Editor’s note: This post was originally published on February 13, 2019, and updated on October 4, 2022.
What is a brand messaging platform? Does your nonprofit organization need one? Consider whether any of the following comments sound familiar:
“We need better brand recognition.”
“We need to raise our profile.”
“We have to be clearer about our work.”
“We need to raise awareness of what we do.”
“We need a common narrative.”
These comments come directly from emails I’ve received from nonprofit communicators and leaders who want “to get the word out” but aren’t clear about what those “words” are. This is where a strong brand messaging platform comes in.
What is a brand messaging platform?
A “brand messaging platform” is the messaging and content complement to your brand’s visual identity elements (though there may be some overlap). The following elements of a brand messaging platform are essential because they guide all of your content development:
- Positioning statement: A distillation of your organization’s identity and how you want to be perceived, including what makes your organization unique. Your positioning statement should be used as an internal benchmark against which to align all communications.
- Brand personality: The attributes that describe the character of your organization, and which must be conveyed through your communications. (See why — and how — I think you should limit your brand personality to three traits.) Your personality informs graphic design choices, the voice and tone of your content, and your overall communications approach.
- Key messages: The central ideas your organization needs to communicate. Key messages provide the framework for what you will say, helping to bring your brand positioning to life in your content. I think of key messages as a breakdown of your positioning into supporting points; you’ll sometimes hear them referred to as proof points, brand pillars or your brand narrative.
Establishing these elements will help you move past your primary messaging problems. Once your positioning, personality and key messages are in place, you can build the following additional elements of your brand messaging platform:
- Boilerplate copy: A concise (50-100 words), paragraph of standardized copy that expresses the brand personality and positioning, while communicating key messages. Boilerplate copy includes information about the role and impact of the organization, how the work is delivered, select keywords, and a call to action. Used at the bottom of press releases, this copy may be used in other documents and communications such as proposals, presentations, brochures and About Us website copy.
- Tagline: A short phrase that telegraphs the essence of your organization’s brand and differentiates it from others. Your tagline appears alongside your organization’s logo and name in marketing materials. Note: Whereas taglines are connected to your brand and more permanent (your organization should only have one at a time), slogans are temporary and used in individual campaigns.
- Messaging guide: Once completed, your brand messaging platform should be consolidated into a messaging guide. Your messaging guide should outline all of the elements in your brand messaging platform, with explanations and examples to support any team members developing communications on your organization’s behalf.
Once you have it in place, your brand messaging platform can be an invaluable guide. It’s a framework that connects all of your marketing communications.
Signs that your nonprofit organization needs a new messaging platform
Here are some signs that you need to revisit, sharpen or create a messaging framework for your nonprofit’s brand or sub-brand:
- Members of your team don’t know what to say when explaining your work – or they aren’t consistent in the way they describe it.
- You have difficulty communicating the unique value your organization provides.
- Your communications are not compelling.
- Your messaging is not well aligned with your organization’s strategic goals, mission, and vision.
- Your organization’s content is complicated and unclear.
- You struggle with knowing what content to feature, where (for example, how to structure your website content or which stories to tell through content marketing or public relations).
- Your existing messaging platform is out-of-date, incorrect, or ineffective, OR you don’t have one!
As a nonprofit communicator, you probably know whether or not you need to build or strengthen your brand messaging platforms. But if you aren’t sure, check out this helpful article by Farah Trompeter on the Big Duck blog: Is your brand healthy? Four steps to give it a check-up.
Are you ready to start building your brand messaging platform?
When should you create or refresh your brand messaging platform? If your nonprofit organization is undertaking a rebrand, it can make sense to start with messaging. Perhaps you know that your organization has neither the appetite, resources, nor intention to change your logo and visual identity but needs to strengthen and align content and message creation. If your brand feels stale, it’s relatively easy to update and roll out a new messaging platform compared to changing your logo and visual identity.
If you’re ready to start developing your brand messaging platform and plan to do the work in-house, you’ll find two of my favourite branding books useful:
- Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications by Sarah Durham
- Building Better Brands: A comprehensive guide to brand strategy and identity development by Scott Lerman.
If you’d like my help with developing your brand messaging platform, check out my Branding through messaging package and get in touch with me.What is a brand messaging platform - and why have one? Click To Tweet