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For organizations around the globe, 2020 was a year ripe with lessons learned and quick strategic pivots. Momentous changes to our daily routines sent shock waves rippling through every corner of our lives, impacting our buying habits, how and where we work and the way we interact with brands and each other. 

Looking back, the brands that found the most success in the past year were the ones that embraced tangible reflection and authentic communication and focused on their “why” – not just the “what” or “how.” 

As brand leaders plan for the year ahead, staying connected with your audience through clear, concise and consistent communications will continue to be critically important. Now is the time to evaluate your brand’s messaging and ask: 

  • Have our audience’s needs changed – and does our messaging still fit? 
  • Does our messaging reflect and support our current and future goals?
  • Why does our organization do what it does – and does our messaging still support this?

Keep in mind, this sort of exercise isn’t intended to overhaul your messaging – and it doesn’t need to be a scary process. By evaluating how audiences and goals have changed in the last year, organizations can make small but mighty updates to their messaging to maximize impact in 2021. 

Here’s a five-step process to get you started:

1. Set a Meeting of the Minds

One of the most important lessons learned for brands in 2020 was the critical importance of internal communication. Before you begin reviewing your brand messaging and making any updates make sure you have all the right people at the table. 

When determining who to invite, ask yourself which departments have a stake in how you’re communicating with your market, such as the heads of your sales, marketing and PR departments. Also consider the department leads who handle internal communications or organizational alignment, such as your HR leader. 

Ensure your attendees have diverse skills, backgrounds, job functions and roles to get a variety of relevant and value perspectives…and to avoid working “in a bubble.”  

2. Set Your Goals

Before you begin addressing what you’re trying to say and how to say it, to engage your audience, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish in 2021 – and why. The point of this step in the exercise is not to set specific KPIs, but to take a broad look at where your organization needs to focus its efforts and messaging in the year ahead. 

Start by compiling your organizational and departmental goals for 2020. Discuss which goals you met, which are still in progress and which you missed. After reviewing your results, ask participants to perform a SWOT analysis and provide feedback on what they think were your organization’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in 2020 that may have contributed to your results. 

Use these insights to plot what improvements need to be made, determine where you should focus your efforts and resources and dictate how your messaging needs to evolve to support future goals. 

3. Analyze Your Audience

At this point in similar messaging exercises, some organizations move from setting their goals straight to updating their value props and strategies. However, this approach misses a critical component. By shifting from “what we’re trying to do” to “how we’re going to do it,” organizations forget to ask, “who am I saying this to?” and “why should they care?”

Ask participants to describe your audience. Who are you trying to reach? If you haven’t already, create personas that represent targeted audiences including relevant socioeconomic and demographic considerations.

Put yourself in the shoes of your personas and imagine their new brand journey. Ask:

  • How have their daily routines changed? 
  • Do they have new financial or safety concerns? 
  • Have their wants or needs changed? 
  • How have their expectations of brands changed? 
  • Where are your audience’s key touchpoints? 
  • Are these touchpoints still viable or as reliable as before?

These audience insights will play a key role in the next steps of the exercise.  

4. Assess Your Key Messaging Pillars

Now that you’ve assessed who you’re talking to and how their needs have changed, you can analyze your existing messaging to determine what (if any) updates need to be made. 

If you haven’t already done so, plot your organization’s key messages in pillars that correspond with the appropriate targeted audience. Just as you analyzed your audience personas in the previous step, look at each pillar of your brand’s messaging and ask:

  • Does this messaging still appeal to our audience’s new needs and expectations?
  • Are these messages still impactful when delivered through their current channels?
  • Does this messaging still support our organization’s previously discussed goals?
  • Are we still able to support these statements? 

Use these insights to make any critically-necessary changes to your key messaging pillars. 

Remember, you’re analyzing your messaging to maximize its future efficacy and impact. However, these key messages still need to be long-lasting and support your previously established organizational goals. 

It’s important to note: You’re not flipping the script on your messaging – you’re simply looking for opportunities to update how your organization communicates its existing brand promise.  

5. Re-Align Your Value Proposition

Finally, it’s time to analyze what may be the single most important element in any organization’s messaging strategy: your value proposition. 

Your brand’s value prop should clearly and concisely define your “why.” Why do you do what you do – and why should audiences turn to you to do it? This statement should be conversational, jargon-free and unique to your brand’s strengths. 

Just as with your key messaging pillars, the goal at this point in the exercise is not to rewrite your value prop. Instead, view your value prop through the lens of your “why” to determine if still reflects what matters most. Ask these questions:

  • According to your 2021 goals: Does your value prop support your brand’s future vision? 
  • According to changes to your audience: Why do audiences need your brand?
  • According to your updated messaging pillars: Why should audiences trust your brand?  

As before, the fundamental elements should stay the same, but by the completion of this final step, you and your team will be able to view your value proposition in a forward-facing light and make any critically-needed updates. 

By the end of this exercise, you’ll be left with both a clearer look at the challenges and opportunities ahead and an updated map to help you navigate your organization’s journey. This exercise doesn’t have to be an annual occurrence. While it’s important brands maintain consistent, high-quality messaging across their various channels, regularly checking in on the health and status of your strategy is always a best practice.

Get Started with our Free Template

To help you build your updated 2021 messaging, we’ve created this easy-to-follow template, allowing you to compare your revisions side-by-side.

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Lexi Trimpe is a Senior Digital Account Executive at Franco. Connect with her on LinkedIn.