Sorting out your message architecture is a big deal

Throughout February, Brutal Pixie is presenting a series of seminars at the Majoran Distillery (MD). It is part of the MD’s 2014 Summer School. In week one, we went through a session titled Introduction to Content Strategy. It’s been a cause for significant reflection in the past two weeks; the result is this post.

The slides for the session are below, and I encourage you to share them with others (or call me if you want me to run it with you and your teams).

In the group, we had five students, all of them involved somehow in running a business. Many of them were founders of startups — and in some cases, quite successful startups.

The session ran very quickly through the field: What is it? What do content strategists actually do? What’s strategic about it? And how do you relate it to your own field?

Then we came to hands-​on message architecture

During the session, the participants did a hands-​on message architecture card sort for their own businesses. That exercise was a real light bulb moment for me. During the exercise I realised that even though many of these founders had been through business accelerator programs, had launched products and programs, had social media in play, had websites up and functioning, and knew exactly how to pitch their businesses to investors, they had not worked out what their values are, where they overlap with their target market, or even where they envision themselves in the future. These people went through that battle of asking themselves some really tough questions. They had to examine where they are right now, and where they want to be in the future.

That question of focus on customers as opposed to focus on investment is something that deserves to be unpacked at a later stage. Seeking investment is great, but I’m curious to know how you do that when you aren’t strongly focused on what you are delivering and to whom, and why. Maybe you are the right person with which to have this conversation? I’d love to hear from you.

We didn’t get through an entire message architecture; just the first part. But it took a long time. It would have been really interesting if they’d had their co-​founders and teams with them, to see how different the results would have been.

Message architecture is personal, integral, essential

Individuals’ results are often deeply personal, because we are talking about the values that they bring to their companies. In a team, you gain the benefit of bouncing ideas off people, seeing power structures in play, and getting more of a story from the participants. Sometimes, what one person believes is close to what the other person believes, but not the same.

It was fascinating to realise that these people were all trying to launch successful companies and products, but they had not had someone take them through the journey of emotional values, audience needs, and the company’s future standing. Or, if they had, it was something to which they hadn’t paid a great deal of attention. Post-​launch is when this realisation tends to happen.

Watching these guys try and focus and determine where they are, where they want to be, and what is not them at all, was a big deal. (And I’ve done it myself, so I know how hard it really is to do this stuff.) Creating the right messages is something that the best of us sometimes miss, until we have a structured way of unpacking it, and making sense of it. If you have what you feel are the right messages, are they matching your internal culture too?

Big questions. The outcomes of the session were really good, however; everyone found it enormously valuable. As a facilitator through the process, I can tell you that the value comes from that moment when you start to re-​connect with your business and its goals on a deeper level.

After all, you can create all of the content in the world, in as many channels as you like; but if you miss your own mark (and your audience’s mark), then all you’ve done is pour your time down the drain.

Call me for a conversation about how this type of seminar can help your business.

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