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May 3, 2010

Content Boot Camp: Send the Right Messages

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So, you’ve begun to figure out who your audience is and what your competitive advantage may be, now what? Focus on two things:

1. What your key messages are.
2. How you’re going to convey those messages.

A message is something you want to communicate over and over again to ensure it’s engraved in your readers’ minds when they think about your brand. What is it you want to say about your brand? What does your brand say about you?


What Messages Does Your Brand Send?
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Drill Sergeant 101

Drill sergeants have no trouble getting their message across. Maybe it’s the decibel with which they deliver the message, or the sheer terror that occurs when the message comes mixed with mouth spit hurling at your face, but I digress.

Something can be learned from drill sergeants. They know what to say and how to say it in order to get a favorable reaction. Now, take that principle and apply it to your brand. What is its key message and how will you repeatedly communicate it in order to get a favorable reaction from your audience?

To clarify, “repeatedly communicate” doesn’t mean you should reiterate the same phrase a hundred times in your website. But, you do want to establish specific messages about your brand and communicate them effectively in various ways throughout your Web copy.

For example, is your brand about legacy and tradition or about youth and leisure? What you say about your brand will build the image you want portray to your audience.

Say you own a company that manufactures a line of high-quality cookware. Because the quality is high, the price point must also be high in order for you to make a profit. You know that you’ll need to market it to a more affluent audience or those who aspire to be affluent by framing up the message in a way that attracts people who enjoy the finer things in life.

Examples:

Web copy that doesn’t uphold brand messaging or tone for this cookware company:

“Buy our pots and pans because they’re full of awesomeness. Dude, let’s not beat around the bush: You like to eat, don’t you? Well, they cook stuff you like to eat.”

Web copy that does uphold brand messaging for this cookware company:

“When you invest in our platinum cookware, you join an elite society of people who also value the art of cooking.”

Notice the key messages in the second example: “Invest” versus “buy,” “elite society,” “the art of cooking” and who knows what “platinum” actually means but just threw it in there for good measure (Disclaimer: in the real world, don’t use jargon carelessly). We can also reference the above examples next week when we talk “tone.”

Now, if you take the latter example and sprinkle in the unique selling proposition (USP) of the cookware, you’re really getting somewhere with your copy. To learn more about the USP, check out last week’s post, “Your Company Is Great … So What?

Messaging may also vary with current events. The key to writing relevant messages is to stay abreast of what’s happening in the market and respond accordingly. Content is a crucial element of marketing your brand.

For example, how would you spin the luxury brand in times of recession? True, the crowd you’re marketing to may not feel the effects of an economic downturn as much, but many people will still tighten their wallets.

In this case, maybe the messaging would focus on bringing friends together for dinner parties instead of dining out. Dinner parties still reflect a sense of status, so you haven’t cheapened the brand’s image. Or maybe your cookware has a lifetime warranty, and you can play up the fact that it’ll be the last investment your clients will ever have to make, thus saving money in the long run.

Pump Up Your Interview Questionnaire

Ready to bulk up your interview questions? In past weeks, we’ve been building a strong interview questionnaire that fleshes out important information about a company or brand before you begin writing your Web content. If you’re not up to speed on the purpose of the questionnaire, check out this month’s SEO Newsletter and the article titled, “Tackle SEO Web Content with Ease.” Questions specific to identifying messages for the brand:

  • What does each of your identified target audiences believe about your brand, its products and/or services?
  • What is the most important message that must be communicated to all your audiences about your brand, its products and/or services?
  • What are the key messages that must be communicated to each of your audiences about your brand, its products and/or services.
  • What kind of personality do you want to create for your brand? How will your brand portray itself in its communications? What mood do you want to set? Just a few examples of “tone” include:
    • Friendly, youthful, fun, sophisticated, corporate, authoritative
  • What is the feeling you want your clients or consumers to experience when they interact with your company either online or in person?

Next week, we’ll wrap up with the fourth and final Content Boot Camp, where we’ll talk tone. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to download a sample interview questionnaire you can use when tackling Web content projects. Keep up the good work, we’re almost there!

Content Boot Camp Series

Part 1: Performing For Your Audience
Part 2: Your Company Is Great … So What?
Part 3: Send the Right Messages
Part 4: Run a Mile in Your Reader’s Shoes





3 responses to “Content Boot Camp: Send the Right Messages”

  1. Chris Rice writes:

    I enjoy your articles and recently attended Bruce’s class at ad:tech SF.

    If we follow your advice and the advice from the class we’re to write 300-500 word articles for each page. This doesn’t always jive with what we thing the user wants (quick easy answers).

    So, with regard to content boot camp, and SEO which is more important, 3-500 words, or user brief user friendly pages?

    Does it make sense to use anchors, or ‘read more’ links to have smaller text pages that link to larget ones?

    Thanks!
    Chris

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Chris! Thanks for your comment — and I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts! It’s best to stick with the recommended word count, because content is an important aspect of SEO. The good thing is that there are ways to manipulate it when it feels like the page is content heavy.

    Three hundred to 500 words may look like a lot in a Word doc, but it’s not so bad on the Web page. But, your suggestion of using anchor links is a good fix, especially if you’re dealing with FAQ pages, for example. The reader can scan the questions and access the link for the answer without feeling overwhelmed with all the copy on the page.

    And you’re right about the fact that people want things quick online, which is why a lot of times people won’t read through all your content regardless, but it’s always good to have it for SEO purposes. This brings us back to the importance of filling your pages with relevant and useful content, even if people aren’t reading word for word.

    To deal with waning attention spans, you can format your copy in ways that keep the reader’s attention by featuring summaries at the tops of the pages, using bulleted lists and subheads throughout to break up the content, and supplementing copy with images and so on.

    Hope that answers your question! I’d be happy to answer any more you may have.

  3. Sample Questionnaires writes:

    Thank you Jessica. Your site is helping my students a lot.



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