Delivering a message is an artform with very complex variables. What businesses and writers alike need to understand is that when delivering a message, the client, writer and reader may have radically different preferences when it comes to reading and understanding the message being communicated to them.
The client is typically most concerned with lead generation, maintaining an image, appealing to demographics and applying sales and marketing tactics to improve profits. The writer is most often concerned with smooth phrasing, consistency, grammar and their client’s special requests. The reader is most concerned with what the message offers them or how they can benefit from it.
This triangular relationship means that the client needs to adequately explain their preferences and predispositions to their writer in advance. A writer who doesn’t understand what the client consistently prefers in their content will often need to make decisions based on grammatical instinct for their own personal preference, and this may not always fit in with the client’s preferences.
At this point, the client doesn’t have what they want and the writer has to do more work; nobody is happy. However, there is a simple way to avoid this confusion: key message architecture.
Key Message Architecture: The Basics
The term “key message architecture” is used here to communicate a structural relationship. In order to adequately fulfill client requests, a writer needs to understand both the preferences of the client and how these preferences work together to create exactly what the client is looking for.
This is where the conflict begins. The writer has likely been exposed to various writing styles and worked with various clients. The business is likely run by people that do not have a particularly strong grasp on the writing process but still know great copywriting when they see it. If the business only provides a vague description of what they need and a list of references that might help the writer, the writer will not have any inclination to tailor-fit their work to the client’s preferences.
This leads to a low-productivity cycle in which modifications and revisions are made and subsequently re-analyzed by the client as many times as it takes for them to be pleased with the result. This is time consuming and can lead to a poor relationship between the two entities. The writer might have their earnings diluted by the continual requests for revisions, while the client may be losing money by not having the finished product ready for implementation.
Key message architecture is the simple solution to this conflict. It involves creating a style guide for the writer that explains, in detail, what is to be expected of their work. This is why key message architecture is so crucial in the developmental process. Listed below are the most important aspects to be included in this type of style guide.
The Elements of Key Message Architecture
Specific Phrases or Trademarks
Businesses that invest in trademark or cornerstone mottoes and phrases will be keen to include these into their marketing endeavors. If a client has a mandatory phrase like this, it should go without saying that the writer needs to know this before they begin. Many businesses may present this aspect of key message architecture without any other guidelines, which, though a step in the right direction, is usually insufficient for producing completed works.
Basic Visual Guidelines
If the client has a preferred font, font size, color scheme or format, it is better for the writer to have this in advance. This can save time by reducing the amount of revisions that the writer needs to account for in the feedback and editing stages. This part of key message architecture is usually customized for the client’s marketing preferences.
Terminology is used here to encompass any specific word that can be said in different ways. A great example of this would be “Sign Up.” Some companies prefer to say something like “get started” or some other permutation that refers to filling out their information. For the sake of consistency, these should also be identified early. Terminology is often far less important for key message architecture than the phrases and visual guidelines, but if the company has a specific preference, it will take longer for the writer to revise work that could have easily been addressed in advance.
The final aspect of key message architecture is basic formatting. Basic formatting includes all of the small and meticulous details that go into a finished product. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Numbers: The client should clearly state whether they prefer numbers to be written as “5” or “five” and any exceptions to this rule.
- Punctuation: If the client has a preference about how commas, semicolons, colons, hyphens, ampersands, or any other punctuation should be used, it should be included in their key message architecture.
- Acronyms: Any preferences towards how acronyms are presented, like “LJGI” or “Let’s Just Google It” should also be included.
- Paragraphs: Paragraph spacing and presentation is a must for this kind of style guide. Some clients prefer double spaces between paragraphs, while others prefer more or less. Some prefer 5 standard spaces at the beginning of a paragraph while others like breaking paragraphs apart to emphasize key phrases.
- Line Spacing: This refers to the amount of space between each individual line in the document. This is not always a key concern, but white space is an important part of emphasis in copywriting.
- Abbreviations: Abbreviations should also be included. An excellent example of this would be “California.” Is it to be spelled completely, or is CA preferred?
- Unique spelling: Finally, if the company has any unique spelling preferences, they should also be included in the list. This would be in the event that one of their products spells words differently on purpose, like spelling “cool” as “kool.