Part 2: Laying the Foundation for a Rock-Solid Marketing Program with Core Messages

Quick! What are the three most important things people need to know about your organization?

You only get three because the average person won’t remember more. And since our ability to retain information is so limited, these messages need to be relevant, simple, compelling, and memorable.

These three concepts are also known as your core messages, which make up the second layer of your messaging framework a strategic set of messages intended to shape perceptions and influence behaviors among your target audiences.

A typical messaging framework consists of three levels of messaging: your positioning statement, your core messages, and key messages tailored for specific target audiences.

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In order to have a rock-solid marketing program, your messaging framework must be the center of your marketing universe, guiding and influencing all outreach efforts, including fundraising activities. Ideally, it’s an internal shared document that everyone refers to for all interactions with key stakeholders – including individual donors, institutional funders, clients, volunteers, employees, partners, etc.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”2U90p” via=”yes” ]In order to have a rock-solid marketing program, your messaging framework must be the center of your marketing universe! [/ctt]

Like your positioning statement, your core messages make up the foundation of your marketing program and play an important role in the success of your communications efforts.

Your core messages should be woven throughout all of your mar/com and fundraising efforts, including the more obvious places (brochures, annual reports, the “about” section of your website, etc.) and more subtly through stories about your clients/beneficiaries, social media updates, appeal letters, and speeches and presentations.

How to Craft Your Core Messages

Core messages are often extensions of your positioning (or elevator) statement, which declares who you are, what you do, who you do it for and how you’re doing it differently or better than the competition. (Refer to Part I of this series for more on developing your positioning statement.)

Still not sure which three messages to highlight? Start with the three most common questions you’re asked after presenting your positioning/elevator statement. Do they sound like this?

  1. Why? Why is this issue important? Why should I care?
  2. How? How do you do what you say you do?
  3. What? What is the impact of your work?

In Part I, we came up with the following positioning statement for the fake organization, Saving Penguins:

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Positioning statements generally offer a 500-foot view of an organization. Your core messages allow you to go a little deeper while still remaining somewhat broad in scope.

Core Message Examples

After sharing your positioning/elevator statement, you might anticipate the same three questions asked above. Here’s an example of how they might be answered and ultimately developed into Saving Penguins’ core organizational messages:

  • Why should I care? This is a broad issue with massive implications. Approximately 42,000 penguins die each year from broken wings. Since broken wings impair their ability to swim and hunt for fish, the majority of these penguins die of starvation. This directly impacts penguin populations which in turn affects the delicate balance of the Arctic ecosystem.
  • How are you helping these penguins or making a positive impact on the situation? Through our team of experienced medics, we help penguins fully heal from their injuries, offer physical therapy to teach them how to swim and hunt again and provide counseling services to help them overcome the emotional trauma of vicious shark attacks.
  • What is the impact of your work? Through our holistic healing approach, more than 87% of the penguins we serve are able to make a full recovery and live healthy and prosperous lives. This work is directly impacting penguin populations and ultimately contributing to the stabilization of the Arctic ecosystem.

And just like that, we’ve completed the first two levels of our messaging framework.

Your Messaging Sweet Spot

As you determine and develop your core messages, you’ll want to consider a few key factors, including:

  • Your organization’s goals: Are your core messages in line with your organization’s goals?
  • Your organization’s strengths: Do a SWOT analysis to assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Consider developing core messages around your greatest strengths.
  • Your target audiences: What matters to them? Do your messages resonate with them? How do they perceive you? How do you want them to perceive you?
  • The key outcomes your programs deliver: Are you able to articulate the value you provide without getting bogged down in program details?
  • The competition: Are you clearly articulating how your approach enables you to address the problem better and more effectively?

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Once you’ve determined your core messages, you’ll want to substantiate them with proof points (i.e. facts, statistics) and examples or anecdotes in the form of client testimonies, stories, case studies, etc.

Key Principals of a Strong Messaging Strategy

Finally, make sure your core messages are guided by the four key principles of a good messaging strategy:

  • Relevance: Are they relevant to your key stakeholders? Do they intersect with their interests?
  • Simplicity: Are they simply stated and easy to understand? (Ditch the jargon and acronyms please.)
  • Memorable: Are they compelling statements that leave an impression? Are they easy to recall and repeat?
  • Compelling: Are the strong, meaningful statements designed to inspire action?

Still with me? Make my day by giving this article a share on Twitter! [ctt template=”1″ link=”Bf0M7″ via=”yes” ]Learn how to develop your nonprofit’s messaging architecture today! [/ctt]

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where we’ll focus on developing targeted messages for specific key audiences. Once you’ve nailed those, your messaging framework will be complete and you’ll have a strong foundation for a rock-solid marketing program.

Do you have a messaging framework in place? Need help developing one? We’ve got a one-day workshop for that. For more details, ping us here.

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