Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Stuck in the Elevator approach to messaging

Mary Schmidt's recent post, Merde before Magic, made the point that, when you come up with messaging for a customer, you just need to start getting something down on paper. It won't be brilliant or perfect to begin with - and may, in fact, never be anything more than serviceable. But you gotta start somewhere.

I often start with what I call a "Stuck in the Elevator" pitch (which is a more fun way to think of it than as  a positioning statement). This is a far longer version of the classic (and never, ever, ever in the history of mankind actually used in an elevator) elevator pitch.

The stuck pitch is a rather longish piece, typically 250-500 words or so that pretty much capture the essentials, the thing that someone would want to know about your company and/or product(s). Here's what goes into a Stuck Pitch:

  • What your company/business unit is all about
  • What product you offer, i.e., what exactly does it do? what's it used for?
  • Who uses your product
  • What they get out of using it

Yes, the same information can be contained just as it's shown above, in neat little summary bullets. But, for me, getting all the words down in paragraph form is actually helpful. It fills in blanks and makes you think things through. It may overexplain things, but writing things out in full sentences helps make sure that the meaning is clear. When you start out by taking short cuts  - which is what those short, bulleted lists are - the information is subject to misinterpretation. Meaning is lost, you forget what you meant by a particular word.

S-P-E-L-L everything O-U-T.

It may seem like a drag to begin with - so much easier to think and act in bullet points - but trust me, this will help ensure that your message is true, clear, and meaningful.

Once we've got this "source document", I do a 100 word version, then a 75 word version, then 50, 25, 10.... By the time you've got it down to 10 words, you've got the heart of your message.

And once those 10 words are out there, let's hope you get those 3 little words that are music to a marketer's ear: Tell me more.


Plus you've got your "capsule stories" that you can use for online listings, printed directories, trade show books. No more scrambling around at the last moment.

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