My absolute favorite client task is to create foundational content as an anchor for all marketing, communications, and public relations.
It used to be that a client would come to us for media exposure or to create an e-blast, and we’d take one step backwards to articulate their brand story. Before we could achieve the immediate goal of public exposure, we had to understand who, exactly, this client was.
Or rather, they had to understand it. And that’s the crux of foundational marketing messaging.
Branding is a tricky thing. It can be easy to choose the images and words that stand for what you do every day, but mostly it’s an incredibly difficult task.
I’ve seen logos that are simply a color and some letters, nothing remarkable, nothing memorable. That’s not a logo in my mind, but plenty of businesses get by with just that.
The same goes for foundational messaging, the brand narrative, the storytelling that drives all your marketing and public relations. Most business owners are content with the story they’ve always used, or the lack of a story. Just do what you do, and that should be enough, right?
Except we are living in a connection economy, and stories are our currency. Marketing guru Seth Godin said that, and he’s 100% right.
There are so many different options for any purchase, any service or product. What distinguishes one brand from its competitor?
In our experience, the brands that create lasting connections are the ones that win loyal, repeat business. The brands that actually care about their customers. The brands with a human concern – because after all, people do business with people.
In the last two years, we started offering stand-alone packages to create foundational messaging and marketing strategies for clients. After a decade in business, seeing over and over again that foundational stories are not a given, that a company or a nonprofit might not actually know its best story or the right words to share with the public, we decided to do something about it.
And personally, this is my favorite kind of work.
It’s incredibly exciting to explore the why behind a business or organization. Why do you exist?
Why do customers choose you?
What do you offer that no one else does, or in a way unlike any competitor?
Why go to work every day?
Why do your people stick with you?
What inspires everyone behind your brand? Why is it needed in today’s world?
These are deep questions to grapple with, but fun to explore. The answers can transform the work you do – and lead to ever-greater horizons.
We begin with a client conversation, usually lasting an hour or two, where we explore the origins of their organization, the inspiration behind the brand, the legacy, the history, the milestones in their timeline. We ask big questions and small ones. We comb for details. We ask to interview staff and customers.
And that’s where the magic lives. Personal stories of satisfaction, of hope, of dreams-come-true, of possibility.
We have worked with nonprofits and startups, schools and universities. We have a special expertise in working with Waldorf schools and yet, the foundational messaging for each school within this same path is wildly different. Yes, they contain many of the same components, but each is a world unto itself, with its own constituents and memories.
If this sounds exciting and important, consider walking on your own journey toward your best narrative. And while you do, keep these three tips in mind:
- Your best business story isn’t always about YOU. Foundational messaging must speak to people outside your organization. It must connect heart-to-heart with those running your organization and those running to it. It helps to gain some outside perspective on what you do every day, from an objective third party who can reflect on what words and ideas shine bright.
- Less is always more. Foundational messaging includes mission, vision, and tagline, as well as a longer narrative that forms the foundation of your marketing language. Also, there’s a boilerplate to paste into brochures and at the bottom of press releases. Mission, vision, and tagline must be short, to the point, memorable, exciting. Mission focuses on why you do what you do right now, and vision should look to the future, about the big dreams you have for your work. Make sure every word is there for a good reason.
- Consult a lot of voices. Take your time developing foundational messaging. We like to have at least three months with a client just to work this out – to give us time to speak with a variety of people who know something unique about the organization. Lasting narratives take time to build. Don’t rush the process!
I’ve devoted my life to writing stories. For as long as I can remember, stories were the way I made sense of the world. It’s no wonder, then, that my lifelong passion and pursuit grew into a company that helps others find their right words.
Lynne Golodner is Chief Creative Officer of Your People LLC.