Justin Rubner

If You’re Crafting a Core Message, Don’t Forget the Cliché Eraser

In business communications, copywriting, marketing strategy on 04/20/2011 at 8:30 am

If you’re crafting a core message, the good news is there are only three tools you need:

A stopwatch, an in-depth thesaurus and a Copycation-style cliché eraser, all of which will help you say more with fewer words.

The bad news? Saying more with fewer words strains brain cells.

Cliche eraser

Meet the Copycation cliché eraser. It despises clichés.

Wait. Shouldn’t it be easier to say what you do and how you’re different in three sentences…as opposed to 30? Fewer words to write, right?

If you’ve brainstormed a tagline or headline, you know that’s not the case. I don’t have an exact formula, but it goes something like this: Writing short is X to the nth degree more difficult than writing long.

When delivering your core message to uninformed prospects, keeping it short is imperative because attention spans are short. At the same time, your short message needs to say big things.

So, what’s a core message? It’s the heart of  all communication efforts. Like homepages. And social-media campaigns. Or sales pitches.

Crafting a core message

Your core message, or elevator pitch, should take about 20 seconds to deliver.

Even elevator pitches, which are the same thing as a core message.

If your website or team can’t succinctly articulate your core message in about 20 seconds–that’s two to four sentences–then you’ve lost your prospect’s attention. Your only hope is a really patient reader. Or a stalled elevator.

For everyone else, here are six attributes that should  be conveyed, more or less, in a core message:

  1. What you do.
  2. Your brand identity or “heart”.
  3. Your primary product(s) or service(s).
  4. Your primary advantages.
  5. Your primary differentiating features.
  6. Your primary market(s) or application(s).

Not only should these attributes be conveyed in just a few sentences, AND pass the 20-Second Rule, a core message should also pass the Single Breath Rule. That is, if you have to take more than one breath while reading a sentence, break it into multiple sentences.

However, before you start the core message process, here are some universal writing tips:

  1. Describe how your product or service helps customers…in addition to mentioning your cool features.
  2. Focus only on what’s deeply important, eliminating all that’s not.
  3. Use tangible, concrete words, deploying the cliché eraser on mush such as “best in class”, “advanced”, “state of the art” or “leading”.
  4. Discover balance between differentiation and isolation, finding ways to set yourself apart without confusing the market.
  5. Convey more ideas in fewer, more powerful words.

With these tips in mind, I recommend creating a message matrix. The steps in creating a matrix can look something like this:

Thesaurus for crafting a core message

A thesaurus comes in handy when crafting a core message.

  1. Write down words that describe your product or service.
  2. Categorize them into primary and secondary advantages and features, knowing full well you’ll have 20 seconds to convey the primary ones.
  3. Eliminate the words that don’t fit into primary or secondary attributes, because too many ideas will muck up your message.
  4. Consolidate, examining where one word can take the place of three. Example: Why say your product is “intuitive”, “easy to use” and “simple” when you can convey those words with any of the above or something like “effortless”? For every redundant word you use, that’s one word that might drown the point you want to make.
  5. Choose the most universal, powerful word as your brand identity. To put it another way, is there one word that encapsulates your differentiation, most or all of your attributes, as well as your tagline? This diamond should be fused with your company or product name on first reference.

With these steps accomplished, your core message will be more powerful, cleaner and shorter. Plus, you’ll strain fewer brain cells–even with the advanced planning.

Best of all, you’ll eliminate a few clichés along the way.

- Justin Rubner

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