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How To Create A Message Platform

As promised in my Message Planning post, here is the first post in my series on message planning. If you don’t know how to put together a message platform, this platform will help you understand some of the components most commonly found in them. If you already know how to create a message platform, I hope you’ll pick up a tip or two that you can use the next time you have to put one together – and I hope you’ll chime in with your suggestions for the less-experienced readers of this post. Please keep in mind that there are many different approaches to developing a message platform. Not all platform components outlined in this post are necessary or appropriate for every organization. I’m providing these suggestions as guidance for those going through this process for the first time. It’s up to you to evaluate and decide which components will help you best meet your communication goals.

Rather than drone on about all the reasons why you should create a message platform for your organization, I’m going to assume you have already gone through that process. If you need a reason, I think a message platform is a great way to get everyone in your organization on the same page with who you are, what you do and how you want to communicate all those things in various formats inside and outside of your organization. Let’s get started…. [Read more…]

Tell Me About It

What does your company do? Do you have a description you can send me?

If marketing communications is a component of what you do, you know your “about us” paragraph is one of the most important weapons in your marketing arsenal. If you’re the type of person that starts fresh every time you get a request for a company description or about paragraph, you’re wasting a lot of time. Aside from being a drain on your productivity, rewriting your description can also lead to inconsistency in your brand message. Inevitably, it will dilute the impact of your brand message.

On the other hand, if you have a prepared company description and use it consistently in your communications, you’ll strengthen your brand message – and someday, if you’re lucky, people will remember what you do. It’s not just a reach and frequency formula. It’s more like reach, frequency and consistency. Memorization happens through repetition. If you hear the same thing over and over again, you’ll eventually absorb it.

The first step on this journey is having your About Us paragraph ready to go for that next request. Here are a few suggestions:

Your About Us paragraph should be two to five paragraphs (I’ve linked to some great examples at the end of this post) and should include all the pertinent facts about your organization. This is commonly what you do (products you make, services you provide), when you started doing it, where you’re located or who started the organization. If you use the five Ws and one H, you should be able to get a good draft going of your About Us paragraph.

Your About Us paragraph is the most important piece of content in your marketing materials, since it can be  adapted into a lot of other items, such as your boilerplate for press releases, an elevator speech for salespeople, or a long-form company backgrounder for your website. You can pull your key messages out and hang a cheat sheet in everyone’s office or cube to further reinforce your message – right alongside your mission and vision statements (a future post?).

Here are a few pointers for keeping your brand message clear and consistent. If you follow this advice and create your About Us content, you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the coming year.

Draft Your About Us With Friends

Your marketing team should create your About Us paragraph. This team should include your top business decision maker (CEO, President) and your marketing leader. In small companies, this might be the same person. I’ve always included more people in this process. You may want to include people form different departments, particularly those who work with customers on a daily basis. If you include them now, it may take longer, but you’ll have less people altering your copy later on. It’s always interesting to see how people from different parts of the company perceive what you do differently. Make the development of your About Us paragraph a collaborative process with your organization and it will be better and more reflective of who you are as an organization. 

Post in a Central Place

Despite wanting to be consistent with your About Us paragraph, things will change over time (e.g. the number of years you’ve been in business, your business location or the number of customers you have). It’s important that you have one version of your About Us paragraph (and all the other marketing materials you share publicly) in a central place – this way, when you update it, the fresh version is available for everyone that needs it. If you have an intranet, put it there. Google Docs or a wiki is a good option too. When you update it, let people know. There’s always somebody that downloads it to their desktop and ends up using a three-year old company description.

Enforce Noncompliance

I’m not much for rules, but if you find somebody is describing your company incorrectly, or using a three-year old version of your description, make them current. Educate them on what they’re doing wrong or give them the correct file version. If you do this, you’ll ensure that all your audiences (or publics for you PR purists) get the same message.

Have Different Word Options

A lot of times you will be limited by word limits for your company description. For your first draft, write as long a company description at you need to communicate all your facts and background. Once you have that version finalized, create smaller bite-sized versions in the final document. I’d suggest a 50, 100 and 150 word version for starters. You may want to have an optional paragraph that gets inserted for different instances. For example, if your description is being used in a communication for recruiting, you may want your “Recruiting Paragraph” that includes more information about that “Great Places to Work” nod you got and the number of employees you have or other key messages.

It’s probably a good idea to come up with a 140 character version as well.

Revisit Quarterly

Change happens. Take a fresh look at your description quarterly. There’s always some small detail that needs to be refreshed. Try not to change the essence of your message too often – unless what you do or your focus has really changed. On a quarterly basis, I suggest limiting your refresh to factual updates, such as the number of employees or customers you have. Of course, you may have some new information to add, such as a recent award or recognition worthy of inclusion in your company description.

Track Placement

Your about us copy can show up in a lot of places over time. Keep a running list of all the important places. If you make an update to your description, you’ll want to make sure it gets updated across all these places – particularly in directories or other listings that refer visitors to your site.

The SEO Component

Most of you know this, but your company description should have your top keyword linked to your most important page. In many cases, this is your website homepage and the most popular keyword for what you do. Since your company description will appear in hundreds or thousands of places over time, that can add up to a lot of inbound links. I would also include a separate written link to your website in the description, since people may not link your word, but they will include the link. Even if not hyperlinked, people will still find their way to your site.

Love in an Elevator

Most people can’t memorize your entire company description. Make sure you’ve got an abbreviated version you can spout off consistently in a short amount of time. Most people call this your elevator speech (hint, hint).

Put It Everywhere

In case this wasn’t obvious in the previous tips, put your description everywhere. Hang it up all around the office. Let people download it or copy it from your website. Put it in your About Us section and your pressroom. The more places your description appears, the more reach you have and the better chance you have for being discovered.

Examples

As promised, here are a few examples of “about us” company descriptions. Please feel free to add yours in the comments.

What can we learn from the examples above? What advice can you offer for people working on their About Us paragraph? Have a great About Us – share it!