On Message or Off Message? Messaging House Rules
Every company, no matter the size, wants its employees to be consistently on brand and on message. However, it’s difficult for potential clients or customers to choose your product or offering when they’re not sure exactly what you do. But in order to be “on message,” the people in your company first need to know what message to be on.
That’s why you need a Messaging House. A Messaging House enables you to describe—succinctly and using clear, jargon-free language—what your company does, why that is more valuable than the next best alternative, and give any proof or evidence to back up your claims. Together, these components form the foundation of all your business messaging efforts, making sure that they are on target every time. (Thanks to Message House for the inspiration.)
Let’s look at each of those Messaging House components a little more in depth:
Think about this
Ask anyone in your company today, “What do we do? Why is it valuable? What’s in it for the customer, and how do we convince them our claims are true?”
What sort of answers do you think you will get? Do you think they will be consistent and uniform? Tight and to the point? Compelling? Will they be the same as what you’d say? Do you think that your marketing materials will say the same thing as your sales team? Your support team? Your execs? Your receptionist?
More often than not, the answer (and the reality) is “no.”
A well put-together Messaging House is the tool to fix this disconnect. It permeates and becomes the foundation of everything you write, everything you present, everything you say.
So, what is a Messaging House?
It consists of three elements:
- Umbrella message
- Value proposition
- Evidence / proof
1. Umbrella message
This is your 100-200-word pitch, and forms the “roof” of the Messaging House.
Imagine this scenario: You meet your ideal prospect at a Gartner Conference while you are both in an elevator on the 37th floor of the Orlando Hilton. You have 90 seconds to describe what you do. That’s the challenge—no slides, no set up, no discovery, just go.
The answer? That’s your umbrella message. And, following Sineks great Golden Circle model, we don’t just answer the what, or even the how, we answer the why—why our company does what it does.
2. Value proposition
These are the pillars of the house, supporting your Umbrella message (the roof). What value do we provide to the customer? Faster, better, cheaper? More revenue, less cost, less risk? Whatever it might be, here is where you lay out your “claims” to value.
And make sure to keep it to three value claims only. We use the Rule of Three because, as humans, we are all pattern recognition machines—and three is the smallest number of items needed to make a pattern catchy, accessible and memorable. Remember the following phrases?
“Blood, sweat, and tears.”
“Mind, body, spirit.”
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Three is as much as our memory registers can handle. It’s symmetrical, harmonic and resonates; it connects with the mind. Even if you can think of ten more things to say, keep it to three.
This is the foundation to your house, what everything else is built on. I qualified the word “claims” above on purpose. Until you have supported your value propositions with evidence and proof, they are just that—claims.
What’s your proof? You have made these fantastic statements as to your value, but even with the best will in the world, I am going to need more than that. Who have you done those things for? What are the outcomes they achieved? What’s in it for me?
You need to tell me in such a way that I can see myself in those customers. I should want to learn more about them so that I can achieve those same outcomes for myself. Once again, use the rule of three—your three best proof points should always be on the tip of your tongue.
In part two I will be laying out a process and a set of templates that can be used to create a great Messaging House. Don’t just stare at a blank whiteboard for hours hoping the answer will reveal itself—there is a better way!
And the great thing is this: done right, this process harnesses the views of multiple people in your organization (not just the C-suite) as well as your customers. Collaborating like this creates a better, more informed final product that can illuminate and resolve internal misalignment along the way, creating better buy-in and understanding across your whole organization.
Until then, I give you the following challenge: The next colleague who walks into your office (or, more likely, enters a Zoom call), ask them this: “If you had 90 seconds with a potential customer, how would you tell the story of what we do?”
Think about that, and next time we’ll talk about how to turn that story into a solid, compelling Messaging House.