A messaging strategy is a document created to outline the ways your brand communicates to its audience. It’s what you write and how you write it.
But how involved do copywriters get in the messaging strategy?
The award for most-infuriating-answer-ever goes to:
Because how involved you get in your client’s messaging strategy is up to you.
You decide how in-depth you want to go and what kind of services you want to offer your clients.
What are your options?
In my opinion, there are two ways copywriters can work with messaging strategies – you can work with what your client has or create the document for your client.
Are you happy to get the answers from the client and go away to write your copy?
Or do you want to help them create a messaging strategy to align the client’s communications in all areas?
All copywriters should be aware of some items on their client’s messaging strategy if they have one (we’ll go through that).
But unless you want to help your client create their messaging strategy, you can use their responses to a detailed creative brief.
What is a messaging strategy?
You need to know what we’re talking about in order to decide your level of involvement.
A messaging strategy is a document that lays out how a business wants its communications (emails, ads, website pages, social media posts, landing page, etc.) to be written.
Every time a form of communication is written to the business’ audience by anyone, it can be checked against the messaging strategy to ensure it follows the guidelines set out.
For example, a messaging strategy can include:
- Voice of customer research (VOC)
- Unique selling proposition (USP)
- Brand values
- Brand voice
In this tutorial, Nikki Elbaz shows how to organize your VOC so you can use it to create messaging that speaks to your audience.
A more in-depth messaging strategy can include:
- Buyer persona(s)
- Proof to back up the USP
- Positioning statement
- Big Idea
- Brand promise
- Brand personality
- Brand story
Why should copywriters care about the messaging strategy?
You should care about your client’s messaging strategy, or lack thereof, because it’ll make your job a heck of a lot easier and more straightforward.
Think of it this way:
You try to write copy for a business and you ask your client these questions:
Who’s your ideal customer?
What is your USP?
Do you have any voice of customer research?
But they have no solid answers and they want to appeal to everyone.
It’s very difficult to write effective copy for a business that doesn’t know who they want to target and why those people should buy from them.
These are questions the messaging strategy would answer.
Your One Reader
Throughout Copy School, Jo talks about your One Reader.
The one person all your copy should be speaking to.
When your client has a messaging strategy (or at least defined ideas) in place about their ideal customer and the value their business brings to that customer, they know who they’re speaking to.
And so do you.
This will make writing the copy so much easier because you have a direction to go in and you won’t spend more time than necessary researching customers your client doesn’t want to attract.
Maintaining message consistency is a must
Of course, being the wonderful copywriter you are, you’ll do all the research and find out who your client’s business should be talking to.
But, even if you do the work and your copy is brilliant, what happens when the other parts of your client’s website are not in line with what you wrote?
Will their customers notice?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Will it affect the client’s conversions?
Because when messaging isn’t cohesive, it creates doubt in the customer’s mind.
Anna Bolton has this to say about the difficulty copywriters face when asked to write one piece of a business’ message,
“The fact is, you can’t write one product page that’s optimized to convert when the rest of the messaging is not.
It makes it very complicated.”Anna Bolton
Anna goes on to mention that noticing the site-wide messaging was off most likely undermined her opportunity to work with this particular client because she knew they didn’t have the budget for a full messaging strategy.
Which brings us to this point:
You need to think about your client
As in Anna’s example above, it’s not always about selling your client to the next level of your services.
It’s about knowing where they are in their business journey and if they have the resources at that point to overhaul their messaging strategy and brand presence.
Your job as a copywriter is to advocate for your client and do the work to create the best outcome for your client.
What do copywriters need to know about messaging?
From my experience, a lot of business owners won’t have fully fleshed out messaging strategies for you to follow.
However, they should have some researched ideas of what they want their messaging to look like and who you’re going to write the copy for.
When you first start working with a client, find out:
- Who their ideal customer is
- What research they’ve done to back this up
- What their brand values are
- What their USP is
- What makes them different and better than the competition (in their words and in their customers’ words)
- What do they want their brand voice to sound like
These are great ways to start getting into your customer’s mind and being able to write great copy.
Asking the right questions and learning how your copy will fit in the grand scheme of your client’s marketing plan is always helpful.
This way, you can find out what customers will see before and after they read your copy.
Plus, you can align your copy with the existing materials.
Wistia‘s home page and product page are good examples of consistency in messaging.
Both pages feature similar copy to ensure their customers enjoy a seamless experience.
The copy on both pages speaks to how Wistia’s videos will help you grow your business.
What if you want to take it a step further?
If you find that some of your client’s messages are inconsistent, you can do a few things:
- You can ignore it (should you really though?)
- You can mention it and offer guidance in those areas
- You can offer to help them create a full messaging strategy
Like I said at the beginning, how involved you get in your client’s messaging strategy is up to you.
You can write effective copy by having a conversation with your client and answering the questions listed in the above section.
Or create a messaging strategy.
It’s important to keep in mind that creating an entire messaging strategy requires a lot of work, a lot of conversations and a lot of research.
Remember, you’re creating the rules that all other writers will follow for this business. So it has to be a pretty comprehensive document.
Anna says you can deal with messaging strategy inconsistency in a few ways,
“You can write your part with messaging that’s conversion optimized, but if the customer encounters the brand at other touchpoints and the messaging is different, it can be an issue.
Maybe you just infuse the brand messaging in your copy.
Maybe you want to get compensated for it. You think the client is in a position to pay you for real brand messaging work and in a position to redo the rest of their online presence.”Anna Bolton
What will you do?
As copywriters, messaging strategy is an important part to look at when writing, but it doesn’t have to be a big document for you to reap the benefits.
Having a messaging strategy is great if you have access to one, but if you don’t, decide what you want to do about it.
Do you want to write the copy using your client’s copy brief, or do you want to create the strategy for them?
And, if you’re looking to craft copy that converts and nails your client’s message, Copy School can help.
I’m going to leave you with a quote from Joel Klettke about copywriters’ involvement in strategy,
“Copywriters get pulled into strategic conversations because through the research we do, we get closer at times to the customer at that moment in time than anyone in our client’s organization might actually be and we come at it with fresh eyes.
It’s inevitable that copywriters get involved in strategy if we’re doing that research piece.
Because we’re coming with recommendations and guidance.
We should be able to justify why we’ve done what we’ve done and why we feel confident that it’s the right move.
Otherwise we’re just guessing.”Joel Klettke