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  • Writer's pictureBig Sky Public Relations


“People don’t understand what we do.” “Why does the media keep misquoting us?” “Why would they say that about us?” When it comes to marketing and public relations, brands of all sizes in every industry may face similar frustrations. With the right perspective in place, the questions posed above can help an organization take huge strides toward developing more effective communication.

Organizations that pose these type of questions generally take one of two approaches: 1) “We are responsible for communicating in a way that minimizes confusion. Obviously, we need to improve our methods” OR 2) ”Obviously, others are at fault for misrepresenting us.”

Many well-meaning organizations fall into the second category. Unfortunately, this leaves little opportunity to better their approach. As a result, many believe they cannot change the game. For the doubters, there is good news, but it means accepting a new perspective.

This is the simple truth: Miscommunication starts at the source. If an organization is frustrated with its portrayal in the marketplace or by the media, it must go back to basics. An organization must become the first, best place for information about itself.

This sounds simplistic, but it takes work to drill down to the organization’s core and build messaging from the ground up. It is challenging to take that messaging and develop it into a consistent marketing and communication campaigns but, with persistence and commitment, it can be done.

So where to start?

Start by getting the facts straight.

1. What is our “why”? As in, why does the organization exist and how is it improving the world, your community, etc.? If the answer to that question is not clear to your team, you can bet it won’t be clear to the media or your key audiences. Take the time to brainstorm, discuss and know the “why” before you even think about the “how” of building a website, drafting new marketing materials or launching a press campaign.

2. Clarify core values. Successful companies know who they are and who they are not. It’s not a “better/worse” proposition; it is simply knowing and owning elements that define your organization. Some organizations may emphasize creativity, others sustainability and still others efficiency. Knowing and communicating the company’s integral values is helps an organization connect with audiences who hold similar values.

3. Define competitive advantages. MBAs call these “key differentiators.” Start with the basics – what do you do best? How is your service or product better, faster or cheaper? Clarifying competitive advantages is critical. (For those building an in-depth marketing plan, this article provides a great outline of key differentiators to consider.)

4. Develop key messages. If your dream client remembered only three things about your organization, what is most important? Take the why, the core values and the competitive advantages determined in the first three steps and use them to develop the organization’s key messages. Keep messages short and simple so staff and customers can easily internalize and reiterate the messages. An organization can effectively communicate only a few things – three to five key messages are optimal. More than five, and you’ll lose your audience.

Start with these suggestions and take the time to work and rework these steps with your team. In order to build a successful campaign, you must commit to laying a great foundation; begin by inviting multiple members of your staff from all levels to participate. Over the course of a week or a month, revisit the different ideas developed and ask the team if they still resonate.

Once the foundation is laid, your organization is ready to take the next step in becoming the first, best place for information about itself. More on that this month.

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