What is Messaging, Anyway?

Feb 10, 2022

Are you constantly worrying that your messaging is "off?" If so, what do you mean by that? There seems to be a million different definitions of "messaging," and it's one of those words that so many entrepreneurs (including seasoned business coaches) throw around without having a clear understanding of what they mean by that.

In this episode, I answer the question, What messaging, anyway?, including...

  • What messaging is in the first place
  • The difference between your messaging and your content
  • How your messaging relates to your content (and vice versa)
  • How to start honing in on your messaging
  • How to use your messaging to start brainstorming content topics for social media posts, blog articles, emails, videos, and podcast episodes

Today's topic is all about messaging. More specifically, what messaging even is, because it seems like there are a million definitions of messaging that are floating around from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. Even with all these definitions, still, no one seems to understand what any of those definitions actually mean.

I want to start with a little bit of a story from my childhood that, I think, illustrates this concept pretty well, which is that as I was growing up, my father was a pastor. What that meant is that a considerable part of my childhood was spent in and around the church, and as a result, I grew up with a pretty decent vocabulary and understanding of Christian beliefs. But there was one phrase in particular that I kept hearing, but no one seemed to actually understand what it meant. It was the Holy Spirit. I asked my dad at some point where the Holy Spirit was, and honestly, the fact that I don't remember his response is a pretty good indicator that his answer was not clear and concrete enough for my six-, seven-year-old brain. 

If you want to stump almost any Christian, adult or child, ask them what the Holy Spirit is. They'll probably pause for a minute, maybe stumble through some sort of answer, and whatever they say, it'll probably be pretty vague, and it probably won't actually tell you much. Christians refer to the Holy Spirit all the time. It's used in prayers, hymns, and even casual conversation, but somehow, most mainstream Christians really don't know what they actually mean when they say that, and that's a really clear parallel to how a lot of entrepreneurs talk about messaging. It's that word that everyone throws around, but most really just don't have a solid understanding of what it actually means. And if they do understand what it means, then their definition is probably entirely different from the entrepreneur who's sitting right next to them. 

This phenomenon is in stark contrast to key concepts like offer, or ideal client, because those tend to have universally accepted definitions, because they're so much more concrete and, honestly, a little bit self-explanatory. The same really can't be said about messaging. Therefore, I want to share with you a really simple definition of messaging that will help us get on the same page, and then talk more about what messaging is. 

In its simplest sense, messaging is how you communicate your offer in a way that resonates with your ideal client, so there's this alignment between your messaging, your offer, and your ideal client. In other words, there is an alignment between how you help people who you help and how you talk about how you help them. There is a lot of value in getting really clear on your offer and on your ideal client, and the value there is mostly around getting those things straight in your own head, because that's important. If you want to sell your offer, you have to actually talk about that offer and communicate it, and your prospects have to have the same understanding of your offer that you do. 

That's where messaging comes in; it's the foundational tenets of how you talk about that offer. Your messaging shows up in every aspect of your client-attraction process, so it shows up in your content, in your copy, in your strategy sessions or discovery calls, and then your branding. It's the foundational element that makes it easy to decide whether to use one word or phrase over another and to choose which topics to write a social media post on. 

However, there is another issue that arises at this point, which is that it's really easy to conflate messaging with content. While the two are very much related and support one another, they are not the same thing. Therefore, it's really important to understand not just how they're different, but what that actual relationship between the two is. Content is what you put out into the world. It's anything that educates, entertains, or inspires. It can be social media updates, blog posts, emails, anything like that. Messaging, on the other hand, is the language you use to create that content. It's the broader way that you communicate with your ideal clients, whereas content is the more specific mode. And when your content and messaging don't align, it might mean that the messaging you're using in, say, your podcast is actually a little bit different than the messaging you're using in a social media post, which might be a little bit different from the messaging you use in an email newsletter. 

While, obviously, you approach each of those types of content a little bit differently in terms of how to communicate through an email versus a podcast, the messaging is what needs to stay pretty consistent. Your goal is to create that complete alignment wherein your offer aligns with your messaging, and your messaging aligns with your content. Fortunately, there's a pretty simple framework that will help you to start creating that relationship, and the goal of this framework is simple: It's to help your ideal clients see the mistakes they're making and the problems they're having. Show them the implications of that mistake or that problem. Show them the benefit of fixing or addressing it, and tell them what they need to do to fix that mistake. 

In a nutshell, this approach to messaging is creating a mindset shift within your ideal clients. It's important to remember that, as you're asking yourself these four questions about your ideal clients, there is not just one answer to each of them. In fact, there are hundreds of mistakes and problems that your ideal clients are having, and each of those problems or mistakes has their own set of consequences and pains of continuing down that path, each has their own set of benefits and results of solving those pain points, and each has maybe a slightly different route to resolving it. 

When you're getting started and trying to formulate your messaging, start by brainstorming as many mistakes and problems as you can, and for each one, identify those other three things: the consequence, the benefit of resolving it, and what they need to do to make that happen. Once you have that, that will not only help you align your messaging, but it will also serve as some great inspiration for content creation down the road. Plus, you'll have done these two things: getting clear on your messaging, and coming up with a bunch of content topics in a way that ensures that your messaging and your content stay 100% aligned. 

At the end of the day, that's really going to kickstart your social media presence more than anything, right from the get go, so I highly recommend sitting down for an hour, maybe two hours, and completing this process. In fact, I complete this process roughly every six months, because I know that my offer and my ideal client and my messaging are continuing to evolve. If you've never done anything like this, then now is the time to do it for the first time, and then maybe revisit it in three or six months so that it can continue to, like I said, evolve and grow and become even more accurate, and resonate even more with your ideal clients.

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