The right message is more important than your brand colours, images, or fonts. So why do people insist on doing the pretty stuff instead of the hard stuff? Here’s a story about the magic of doing it right.
A few years ago, I worked with an incredible organisation known as the National Native Title Tribunal. The task: Help them understand, really understand, their tag line.
The National Native Title Tribunal is an independent agency established by the Native Title Act 1993. It has a bunch of statutory functions, and I won’t list them all. You can find them on their website.
Anyway. Their tagline was (is) Shared Country, Shared Future.
Could you put a definition on that, just by seeing it? Would you know it’s right?
No, of course not.
The situation that the Tribunal found itself in was that everyone assumed that they understood what it meant. But each person understood it differently.
So, we went through a process known as ‘message architecture’. There were about 10 people in the room; lawyers, administrators, project managers, and an indigenous member.
The crew pushed through a gigantic amount of work, arguing about terms and definitions and perspectives. They did argue. They did leave their lawyers’ hats at the door, and participate without being pedantic about terminology.
They participated without any idea of what they were doing, really. Many of them thought it was going to be a waste of time.
One woman, who was very direct (she was European by birth), even said to me, ‘I didn’t have high hopes, to be honest. But this is magical.’
The team, at the end of the day, gathered their courage and presented their shared meaning about Shared Country, Shared Future, to the indigenous member. If she didn’t agree with it, it didn’t fly. It was that simple.
They stood and they presented it.
Their audience made them sweat, just briefly. Then she smiled and clapped and told them how much she loved it.
From that point onwards, the Tribunal worked to the shared understanding. They knew now that their publishing — of which they do a substantial amount — would have a known backbone. The outcome was a feeling that everyone had bonded. There was a sense that they all really knew themselves, and their organisation, and why it has the sound and perspective that it does. It created confidence — the kind of confidence that had been missing when I walked in.
It’s this kind of backbone that all organisations require when they approach publishing. If you don’t have a known place, known definitions, known style, tone, voice, and terms, then the output is entirely at the mercy of whoever is doing it today.
That’s when you end up with a muddy brand voice, a muddy message.
Loads of people think of visual styling with their businesses; very few think about mindfully creating the tone and style of the language.
That’s what a message architecture workshop does for you. And if you haven’t been through that process, may I highly commend it to you.
If you are interested in going through that process, please contact us for details and costs.
Shift your messaging and position yourself correctly with the right daily advice: