Make It Happen: Your Brand Needs a Messaging Playbook

A messaging playbook will go a long way toward driving your recruitment and outreach success.

Jun 20, 2017


Make it Happen

Think of your school or program as a brand. Every brand needs a voice. Your messaging provides the words that help your prospective students understand the value you deliver. Successful brand messaging tells a story that gets people excited and compels them to act.

Brand messaging can be delivered through various forms—an ad, a tagline, an email, etc. Varying in length and format, the messages you deliver reflect on your core brand message: a concise promise of value statement that declares why your brand matters, what it stands for, and how it stands apart.

A messaging playbook is essential to ensure consistency, establish credibility, and build trust as you reach out to your audiences through multiple communications channels. Messaging playbooks vary in detail, but these components will help ensure that your organization is aligned:

  1. Core Message. This is your promise of value (or, value proposition), the “who we are, how we can help you, and how we differentiate from the field” boilerplate content. It’s helpful if this message is repurposed in multiple formats (e.g. 140 characters, 50 words, 100 words).

  2. Audiences. Identify your unique audiences, e.g. for particular graduate management programs (MBA, Masters of Accounting, Executive MBA, etc.) or specific candidate segments (career changers, skill upgraders, global strivers, etc.). This will help you frame your content around your messaging pillars.

  3. Messaging Pillars: To support your core message, identify one to three messaging pillars that further substantiate your primary overarching message. The messaging pillars are usually the key benefits delivered by your promise of value. They are the reasons your unique audiences should believe what is being stated.

  4. Voice. Define your messaging voice (e.g. enthusiastic, credible, approachable, etc.) and pillars from a “we” point of view and a “you” point of view. Your voice gives your audience a recognizable way to identify you. Arrive at your voice by thinking about your brand as a person. From that set of personality traits, build a list of words that describe what you sound like. Sometimes we need to talk about ourselves (when describing who we are, what we do), but whenever possible, we should shift to “you,” which requires you to know your audience and address their needs. 

  5. Tone. Your tone adds context to your voice and may change depending on circumstances. The tone we use in a letter to a prospective student might differ from the tone we use in a privacy policy. Knowing when and how to change tone comes down to understanding our audience and how it may feel about a particular topic about which we’re writing.

  6. Do’s and Don’ts: This includes your rules for writing. Do’s could include: Use active voice, be truthful and candid, be concise, etc. Don’ts could include: Don’t use jargon or colloquialisms, don’t exclude certain global regions, don’t make it all about you, etc.