A good messaging strategy outlines the guiding principles your brand follows. From what you write to how you write it.

Your messaging strategy shows who you are, what you do and who you do it for. It gives you, and other writers, a process to follow each time you write.

What is a messaging strategy?

A messaging strategy is a document created to keep your messaging consistent across all assets and deliverables.

Your strategy outlines the ways your brand will present itself in all communication – from your website to your Instagram captions.

Why should you have one?

Having a messaging strategy is important to your business because it provides consistency.

You’ll have a working document you can refer to and check your work against every time you write.

This document is meant to be shared with anyone involved in your business.

Because your strategy gives an overview of the messages your brand wants to be known for, it’s a good idea for everyone to be familiar with it.

And the great thing about a messaging strategy is that it’s an ever-changing document.

You can add and delete sections, modify them to reflect your new products and update your style choices.

If you create it at the start, it’ll grow with you as your business and customers evolve.

What’s in a strategy?

Since this is Messaging Strategy 101, I’m going to give you a rundown of the must-haves required to create an effective plan for your brand.

These will get your strategy off to a great start.

You’ll document how to best communicate with your target audience in a meaningful and consistent way.

And when you know your audience and how your brand can best serve them, that’s when you’ll be able to create compelling copy.

Because your messages are all going to align, thanks to your strategy.

Now let’s break down each must-have, so you can start creating your messaging strategy document.

Know your audience

When you’re conducting voice of customer research, you’re gathering data on everything to do with your ideal customer.

What kind of demographic categories do they fall into?

What words do they use when talking about their pain points, solutions or lifestyle?

What matters to them – why might they be interested in your product?

Doing your research before you start writing out your messaging strategy will give you a solid idea of what your customers want and need to hear from you.

Take Burt’s Bees, for example. They know exactly who their target market is.

They have a large section in their About Us tab featuring articles and reports their customers would find interesting and important.

Close up of About Us section on Burt's bees website. three columns are laid out below the open section. Text reads: Burt's Bees, true to nature. Our story. Our impact. Ingredients from nature. Responsible sourcing. Recyclable packaging. 
Featured. Our impact report 2020. Stronger together: diversity, equity and inclusion commitments. Five ways to change for nature. Understanding natural origin. Remembering Burt Shavitz. Our approach to skincare. From the source: beeswax. From the source: shea butter.

Collecting the data

  • Send out surveys to customers or subscribers
  • Talk to people you think would be a good fit for your product and ask open-ended questions
  • Get into online forums to see what people are talking about with regards to similiar products, solutions or pain points
  • Review mine to find out what people are saying about other solutions (Amazon, blog posts, YouTube)

Look for pains, wants, objections that might pop up again and again.

Watch this tutorial and meet me below.

“We read. We synthesize. We ask more questions. We listen more.” – Joanna

What this looks like in your strategy

Once you’ve gathered a good amount of data, your task is to organize it into a meaningful and easy-to-understand format.

Organize your voice of customer research into the following sections:

  • Customer demographics
  • Problems or motivators
  • Desired outcomes
  • Hesitations
  • Solutions they’ve tried
  • Competitors (what customers like and don’t like)
  • What they need to say yes to your offer
  • Anything that stood out to you

You can create a table or create sections with bullet lists.

Whatever you find easiest to navigate.

Know yourself

Your USP (unique selling proposition) describes who you are, who you serve, what you do and why you’re the best one to do it.

It’s your main brand statement and one that you’re going to know off the top of your head.

Writing your USP

This requires some deep thought on your end, but good news!

All that research you’ve already done is going to be very helpful.

Look at your competitors. Look at the messages that stood out in your research. And look at what you specifically can do to gain an advantage or solve a problem better.

Think about what sets you apart and how you can use that to convince your customers you’re the best choice.

Burt’s Bees embody a love of nature, and it comes through in everything they do, from the copy to the way their products are made.

Burt Shavitz, older man with grey beard, wearing a railway conductors hat and inspecting a tray of bees and beeswax. Text reads: Burt and Roxanne valued the simple life, and knew the importance and personal worth of staying connected to nature. Their lifestyle was low-impact, and socially and environmentally conscious. As back-to-basics, D-I-Y types, they were ahead of their time – their approach is as compelling now as ever. 
Roxanne used to say that since we take from nature, we must respect and preserve it. Today, we follow in her and Burt's footsteps by using the best ingredients from nature, and in turn respecting nature so we can all live well.
Burt Shavitz, Founder of Burt’s Bees

What this looks like in your strategy

Your USP and any mission statement should go at the beginning of the document.

These are the main messages your brand will convey, so everyone should know them.

You can include variations of this message, such as:

  • Main USP
  • Elevator pitch
  • Social media bio
  • Publicity bio
  • Mission statement

Know what you stand for

The next section in your messaging strategy should cover what’s important to your brand.

What’s your promise to your customers?

What do you believe in?

What or who do you support?

What’s your mission?

These all help customers relate to your brand because they value the same things.

And being relatable makes you a good buying choice.

“77% of consumers buy from brands that share their values.”

Brandfolder

This is why many companies, like Burt’s Bees, state their values right on their homepage to grab the attention of their target audience.

Text reads: consciously made since 1984. Clean, effective formulas made with care from the number one dermatologist recommended natural skincare brand. 
Ingredients from nature. Responsibly sourced. Leaping bunny certified. Recyclable packaging. Landfill-free operations. Carbon neutral certified.

Finding your values

The key to determining your values is simply looking at what you already do and talking about it.

For example, your business likely values the environment if you’re trying to reduce your waste and carbon footprint.

Also, look at what customers are saying – they might love your brand for something you hadn’t thought about!

What this looks like in your strategy

These come right after your USP because everyone in the business should know them.

Create a list defining your values, but keep these tips in mind:

  • Write the value in simple and specific terms
  • Make sure they sound like your brand’s voice
  • Make them actionable
  • Make them meaningful to your business

Know how you sound

Your voice is like your brand’s personality.

It’s how you want to sound when talking to your audience.

Including words, grammar and style.

Finding your voice

How do you want your brand voice to come across?

Happy? Serious? Excited? Sarcastic?

If your brand was a person, who would they be? What are they like? How would they sound?

What does your brand represent and how can you best convey that through your voice?

To figure this out, look at your voice of customer research and take note of how your audience speaks.

This should influence the way you speak to them because your brand will resonate more if it sounds familiar.

Talk to other members of your team, even family and friends.

They’ll be able to tell you how you sound, especially if you are your brand.

Burt’s Bees includes “nature” and “natural” a lot because their voice is very eco-conscious.

They come across as friendly, optimistic and knowledgeable.

Image of young, attractive, black woman wearing burt's bees lip gloss. Text reads: beauty powered by nature. Do what's natural for you. Soft and simple. Bold and colourful. It's makeup that reveals-not-conceals your unique beauty.

What this looks like in your strategy

Once you’ve developed the information about your voice, create a style guideline in your brand messaging document.

The style guideline should explain how your business expresses its voice.

It should include:

  • Words describing your voice personality (at least 3)
  • Words to use, and not to use
  • Grammar rules to follow
  • Punctuation used often

Refer to this section each time you write a piece of content or copy to ensure you’re staying on-brand.

Putting it all together

Once you’ve done the research and created a messaging strategy, the copy will come.

As Jo says,

“… the best messages – the ones that help you sell your prospects a better version of themselves – come from the people who have bought or are likely to buy your solution.”

Joanna Wiebe, Where Stellar Messages Come From (link opens to download a free eBook)

By documenting your messaging strategy, you have a solid foundation to write copy that speaks to your audience, engages them, and gives them a reason to choose your brand first.