The B2BNN Primer on Messaging Architecture

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Shared values, shared business goals and shared communications goals are the trinity of corporate culture. They turn co-workers into teams, businesses into brands and notions into values. And, like all idealized attributes, they are easier to envision than to realize. It can all leave clients and prospective clients confused.

That’s where messaging architecture comes in. It puts shared values and goals at the top of the communications hierarchy.

The Consistency of Values and the Value of Consistency

“The goal of a messaging architecture is to get everyone on the content production team on the same page regarding brand positioning and messaging,” says Ahava Leibtag, author of The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web and President of Aha Media. “By explaining how we want the customers to see us, and the facts we are going to use to back that up, the same messages are circulated again and again regarding a brand. This creates brand coherence—the gold standard for all brands.”

Messaging architecture defines what a company seeks to accomplish with its products and services, defines how it will accomplish those goals and what it all means in terms of product or service quality, customer service, technological innovation cycles and corporate behaviors like transparent governance and environmental stewardship.

The emphasis of messaging architecture is on what is shared. The core message and strategies discovered through the development process must be shared on all communications channels and throughout all the business sectors an enterprise may have.

“It creates the foundation for clearly articulating organizational strategy at every point of interaction with your brand, both internally and externally—and increases cohesion and capacity as a result,” says Matthew Schwartz, Founder and Director of Strategy at Constructive, an NYC-based brand strategy and design firm.

Simple Tools to Perform Complex Tasks

B2B experts have been writing about messaging architecture for years, but discussions about it are just coming back into prominence. There are many reasons for this renewed focus.

“Certainly the increase in communication channels, and media overexposure is one reason,” says Schwartz. “Short-form communications such as social media, in particular, make it important to have a clear sense of how your organizational strategy is translated into clear brand messaging.”

Creating a messaging architecture demands that companies review their communications objectives, define their audiences’ needs …and the relevance of their offerings to those audiences. It also demand that they refer all communications back to those foundations. It is an energetic, complex and collaborative process that results in simple, shared core messages.

“We are all looking for simple tools to do complex tasks,” says Leibtag. “The messaging architecture is a simple tool to use but challenging to create. I think it was hard for companies to really focus in an ever-changing media landscape—now that they see this is the new normal, they are returning to these types of tools to create a coherent and consistent brand story no matter the channel or context.”

A company’s values are central to defining that coherent and consistent brand story.

“I don’t think values are becoming more difficult to communicate in terms of just expressing them. Those challenges are the same as they’ve ever been. But having those values heard and understood is a different issue,” says Schwartz.

“Lower barriers to entry for pretty much every product or service is one challenge—the traditional barriers of capital, production methods, even intellectual property are lower than ever before. One person and a great idea can launch a wildly successful organization through so many different avenues now that the real barrier to entry is the strength of a brand. And the other is being able to be remembered by an audience—to be first of mind—in such a saturated media environment.”

Models from the Not-For-Profit Sector

For inspiration in creating and applying their own messaging architecture, B2B enterprises should look to the not-for-profit sector where there has historically been a strong emphasis on messaging architecture that is driven by values.

The process of building a messaging architecture demands that B2B enterprises, like not-for-profits, define their larger purposes.

“Audiences are increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of their choices. And supporting a brand is a choice,” says Schwartz. “The more business leaders embrace this trend and lead with values and ideals that are aligned with what’s meaningful to their audiences’ more altruistic motivations, the stronger their emotional appeal will be—and the greater the barrier to entry for me-too brands that try to copy them.”

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Kate Baggott

Kate Baggott

Kate Baggott is the Managing Editor of B2BNN. Her technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun and the Bay Street Bull. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories. Links to recently published pieces can be found at www.katebaggott.com