Communications Strategist, Creative Director, Writer
This post comes from Melinda Cross. Melinda is a communications strategist whose career experience has ranged from assistant press secretary on Capitol Hill to group creative director at a large Chicago advertising agency. Her fresh, creative concepts and compelling copy have helped strengthen brand communications for leading businesses and not-for-profit organizations including: American Dairy Association, HSBC, McDonald’s, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton, Aon Hewitt, Zurich North America, Radius Global Market Research, Abbott Laboratories, CVS Caremark, MMPI/The Merchandise Mart, Loyola University, Goodman Theatre, High Museum of Art, Chicago Opera Theater and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among many others.
Marketers are fortunate to have an abundance of messaging channels in their toolbox in which to reach their target audiences—direct, web, email, mobile, social media (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn), print, broadcast, in-store, call center and more. A great deal of planning resources and time is spent determining the appropriate multichannel strategy for a campaign using data analytics to deliver insights into customer behavior and response. Depending on budget levels, a multichannel touchpoint plan may use anywhere from a minimum to three channels to a dozen or more. But the strategic work is only half completed once the ink on the touchpoint flowchart dries.
If your plan calls for multiple touchpoints over weeks or months with your target audience, managing the message flow is equally as critical as the channel choice. Marketers operate in a “what do you have new for me today?” customer environment. Attention spans are shorter than ever (can we say 140 characters?). Inboxes are overflowing with writers’ best attempts at “open me-read me” subject lines. Even the LinkedIn newsfeed is hard for customers to keep up with and sort according to their interests and preferences (wouldn’t you love to be a LinkedIn Influencer and have all those eyeballs on your message?).
Cutting through the clutter requires strategic marketers to also be strategic messagers—determining the right words at the right time in the right place. Think of strategic messaging as an unfolding story—how do you engage your audience with a compelling beginning, middle and end to your campaign message? Too many marketers think that maximizing their channel spend means they’ve got to say as much as they can squeeze in at every touchpoint along the way. Or to keep hammering home the same point each and every time. That’s a sure-fire way to get your audience to tune out after a couple of touchpoints. A well-honed messaging strategy helps you avoid sloppy and dull storytelling.
So how do you strategically plan your messaging? For starters, map out the “RCAs” of each touchpoint:
- Relevant: What’s the most relevant message for your audience at that touchpoint in their decision pathway? You’d be annoyed if a salesperson in your favorite store started dumping all the information they had on a product in the first 60 seconds—some messages are more relevant early on in the conversation. Same rule applies for campaign messaging in print, on air, and in the digital world. And a message that is appropriate for Twitter doesn’t always translate well to the web or print.
- Concise: How can you get across your message as concisely as possible? Put your journalist hat on and think about what makes the most compelling lede for your story—a short paragraph at best. This often takes a lot of editorial discipline to cut out anything but the most critical messages at that juncture. You can always give your audience directions to get more information if they want—a landing page link in the digital world or a web address in the print or broadcast world.
- Actionable: Don’t leave your audience standing alone in the middle of the field—always have a clear and actionable path forward towards the final goal. It can be an invitation to learn more, call to speak to a human being, sign in to their account, or anything that moves them closer to a final decision.
If you’re a marketer looking for the best ROI for your campaign, take the planning time to strategize your message by decision cycle timing and channel focus will pay off.