Business leaders outside of communications struggle to understand messaging.
It sometimes strikes people as a nebulous and becomes equated with PR or marketing snake oil. It is not.
Messaging requires research inside the organization, research outside the organization, reflection and sometimes, even a little tough love. People – myself included – have equally strange affinities and aversions to some words, when what really matters is the words that customers, prospects, or other stakeholders use and understand.
The output is clarity of mission, vision, similarities and differences. It answers why, because as Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Messaging ought to be an exhausting mental exercise – and one that needs refreshing from time-to-time.
Every action a business takes or communicates ought to trace back to those messages. If you get the message wrong, then the investment in marketing or communications could prove wasteful in the future. You cannot wait to come to that conclusion a year from now.
As the old marketing saying goes, half of the budget is wasted, you’re just not sure which half.
Messaging does not mean regurgitating words – you can send the same message, or reinforce a message, with different words. In fact, people can send a message with no words. Symbols, design, choices, arrangements – these all send messages.
And that’s why messaging is the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing links [UML]. As with every week, below are three articles I’ve vetted and recommend for your perusal.
1) B2B Messaging: Add More Insight and Less Product
In a world where every company is a self-proclaimed “leading provider” saying your product is #1 is not a winning marketing or sales strategy.
That’s my take both before and after reading the survey research reviewed by the Bulldog Reporter. An article titled, Messaging Mess: Research Reveals Looming Disconnect Between B2B Messaging Beliefs and Actions, finds that much of the content B2B companies produce focus too heavily on promoting features and benefits of the product.
That abundance brings a deficit in content that helps potential customers understand the problem or providing market insight. The Bulldog Reporter cites executive commentary from Corporate Visions, which published the survey:
“There appears to be a disconnect if 80 percent of companies believe that content drives the majority of the purchase journey, but such a small percentage of them are adjusting their content strategy or delivering disruptive, insights-centric perspectives. The fact that so few companies are delivering content that disrupts the status quo and convinces people to change could explain why such a small percentage are happy with their conversion rates from content-generated leads to pipeline.”
In my experience, how a B2B company talks about its product is just as important as how much it talks about its product. Prospects do look for hype-free product information – it’s the self-aggrandizement many companies indulge in that turns potential buyers off.
On the other hand, there’s ample research to demonstrate B2B customers want thought leadership. A sizable portion of the art and science of business communications rests in this mix.
The Bulldog Reporter article links to a registration page to download the complete report.
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2) Best to Pitch in the Morning says Reporter Survey
The best time of day to pitch reporters is in the morning, according to a Business Wire survey covered by the MediaPost. In a piece titled How And When To Pitch A Journalist, editor Jack Loechner says 61% of reporters prefer pitches in the morning, 30% in the afternoon, and 9% in the evening.
“The top two methods through which journalists prefer to receive breaking news have remained unchanged for the past three years. Last year the majority favored an email alert with a link to [a] full press release (74%) or a newswire press release (21%). This study reports that 75% of newswire journalists (Associated Press [AP], Reuters, Agence France-Press (AFP) prefer a newswire press release.”
I do believe press releases, when employed properly, remain a strategic vehicle to convey a message. However, the idea that reporters are clinging to wire services looking for a story is hard for me to believe. Time and time again, I’ve found – and there’s survey research to support this too – reporters find sources and stories through pitches and content.
Separately, Mr. Loechner ferreted out a very interesting finding, emerging amid the media landscape, that ought to be good news on both sides of the pen:
“In addition to taking the pulse of modern media, the study found that many view the future of journalism as The New York Times (50%) and BuzzFeed (45%). The outlets swapped places this year, with journalists placing a higher value on deeper, long-form news, versus quicker, bite-sized news packaging.”
This tells me the trend towards long-form in content marketing is bleeding over into journalism, which means something for press releases: publish fewer and write longer; provide insight.
3) The Downfall of Clickbait, Finally
You’ve seen the click-bait headlines. Finally, people are growing weary of being tricked and some of the social networks are even burying these silly pieces – according to Tina Cassidy of InkHouse.
She had her piece on the topic published in Ragan’s PR Daily – with a headline that could have been written better: You won’t believe what’s replacing clickbait headlines!
Ms. Cassidy writes:
“A study by Hubspot and Outbrain offers data about what’s working now. They include:
> An explanation of what’s to follow; this could mean adding an explainer in brackets, such as [interview], [photos], [infographic] …The most popular brackets offer a template, quick tip or free download, with interview being the least popular
> The word photo offers a big boost
> Using the word who rather than why, which decreases clicks
> Keeping it short—the optimal length is 81 to 100 characters
Meanwhile, how-to, tips, simple or why are among the words that turn off readers, according to the Hubspot/Outbrain research.”
If you’re looking for another serious take on clickbait and it’s short-sightedness in marketing and PR, I’d suggest this one: Improve Marketing ROI 700% with this One Weird Trick!
Need to develop or refine your company’s messaging?
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Photo credit: Flickr, Enrique Fernández, Message in a bottle (CC BY 2.0); All graphics credited to associated report (s).