Messaging can transform the way your audience interacts with your brand.

At best, punchy messages raise your profile, spark brand engagement and strengthen your ability to do what you do best by compelling audience connection and support. At worst, woolly messages hinder brand presence and engagement because your target audience members don’t understand or care about what you do.

The right messaging strategy equips you with the streamlined pieces to amplify your brand across communications channels, enabling you to connect with your target audience in person and online.

Once you define your communication strategy and target audience, use these building blocks to create a messaging strategy that makes a difference.

1. An interest-generating tagline

A tagline is your brand’s first impression—it’s the first thing people see below your organization’s name when they check out your website, click on your Twitter profile, read your email signature or pick up your brochure. The tagline presents the opportunity to efficiently capture your brand’s value. This all-important short phrase might be the brand’s most often seen line, so it is important to leverage this opportunity to grab your audience’s attention and propel them to read on.

Example: Brands for the Heart lists 135 impact taglines to check out, including Green Citizen’s ‘Making every day earth day’ and Fairware’s ‘Product with purpose.’

2. A powerful positioning statement

A positioning statement sets your brand up to effectively influence your audience—be it local or national in scope—by highlighting what you do, who you serve, how you work and what unique impact you make. This statement should be one to three concise sentences that build on your tagline to describe your brand’s approach, purpose and passion. You can can incorporate keywords that are meaningful in your field, but you should avoid jargon that will not be accessible to most audiences. Above all, the tagline should capture what makes your brand remarkable.

Example:  “At AltSchool, we are cultivating the next generation of lifelong learners who possess the knowledge, strength of character, and drive to impact the modern world. With grit and compassion, AltSchool students persevere through challenges and meet uncertainty with confidence, curiosity, and an excitement to try new things. As agents of their own learning, AltSchool students create the change they want to see in the dynamic environments around them.”

3. Primary messaging

Primary messages convey the handful of main points you want your audience to know about your brand at a glance. For many organizations, that messaging includes the following elements:

  • Motivation (why you do what you do)
  • Approach (how you do what you do)
  • Benefits (your unique impact)
  • The success you’ve seen

These points should be a few sentences or less each. It’s crucial to keep primary messages streamlined, jargon-free and easy to remember. It is then important to train your staff members on these primary messages so they can effectively deploy them in person and on materials across communication channels.

Example: Fairware’s company description builds on its powerful positioning statement to concisely detail its motivation to support changemakers, its creative approach and its benefit of being a brand guardian that connects clients with products that line up with their values.

Once you have your primary messages pinned down, you can assess secondary messages that support your organization’s success and build resonance in your target audience to include on longer materials and the web.

Secondary Messages:

4. Research that supports your success

Employing quantitative and qualitative findings on your organization’s effectiveness can be a good messaging strategy component for foundations and nonprofits.

These findings will build on your key messages to support the unique impact you make in the communities in which you work. Not all organizations have the benefit of drawing from data or studies to illustrate their success. But if your organization does hold this immense asset, don’t miss the opportunity to spotlight your proven accomplishments.

Example: This Q&A with Marc J. Epstein, coauthor of “Measuring and Improving Social Impacts,” gives insight into how to leverage self-evaluation to illustrate your brand’s success when you don’t have typical data or studies from which to draw.

5. Stories that resonate with your audience

Stories help your audience visualize how your brand works and understand what impact it makes in the community. Stories can take the form of anecdotal references from customers, brand advocates or community partners and multimedia materials like video that capture your work. Unlike hard data, stories speak to the heart and can create emotional connections with audience members. They demonstrate your brand’s personal value alongside your proven success.

Example: The South Boston Boys & Girls Club effectively employed storytelling to help it raise more than $11 million dollars to renovate the club. It created three short videos featured on its campaign website and social media that tell the stories of club alum, participants and leaders. These snappy and colorful videos resonated with donors and community members, helping the club meet its donation goal and amplify its brand in South Boston.

A Day in the Life of a Club Kid from Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston on Vimeo.

An important next step to develop effective messaging will be to test your messages with your target audience, tailoring your messages based on this feedback to ensure they best connect with your audience and achieve your communications goals. To learn more about message testing, check out this case study on how to uncover messages that matter to your audience from my colleague Mac Prichard.

How have you developed messages that  matter to your audience and amplify your brand? Share your experience in the comments below.