Brand on the run

3 Things You’ll Never Achieve Without a Killer Messaging Strategy

My high school basketball coach used to say “You won’t win if you don’t put in the work.” Inspiring words, but hard to appreciate when you’re running suicide sprints and defensive slide drills. He was right, though. Strength and conditioning made us better ball players and definitely helped propel us to the 1992 state quarterfinals. Go Bluejays!

You can choose from a million metaphors, but it all comes back to one truth. No amount of desire will help you achieve your goals if you don’t have a strong foundation to build on.

[Insert brilliant segue…]

The same is, of course, true for your marketing and sales goals. Strength and conditioning = messaging strategy. Without putting in the work to define and strengthen your message, three critical goals will continue to elude your brand.

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Messaging Strategy Eliminates Content Noise

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

What if you push content into the digital woods and no one understands your message, is it just noise?

We can debate the first question to infinity. But the answer to the second is an undeniable “yes.”

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Is Outdated Content Damaging Your Rep?

Stale or off-brand content can do more harm than good

For years, talent and press agents repeated the mantra “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” And for years, that may have been true. It was a kinder, gentler, much less connected time. Today, we’re in the era of Google and interwoven social networks that let us create, share and find content in a flash. And now, a bit of bad publicity or a piece of ancient content can travel farther, live longer and show up years later at the most inopportune time.

Modern content marketing has become both a blessing and a curse. The ability to achieve huge audience reach in (literally) seconds, is a dream. But for organizations undergoing a messaging evolution or a full-blown rebrand, letting outdated or ineffective content abide can sabotage your brand awareness efforts.

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The ROI of Messaging Strategy

Without a clear map, you’re just driving in circles

Vague. Stagnant. Jargony. All-over-the-place. Do any of these words describe your current brand voice?

Many factors can cause a brand to lose the effectiveness of its voice—a recent acquisition, a new product or market focus, a rapidly growing workforce or just the passing of time. When these things happen, it leads to mixed and confusing messages—both inside your company and out in the market—that are inconsistent and uninspiring for customers and employees alike.

Stepping back to re-evaluate and reset your brand voice doesn’t have to be painful. But it’s essential for focusing your marketing and sales efforts and building a clear path for driving long-term business success.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends and the Road Begins

Making the case for an interim Content Marketing Director

Congratulations! You’ve created your kickass product or service, you’ve built a core team of awesome employees and you’ve made that first major sale. The long, grueling walk to establish your brand has become a jog and before you know it, you’re in a full sprint—to deliver on customer demand, grow your team, and hit higher revenue numbers fast.

This key point of transformation and acceleration is where the sidewalk ends and the road begins—particularly with regard to brand awareness and marketing.

This is the point where most companies realize their brand voice has been idling in neutral—or worse yet parked in a forgotten lot! It’s not unusual to fly under the radar as your business takes shape and sales solidify—relegating active marketing to the back seat for fear of talking too much talk before you prove you can walk the walk.

Unfortunately, the trade-off is an underdeveloped or overpacked brand voice and the lack of an effective marketing megaphone. When internal marketing resources are stretched thin, brand strategy seems the first thing to go. “Execute!” That’s the order of the moment. The funny thing is that it’s at this point when the power and consistency of your message matters most … but who has the time to step back and get it right?

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FFT … Fresh Perspective

Vacations breed many benefits … physical health, mental health, spiritual renewal, new experiences, creative inspiration. If you’re like me, the week(s) leading up to a vacation are often more stressful than the 30 before it. It’s the irony of “preparing” for time off.

Funny how we’ve convinced ourselves that unfinished business is unacceptable. We don’t like leaving things half-done or incomplete. Even if rushing a current project to some self-imposed milestone leaves the quality of that work wanting. We checked that box … yay us! Our all-American go, go, go mindset pushes us to need closure, simply for the sake of closure.

But what if instead of racing to put a bow on a project before we take well-deserved leave, we gave ourselves—and our people—permission to leave it unwrapped? Purposefully open-ended. Open to the fresh perspective that a healthy dose of R&R invariably brings.

What if we start viewing vacations as an unstructured extension of the creative process—a bridge to innovation instead of a productivity gap?

What if we gave that business strategy, sales presentation, ad campaign or website revamp some room to breathe? Ready and waiting for us to return with fresh, creative oxygen.

clear the assumptions

Am I Right to Assume …

We are living in the day of information abundance. There’s hardly a single subject we can’t Google in seconds. This easy access to information can lull us into a sense of know-it-all-ness. Though, speaking from my own personal experience, I’ll argue it’s more of a know-enough-to-be-dangerous-ness.

Conversely, we also live in a time of snap-judgement and pigeonholing. It’s like our brain’s “sorting gear” being thrown into overdrive. None of us are immune to it. It seems an almost expected outcome given the pressures we face in today’s fast-paced society to economize our time, make decisions quickly and “move the ball forward” at a record pace.

Our brains are indeed supercomputers, rapidly taking in information, categorizing it, relying on historic, impressed patterns and spitting out current perceptions, so we can move on to the next thing.

But here’s the problem. When know-enough-to-be-dangerous and pigeonholing collide, the result often takes the form of assumptions. This happens every day in personal and professional situations alike. We’ve all experienced times when assuming one thing turned out to be the very opposite of reality.

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When Saying Nothing Says Something

Do we have any JT fans out there? (That’s Justin Timberlake for rest of you.) His latest release, Man of the Woods, includes an excellent soul-pop-blues duet with Chris Stapleton titled “Say Something.” The song culminates with this catchy hook: “Sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.” (I highly recommend a listen.)

I suspect we’ve all heard or used the old “pause for effect” effect. Sometimes punctuating your words with silence has just as much of a communication impact as a bold statement. In her brief speech at the recent “March for Our Lives” event, Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez included a 4 minute 26 second window of silence to acknowledge the time it took an active shooter to act out a horrific attack on his classmates and teachers. Politics aside (please), this was a powerful pause for effect. And few could argue that Gonzalez certainly managed to say something by saying nothing at all.

Four and a half minutes in our go-go-go, can’t stop/won’t stop, busy-ness-filled days usually seems like a camera flash or a puff of smoke. But when we are unexpectedly presented with four minutes of raw, inescapable silence, it seems like an eternity. It can feel surprising, awkward, uncomfortable, disturbing, anxious, curious, calming or a combination of all the above. The point is, we notice.

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Being Present

An ad on Instagram caught my eye the other day. The image showed an array of simple though trendy looking bracelets comprised of a metal circle and thin, colored rope. It was for company called My Intent. And the tagline was just as simple but extremely direct—“What’s your word?”

Intrigued, I clicked on. Upon further investigation, I learned My Intent has received national news coverage in recent months—spurred on by creator and entrepreneur Chris Pan’s chance meeting of entertainment icon Jay-Z and subsequent buzz around the celebrity circuit. Though as their website clearly states, it’s not a jewelry company but a service project—on a mission to be “a catalyst for meaningful conversations and positive action.”

Talk about a lofty goal, right? Especially in today’s climate of cynicism and division, how does one even begin to deliver on that mission? And how could someone be so bold as to think a simple metal bracelet could change something as complex and stubborn as our human psyche?

The power of words

It starts with believing in the power of words and embracing their meaning and impact. In the same way that #factsmatter, so do words. As we see play out daily in the news cycle, key words put on repeat, eventually seeping into the psyche of us all. Good words and bad words. Words that rally and motivate us and words that sting and outrage us. We decide which reaction those words provoke. But when it’s our turn to speak, we also decide if and how we will respond responsibly.

The old saying “Choose your words wisely” has never been truer. Each day in both professional communications and personal interactions, we have an important choice to make. Do we respond with words that meet the person on the other end where they are? Or do we immediately jump toward trying to lead them where we want them to be?

What is true right now

Persuasion is indeed an art. But so is being present with your audience and communicating first with the goal of connection–whether delivering a speech to employees, creating a piece of marketing content, penning a blog post or engaging with a friend on Facebook or (gasp!) face-to-face. When we focus on a preconceived future instead of on what’s true right now, we miss the opportunity to build the trust that becomes the foundation for dialogue and, eventually, shared—or at least understood—perspective.

If we allow it, being present in itself can be “a catalyst for meaningful conversations and positive action.” And I think we can all agree that’s a very good thing.

Getting Comfortable

My favorite month of the year has arrived … September. The month that marks a welcome turning point in the year. The wild heat of summer fades away. There’s a calming, cool breath, like a deep exhale, you can feel in the air. A grounding back to earth. A resettling of spirit. Soon leaves will begin their turn from green to gold to gone.

September is a time of transition. Of clearing out closets and swapping swimsuits for sweaters. Of trading flip-flops for flannel. (Oh, how I love my flannel. Though preferably, with flip-flops) In short, September is usually a time of “getting comfortable.”

For businesses, September marks the beginning of the end for third quarter goals. When sales numbers may have stagnated during summer breaks, and the pressure mounts to make that final push toward the end of the calendar. If this description hits close to home, “getting comfortable” is the worst thing you can do.

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