Lorraine Hamby has 20 plus years of experience in tech PR, journalism and consulting. She has worked with corporate giants like HP and Intuit, disruptive startups, and everyone in between, teaching them how to use messaging to reach and captivate a target audience.
When you’re competing for customers, attention-worthy messaging may be your most powerful ally. I sat down with Lorraine to learn more about messaging with impact.
Why do we need messaging?
Messaging should always support broader business goals. So first, you need to define your objectives—whether it’s to grow the customer base, attract investors, or establish credibility for a new product — or some combination of goals. Then, you can begin developing messaging that will best support the cause.
As far as spending time on message prep itself – it’s worth the effort — because to get your point across, and particularly to secure media coverage, you need to be crystal clear and compelling. Every brand is fighting– not just against competitors– but for the audience’s attention in the first place.
Clear, compelling messaging that gets to the heart of the customer’s decision-making can make the difference between a “ho hum” campaign and strong results, or between an average presentation and an inspiring one.
How is messaging for PR different from other marketing messages?
Messaging should be consistent across all mechanisms, always reinforcing and differentiating your brand. The evolution of social, earned, and paid media has certainly blurred the divide between marketing and PR in many ways, but there are some key differences.
With marketing messaging, you may be able to get more creative — for example, you need to think in terms of taglines, and combining visual and text elements. But your core messaging is still the foundation for developing all of those — whether it’s a video, a newsletter, a tweet or an ad.
For PR, you have to go a step further to make your message newsworthy. Another unique aspect of PR messaging is being prepared for tough Q&A. Once you have a journalist’s attention, it becomes a two-way dialogue and you need to know in advance exactly how you’ll handle the most difficult questions.
How do you help clients create strong messaging?
It’s a collaborative process involving research, analysis, brainstorming and then, good old-fashioned writing and wordsmithing – including several discussions and iterations to get it to the final output.
One of the first steps is to analyze the broader landscape — what’s going on the industry, what are the competitors saying, what are the news trends, etc. I take a broad sampling of primary messages, recent news, and key phrases, and synthesize that into a viewpoint that informs the process. The goal is to identify what compelling stories we might be up against, what customer benefits everyone is hammering on, and where there’s room for a unique perspective.
Perhaps most importantly, I gather information from the client, asking a lot of questions and talking to people across the organization. I’ll identify common threads and priorities, and then help them crystallize those into key messages. Then we stress-test it: Is everyone else saying the same thing? Is our message enough to convince customers? Can we cut down the jargon? Is it newsworthy?
What is the most important take-away for brands that want to improve their messaging?
I’ll follow my own advice, and prioritize! My top three messages about messaging are:
- Prioritize: Streamline your message as much as possible. You can’t say it all, so know what’s most important to get across.
- Differentiate: Clearly define what makes you stand out, and always emphasize that.
- Tell a story: Combine facts with a narrative, and bring the story to life with anecdotes and examples.