The Year Of The Message

I predict that 2014 is the year of the message. 

Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the medium is the message” in 1964. I contend that in today’s world, the message is the medium.

In 2013, we saw the proliferation of “content marketing.” According to the Content Marketing Institute (yes that is a real thing), the definition of content marketing is “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

That only works if you have a clear, message that can be easily adapted for a variety of media and audiences. Frankly, that’s what public relations has done for decades. Last year, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) updated its definition of public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” And that is achieved by delivering and receiving clear and consistent messages (or content). 

The key to successful public relations, marketing or communications is to have a clearly defined message.  I don’t mean a tag line or catchy phrase (although that can certainly be part of it – case in point “we do chicken right” but that’s a subject for another post.)

I mean clear concise key messages that succinctly communicate with your target audiences, so as you build relationships with your stakeholders, no matter what the medium, no matter who is communicating (senior management, sales team, public affairs, marketing, social media team etc.) all are singing off the same sheet. 

I am often surprised when I ask established businesses what their key messages are and they hem and haw and say things like, “we don’t have them written down, but we know what they are.”  But, then when we map out their existing messages, we often find inconsistencies, contradictions and even inaccuracies in what they have been saying in various media and to various audiences. 

I am less surprised when I ask startups that question and they don’t have an answer.  But it is equally as important for them to have their messages clarified and to revisit them regularly as the business evolves. 

Mapping your company’s messages is not a labor intensive or expensive process.  But it is important to ensure your success in building beneficial relationships. Make 2014 the year of the message for your business.