In the previous
column, we began to discuss the process of leveraging your key
strategic differentiation qualities and applying them to your marketing
and public relations initiatives. As
you remember, we developed a list of determinant attributes for your
company -- the characteristics that are important to your customers, yet
distinguish your products or services from competing products or services. By identifying the product or service
attributes that your customers use to differentiate among competing
products or services, we learn why your customers purchase from you and
begin to understand what makes your company unique.
Here�s how your company�s determinant attributes
were ranked in priority order (#1 being most important):
- Strong after sales
- Products are good
value for price
- Strong partners
- Wide distribution
- Wide range of
JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE
Now, we�ll take your list of determinant attributes and explore how
we refine them with factual support to bring them to life and make them
real for all of your key audiences. Our
goal here is to begin to define a core group of concise, clearly defined
key messages that will guide all of your communications initiatives --
both internal and external. These
key messages will be your framework to convey your company�s mission and
business objectives in all facets of your marketing and communications
process, such as media interviews, analysts briefings, executive speeches,
news releases, bylined articles, company presentations, Web site, direct
mail, employee newsletters and even your �on hold� message.
The first step in turning this list of determinant
attributes into key messages for your company is to look at each attribute
and add as many descriptive phrases that support the main point as
possible for each one. This list
should be compiled in a free-flowing session, with as many phrases
suggested as possible. This list may
be as short as one item or may include as many items that make sense.
For example, as you drill down to lend substance for
the �technological innovator� attribute, you might come up with the
following descriptive phrases:
Many new product innovations over the 40 years we
have been in business;
Invented portable fuel cell generator;
first fuel cell to a public utility;
Invented solar fuel cell;
Twice introduced lightest on-road zinc fuel cell;
Worldwide investment in R&D at all
Plan to introduce micro fuel cells --
electrochemical devices that create electricity from hydrogen gas or
alcohol -- next year.
From this list, it is now possible to develop a single key corporate
message for �technological innovator� that is based on concrete fact,
yet expands that phrase and simultaneously brings it to life:
We have a long history of technological innovation as an
alternative energy company.
As you can see, this statement is based on the very first bulleted item
from the list above.
Next, and equally
important, you must be able to back up your claim, and that is where the
other bullet points that were listed above come into play. These �support points� or �proof
points� give this new key message substance and context for the media
(and for your other key audiences as well).
By adding these proof points, your key message now looks like this:
This second statement is based on the sixth bulleted
item from the earlier list.
While this does begin to substantiate your innovation claim, it still does
not provide enough information for the media to believe that it is true. That�s where the other bulleted items
from our list come in. By adding
them, we now have built a solid case that supports your innovation claim:
We have a long
history of technological innovation as an alternative energy company;
investments have produced a stream of new and innovative products;
We invented the
first portable fuel cell generator;
We sold the first
fuel cell to a public utility;
We invented the
first solar fuel cell; and
have twice introduced the lightest on-road zinc fuel cell.
Note that this key
message for �technological innovator� does not include the final
bulleted item that made up our original list (�Plan to introduce micro
fuel cells -- electrochemical devices that create electricity from
hydrogen gas or alcohol -- next year�).
At this point in time,
this is proprietary information that can only give your competitors a
�heads up� on your product development plans; therefore, we recommend
that information like this not be revealed until the product is launched. Also, by not revealing this
information, you eliminate having any concern over the actual launch date
or the timing of any possible new product introduction. Why possibly place yourself in the
awkward position of having to face questions about a product being late
simply because you made a preliminary announcement too early?
Now that you�ve developed a solid, defensible key
message from your primary determinant attribute, you follow the same steps
to develop each of the remaining attributes into key messages. As you move through the process, you will
find that some key messages are stronger than others. Don�t worry; that�s OK. This working draft of key messages should
be reviewed internally at two levels -- for accuracy and to determine if
there is any other material that can be added to build a stronger case for
each message. During this process,
support points will be added, dropped or altered.
It�s not uncommon for these key messages to undergo
several rounds of review until they have been built into a solid and
comprehensive platform. It�s this
process that also gains buy-in across the organization -- from the
executive suite and through the marketing, corporate communications/public
relations departments to the division level and beyond.
BREAKING DOWN THE SILOS
An important byproduct of this key message development process is that it
can serve as a powerful facilitator to break down any real and perceived
silos within an organization. Since
these key messages are meant to look company-wide and be inclusive, they
serve as a powerful mechanism to get everyone at an organization
�pulling together� or �singing from the same songbook.�
Once your key messages have been established, the challenge becomes one
of delivery and ensuring that the messages are heard. The method for achieving this has come to
be known as being �on message.� In
the next column, we�ll look at this more closely.
With his unique
"both sides of the editor's desk" perspective, Randy Savicky�s
advice and counsel on public relations and marketing has been sought after
by some of America�s largest corporations and best-known brands.
He has designed strategic plans, managed communications programs and
obtained major news coverage for such Fortune 500 companies as IBM,
Fujifilm, Motorola and Sony, early stage companies like Arbinet, Dialogic
and Juno as well as startups like Barnesandnoble.com, ClubMom.com, New
Paradigm Software and Viaweb. As President of Strategy +
Communications Worldwide, he helps companies gain mindshare and
win market share by improving their communications to their key audiences
through the use of outside experts. He welcomes your comments and
questions on how to put his ideas to work and can be reached at (516)
467-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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