Is it time to go Marie Kondo on your corporate messaging?

Published: 29 May 2019

The method tidied up homes across the US, but her six lessons could be useful for businesses.

Like that jumper your sister bought for you but you dare not send to the charity shop, some things in messaging just need to go.

It’s easy to sneer at the seemingly banal waste of a weekend that Marie Kondo’s decluttering regime might inflict on a household. Though, God knows that my own home aesthetic, which I refer to as ransacked chic, could do with some attention and inspiration from her turquoise book.

But, why bother? I have become desensitised. I now see it as the norm to spend 20 minutes to find two matching shoes; to believe my daughter’s bedroom floor is intended to be a mosaic of nail polish bottles, discarded jeans and KitKat wrappers; that it’s rational to buy a copy of a book that I know is ‘somewhere’ in the house. It’s organic and it works, sort of.

Company messages can often suffer a similar fate. Teams adopt messages and a way of talking about the company that they no longer think to test or question. It is their norm. Or, messages mutate as various people tinker and bolt on prose to meet the specific purposes of the day. Messages therefore become cluttered, and audiences no longer see or hear the things they value.

At Linstock, we work with some of the world’s leading firms to review their corporate messaging. We often find that messages go unchanged, whilst market priorities and dynamics shift. Or that language in the messaging has evolved to fit an internal lexicon and is no longer easily understood by the audiences they intend to target.

So, what can we glean from Kondo’s six lessons when it comes to our company messages?

1. Commit yourself to tidying up

Like most destructive behaviour, the first step to redemption is to admit there’s an issue and to want to fix it. Comms teams should do the same with their messages, questioning: Do they still reflect the company we work in? Do they align with the current priorities and dynamics of the market? Would a 14-year-old easily understand what we do if they read our corporate blurb? If the answer is no to any of these then a process of review is in order.

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

For messaging, imagine how you want your organisation to be perceived in the market. Then speak to audiences to see if this sentiment is reflected. If it isn’t, then there is work to be done (and possibly to more than the messages).

3. Finish discarding first

Like that jumper your sister bought for you but you dare not send to the charity shop, some things in messaging just need to go. It might be jargon. It might be that line that your CEO loves, but nobody else does. Sometimes the hardest part is letting go!

4. Tidy by category

Kondo is organised in her approach and companies should be, too. Understand the different drivers in your market and the offer you present. Speak with your frontline staff and understand the conversations they have with their clients. What resonates? What doesn’t? Don’t major on service in your messaging if customers’ experiences are not reflective.

5. Follow the right order

Market dynamics shift. Audiences are fickle. Understand what your company is good at and what the market demands. Reflect this in your messaging. For example, if ethical concerns are the main priority of the market, maybe that message on company environmental, social and governance credentials should feature more prominently and aspects such as cost be addressed further down the hierarchy.

6. Ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’

Granted, unbounded joy might be a tall order for corporate messaging, but it should certainly feel right. It should be easy to understand. It must differentiate your firm from the competition. And it should sit well in the markets you serve.

If you think that your corporate messaging needs a tidy up, or even a complete clear out, then please do get in touch.

Keith Brookbank







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