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Developing a consistent voice across all your content is a common challenge that is highlighted in CPL’s research report, The Content Connection. Success, says CPL content strategist Martin Bewick, starts with getting audiences to understand your story
In 2019, BT Group unveiled a new visual identity in time for its 50th birthday. A new logo reflected the fact the company now offers services in telecoms, broadband, mobile, subscription TV and IT – in 180 countries. The rebrand was about showing that BT is a tech company, not a telephone company. Planning and implementation of the rebrand took more than three years.
The cancer charity Macmillan also launched a new brand strategy last year. Its ‘Life with cancer’ strapline was replaced with ‘Whatever cancer throws your way, we’re right there with you’. Why? To help build awareness that Macmillan supports people with cancer at all stages of their illness and recovery.
The new strapline was launched with a multichannel advertising campaign, and was incorporated across all the charity’s communications, including fundraising, social media and PR. Getting the new message out took a lot of work and some joined-up thinking.
Rebranding, or brand repositioning, is never only about changing the logo. It is about the desire to reassert a company or organisation’s vision, its purpose, the way it conducts itself, and how it communicates with its audience. It’s about a shift in the story an organisation wants to tell, and it’s the same for global giants as it is for a small non-profit, or a professional membership body.
Content and messaging can become muddied over time. If left unchecked, a schism appears between the story an organisation wants to tell and what the target audience actually receives. When that occurs, it’s time to reorganise, re-envisage and refresh your communications.
How cohesive is your messaging, for example, across print, email, social, web, newsletters, exhibition merchandise, podcasts…? Despite the best of intentions, it’s often the case that it could be better aligned and more consistent. And if you can see that, your target audience may see it too.
But before you advocate a brand overhaul, remember that regaining control over your content is often a complex task. A realignment can be as much about improving internal communications as reskinning your external identity.
Changing situations can fray and fade an organisation’s once shiny and focused messaging. Within an organisation, long-term employees might lose track of the original intention. Newer employees might never become truly familiar with it. Different areas of the organisation, responsible for different aspects of the overall communications output, develop their own interpretations of the brand story, and set their own goals.
When CPL and Ashridge surveyed a range of membership bodies about content, and how it connects the organisation and its core audience, many responses recognised that communications aren’t always as joined-up as they might be.
The survey results, published as one of the key takeaways in The Content Connection report, highlighted that many organisations experience challenges when maintaining a consistent and coherent tone of voice across their communications. But what are the obstacles?
Asked whether content and publishing issues could be raised with the senior management of their organisations, nearly all (33 out of 37, or 90%) said they ‘always’ could. When it came to controlling the publishing budget, nearly three-quarters responded that they owned either all or part of the budget.
The challenge of creating a cohesive output of content, however, is normally not one of obtaining funds, or of authorisation. Instead, the difficulty is often in rolling it out and maintaining it.
Getting everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, the survey suggests, is easier said than done. Respondents acknowledged that taking colleagues with you, as you implement a content or communications strategy, can be a challenge that takes time. Several highlighted the difficulty in getting everyone in their organisation to conform to the guidelines, tone and content structure laid down by the communications team.
And yet strong and consistent messaging is central to successful brand-building and to creating communications that resonate with a target audience. While it may be a never-ending challenge for membership organisations, joining the communications dots – across anyone who participates with your brand, across channels, externally and internally – should be a foundation of any content strategy.
Download a copy of The Content Connection here.