Marketers love to reduce things to “series of four” – those four simple elements or steps that define a process, whether they be the four A’s, the four T’s, the four M’s…pick a letter and someone’s probably got a list to give you. Of course, there’s nothing sacred about any of these formulas. As mnemonic devices they often feel contrived, but sometimes they do serve as a handy reminder of what’s important. Indeed, as I’ve plied the trade of brand messaging, I’ve found it useful to develop a simple set of markers myself. They don’t exactly turn the art of communications into a science, but they do help focus my clients on the essentials. What are they? I went for the C’s: Clarity, Consistency, Character, Currency.
Each touchstone is important in and of itself, and they all work together as a whole: Be clear about what you need or want to communicate; make sure you communicate that message across the board; imbue all your content with your brand’s personality; and, make sure that what you’re talking about is relevant to what people are up to today.
While there is a fundamental simplicity to this framework, each element requires clients to think through important questions about how to communicate effectively. In doing so, they can open up new insights into the nature of their business, as well as the interests and mind-set of their audience. The result is brand messaging that resonates deeply and effectively in the marketplace.
It’s funny how the things we’re most familiar with – the things we do every day – can be the hardest things to talk about. Think about it for a moment; how would you sum up your job in a few short words, or tell someone about the latest project you finished, or on a slightly larger scale, explain what your company does to someone outside your field? In a twist on the old expression, these things are sometimes easier done than said. This is true even for professional communicators. The humbling fact for all of us is that clarity and its counterparts (simplicity, straight-forwardness, etc.) can sometimes be the very toughest goal to achieve.
So, when I sit down with clients, I tell everyone at the table that common-sense reminders often lead to the most important revelations. It’s always good to start any communications initiative with a basic refresher in what your message is, and how to best express it. After all, each one of us is so close to what we do that, to invoke a classic metaphor, the tree right in front of us can loom larger than the forest as a whole. It’s all a matter of perspective, a question of where you stand. Clarity starts by stepping back and taking a fresh look at the larger picture.
The practical application of this philosophy begins with a few basic questions. Can you articulate why your business matters, or should matter, to people? What is its value to those you serve? How can you attract people who aren’t yet within your orbit?
The answers to these questions don’t just help shape the way we communicate with the outside world; they can help to focus an entire business by aligning the understanding and efforts of all of its employees.