It’s The Message, Stupid

When did you last review your PR and marketing messages?  Did you test them with your target audience to make sure that they struck a chord with them before you started posting them to every possible channel? If the answers to these two questions are ‘I can’t remember’ and ‘no’, then perhaps it’s time you did both.

Over the last few weeks Americans have been bombarded with TV, print and radio adverts, speeches, telephone calls, emails, tweets, Facebook posts… [you get the idea] from the two main candidates in the US Presidential election.  Each communication, the candidates hoped, would strike a chord with voters and persuade them to give their vote to them, rather than to their competitor.  Last night we found out which message had most impact amongst its target audience.  More voters, it seems, related to President Obama’s ‘Forward’ message than to Mitt Romney’s promises of ‘Real Change’.

Why?  The answer is the strength of the message and ownership of it by Obama supporters, rather than by the campaign team.  Let me explain.  I was prompted by a Facebook post by Fast Company magazine this morning to read an excellent article on Brand Obama, written in 2006, by Ellen McGirt.  The article  looks at how the then Senator was revolutionizing the way politicians build support.  He was the first to embrace social media in 2008 and also the first to let supporters take ownership of the message as they shared it with friends, followers and undecided voters across the United States.

While the article is about a politician there are lessons that every marketer can learn from the piece.  It talks about the fundamental elements of building a loyal fan base and how, by communicating a message they can buy in to, you can make them feel part of a political movement or brand to the point that they become loyal to it and help you recruit new brand ambassadors/customers.

This innovative way of building brand advocates only works, however, if the message is the right one.  It doesn’t matter how many media [traditional and social] channels you use,  if the message doesn’t resonate with your target audience you’ll be doomed to failure.  Obama understands this and the article talks about how uses social media to test a message and then allows his audience to modify and evolve the message as they spread it.  Whether it’s his ‘Yes We Can’ mantra from 2008 or the more recent ‘Forward’ from the 2012 election Obama makes his message easy to understand, straightforward to buy in to and leaves the context to his supporters to define.

It’s a tactic that very few companies use. “Giving up control online, in the right way, unleashes its own power”, explains Ellen in a her article.  It also scares established brands.  Why would they give control of their message – often developed over years and at a cost of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars – to their customers?  That will change and the strategies used by Barack Obama are things that successful communicators, whether they are politicians, household name brands or startups, must embrace.

If you’ve not revisited your marketing messages recently, or you didn’t test them with your target audience to make sure that they are the right ones it’s time to do it – NOW.  Call me on +1 647.773.2677 to find out how to start the process.

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