went” and, after making its way from person to person, the phrase would come out of the last kid’s mouth as “Kate would make a great president.”
The same thing happens in business. That’s because many companies—even large, well-established ones—often don’t make time to define their company and its benefits in writing so they can be understood, and then create a good, solid set of messages. Instead, information gets passed around, email by email, conversation by conversation, until every unit in the company might be saying different things about products and services. The sales people are telling potential customers one thing, the marketers are saying another and the CEO, something else entirely.
The Power of a Unified Message
Customers won’t buy if they don’t understand exactly what it is they are being offered. The same applies to the news media, recruits, partners and investors. If they can’t figure you out, they’re not going to pay attention. Both the definition and the messages can be used by every member of your staff – and others outside of your company who champion your cause, service or product – as a roadmap for effective communication. A group of people, all using the same key talking points consistently is a very powerful communication and public relations tool!
My company, RDC Public Relations, LLC, has worked with dozens of organizations to create effective key messages.
A good message document has four parts:
- The company ID
- The elevator speech
- 4-5 key must-say messages that need to get into all your communications, from press interviews to presentations.
- Overall messages: the “factsheet” stuff that everyone on the team needs to know.
In this week’s blog, we’ll explore the first two parts of a good message document, and next week, we’ll take a look at the last two pieces.
1) The Company ID
With a bit more detail, the elevator speech (#2) can be expanded into the company ID (No. 1). The company ID is most often called the “boilerplate” that lives at the bottom of your press releases. It need not be difficult to create a good, solid definition. Start by looking at what your competitors say about themselves. Yours needs to be more compelling than theirs, of course. So, look at all your communication—marketing materials, speeches, letters, business plans, funding solicitations, the web site and the slogans on those little frisbees you gave out at the last trade show. If you can’t find at least three markedly different ways in which your company has been defined, you’re not looking hard enough. Save the best elements from these if they are any good. Toss the rest, even if they are engraved on the building.
2) The Elevator Speech
Creating a killer elevator speech is critical. It’s the 15-second answer to the question, “So what does your company do?” What they are really asking is “What can your company do for me?” A clear and compelling answer is often an opportunity to interest a potential customer, investor, strategic partner or employee.
Look at it from your customers’ perspective. If you are a gadget maker, it’s not as important what you make as what your product does for the user. If it makes life easier or saves money for people at home or work, for example, say so. No one cares that you “make software” — thousands of companies do. But if you make software that “helps law enforcement officers around the world share evidence and close otherwise unsolvable cases,” that’s compelling. Compare that to “we’re a software company that makes products for law enforcement.” Once you draft your elevator speech, try it out on everyone, particularly employees and customers. They’ll tell you quickly if you’re off base. Then, when you have the right one, go back and incorporate it into all your communication.
That’s a quick look at your company ID and elevator speech and how they’re critical to your messaging. Next week, we’ll explore the must-say messages and “factsheet” for your company.