The power of purpose
Your message has to have a purpose. It has to have a focus and a reason for existing. Audiences understand when it’s there, what it’s doing, and what it’s about. Even if it’s not loud and clear, they’re responding to the design because a message was decided long ago. This all comes down to purpose.
Let’s say you’ve been tasked with figuring out the theme for an upcoming festival. This festival is in its second year, it’s struggling with donors, and the client is asking you to figure out what the message is for this year’s event. You’ve done your work on the client, you’ve asked the right questions, and now you’re starting to build out an idea of the message. But first, you want to think about why this festival is here today. So, you focus on the purpose.
Here’s what you come up with:
This festival is about committing to the exemplary work that is being done by countless women throughout the country. It is about honoring, celebrating, and advocating for these pioneering women. This festival will be a place to champion the scholars, technicians, and boundary-breakers that move us forward as a nation.
That’s your big idea, right? This is one example where purpose is bleeding through every sentence. What is it about? Why is it here? What is its goal? If you’re struggling to figure out your message, think about what its purpose is. This might help you dive into the work.
Purpose is very much tied to reason. And messaging and reason are tied up in each other. Now that I have this sentence, I can see how a message can be born.
Everything you do should have a reason. Every choice you make needs a reason behind it. Have you ever been to those events and there is a film that plays to open or close the show, and you have no idea why they spent the time and money on it? No one wants a customer to read their brochure, or see their ad, and ask “What is the point of this? Why is this here?” That is death to a brand.
Objectives in your brand
There must always be a clear objective to your messaging platform. Audiences should understand what the message wants them to do, and what it’s asking them to do. The objective asks, “What do you want from this thing?” Being clear with an objective will lead you to your message. Let’s keep with the festival we addressed above. To get to the message, we need to get to the objective.
The objective might look like the following:
We want audiences to understand how important this festival is. We want audiences to purchase tickets, dive into our content, and donate to our cause. We want audiences to witness the full breadth and depth of our festival campaign. We want audiences to feel compelled to give to our initiative.
Whether you’re raising money for better healthcare advocacy, asking members to continue in your nursing association, asking donors to give to new beds in your hospital, asking fans to click on your team’s app, or getting customers to pay a monthly subscription service; it all boils down to what you want them to do. You’re asking for a real action to happen. When you’re thinking message, think abut the actions you want people to take.
Another example of an objective might be:
We want guests to be inspired when they come here. We want them to see that this festival is unlike anything else in the country; from the accommodations we offer, to the experiences we craft for every individual.
When guests walk through our gates, every smell and every moment should catch their eye. Our festival is a celebration of women. It will drive them to connect to their hearts and remind them the power they have to change the world.
Factoring in look and feel
I’ve mentioned this a few times, but it bears repeating – writing out a messaging platform is very much like painting a picture for your audience. You need to build a narrative that makes sense for them.
Crafting a message is about bringing in a sense of place and a sense of reason. Bring them into the sound, the look, the experience. Make them feel like they’re there. When you’re thinking about how look and feel play a part in your message, let yourself get in the mind of a designer.
What is popping out at you? Are there things you’re seeing? What did the client say? Are any smells come to mind? Let’s use our festival concept to talk about look and feel.
You might say:
The revitalized festival is committed to creating a fresh, innovative experience for women. In a sea of drafty, Ivy-tower competitors, this festival should create a sense of openness, honesty, and freshness. Everything should have its eyes on the future. We want people to walk in and see that the future is here, the future is female, and the future is a world of possibilities.
In those sentences, I was able to craft a look and feel, based off what I heard from the client. So, when we bring this to design, they know that they have to make sure everything they make ties into the key words I just wrote.
They’re going to think future-focused design, they’re going to think open air spaces with lots of movement, and they’re going to think interaction between people. Nothing in the design, then, should feel stodgy and stuffy.
Open, honest, innovation – these are all words that will ultimately drive how you build the film, event, podcast, or experience. Designers, coders, artists; they will play with these words because they inform so many of your choices
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