“We need better brand recognition.” “We need to raise our profile.” “We have to be more clear about our work.” “We need to raise awareness of what we do.” “We need a common narrative.”
Do these comments sound familiar? I’ve pulled these examples out of emails I’ve received from new clients who wanted “to get the word out,” but who didn’t yet know what, exactly, those “words” were. This is where a strong brand messaging platform comes in.
How a brand messaging platform can help: a few examples
Nonprofit branding has been part of my work since 2001. In my first nonprofit communications role, I was lucky. I stepped into a fully developed brand, with a complete messaging platform in place. That platform supported my communications planning and implementation and served as a guide for so many activities and tactics such as:
- Social marketing campaigns
- Editorial calendars (for print and email newsletters)
- Annual report themes and structures
- Print marketing material
- Website content
- Health educational material
(Blogging and social media were nonexistent-to-new for the organization at the time.)
Then, as the leadership changed and the brand aged, I helped to develop the organization’s new messaging framework, which I’ve done for several other organizations since launching my consultancy in 2008.
So, what is a brand messaging platform?
Although the terminology may vary, I’ve found that “brand messaging platform” is a helpful way to describe the positioning and messaging components of a brand or sub-brand. In my experience, a brand messaging platform is useful for organizations that either want to get these elements right before thinking about graphic design or for those who have neither the desire, resources nor intention to change their logos and visual identities. In these circumstances, I’ve found that the following are the essential elements of a brand messaging platform because they can guide all of your future content development:
- Positioning statement
- Brand personality
- Key messages
- Boilerplate copy
Positioning and personality help you to clearly articulate your brand’s identity and value within the marketplace, as well as the voice and tone you’ll use in your communications. Your key messages provide the framework for what you will say, and your colleagues and team members can start using your boilerplate copy right away to succinctly and consistently communicate those messages.
Note: not listed here are audience personas, which I include when developing brand messaging frameworks for clients because understanding your priority audiences is essential.
Need my help? Learn more about my branding through messaging package
Additional elements of a brand messaging platform include your:
- Messaging style guide
In my view, tagline development is secondary to the essential elements I’ve described above. If you don’t already have a tagline and if you have limited resources, you can start with positioning, personality and key messages. Putting these in place will help you move past your primary messaging problems; you can come back to the tagline work later. However, if you have an existing tagline, I’d recommend investing in a new one as part of your platform so that you can promptly replace the old one.
If your organization is small enough, you might be able to get away with basic DIY messaging guidelines. If you have multiple team members communicating on your organization’s behalf, however, it makes sense to invest in a robust messaging and style guide as part of your brand messaging platform development.
Do you need a new messaging platform?
Is your existing messaging platform out of date, incorrect, or ineffective? Here are some signs that you probably 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 about how they explain it.
- You have a hard time communicating the unique value your organization provides, and you feel that your communications are not compelling enough.
- Your communications plans and tactics are not well aligned with your organization’s strategic goals or mission and vision.
- You feel that 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, which stories to tell, and what presentations templates you should develop.
- The most obvious sign: you don’t have a messaging framework already in place!
If you’re ready to start developing your brand messaging framework and you plan to do the work in-house, you’ll find two of my favourite branding books particularly useful: Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications by Sarah Durham and Building Better Brands: A comprehensive guide to brand strategy and identity development by Scott Lerman. If you’d like me to guide you through this work and develop 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