Take the time
I recently finished up a messaging and positioning session with a new client. And it was awesome. Most companies really hate the thought of spending 2 days locked in a room just to get PR positioning done. But there are so many advantages to this session that go beyond PR and can really help your teams get on the same page. Some quick reasons why M&P sessions are critical not only to PR but to your business in general.
- Leveling the playing field - It is good to get an unbiased opinion of the state of the industry. The competitive and media analysis help you understand what your competition is saying and what the world is saying about you - good or bad. Without this, you can't tell whether you are moving forward and if your messages are being understood.
- Closing the door - One thing I always hear is a positioning session is, "we already discussed that". And while companies talk about how they define themselves and what their core message is, they rarely close the door on the conversation and come to resolution. Talking without resolution is, well, just talk. It never becomes actionable. Getting all the ideas on the table allows you to decide what works, what doesn't and what we are never saying again.
- Identifying the nomenclature - You say potato, I say potato. At some point you have to decide what words you are going to use for the simplest of things. Is it an error or an issue? Is that our mission or just what we do today? Are we in this space or that one? These sessions get the entire company on the same page, using the same language, every time they talk. If you can use the same terms so will your customers, partners, media and analysts.
- What is our true value? - Every product has many audiences. In the positioning session you are able to throw out the "me too" features and functionality and focus on the real differences and then define the true value of that difference for each audience. Once you know those values you need to quantify them. How do you make sure you aren't saying the same thing everyone else is saying? Focus on your differentiators and measure it.
- A time to laugh - If you can't laugh in a messaging session then you are doing it wrong. This is a time to throw all the crazy ideas on the table. Say the things you wish you could say. Remember to funny mistakes of the past. And highlight all the good points in the company like the people, the fun outside of work, the stuff you want to be known for that goes beyond product. It is also a good bonding moment between key stake holders. Sometimes we have to take a minute to argue it out and then we can hug it out or at least laugh it out. Teams need this.
Look, M&P sessions don't solve the world but they are an opportunity to bring teams together and get the creative juices flowing. They are different than THE OFFSITE. They are a chance to talk. For a PR person this is where we really learn about the voices of the team, the personality of the company, and of course the stories that we need to tell and the position we want to take. I say WE here because it is also where the PR person moves from consultant to part of the team, which is right where I want to be.