Product Marketing

The Most Important Part of your Messaging Docs: Copy

Jonathan Bracken
Aug 16, 2022
“Messaging is not copy” Right? It turns out that the semantics of “messaging” might not be that important.

The reality is that “copy” is what most internal audiences want to see when they ask you for messaging. And if you give them something that isn’t copy, they’re either going to use it as copy/ scripts anyway or they’re going to be annoyed that you didn’t give it to them.

You might want those internal audiences to internalize the messaging and use their own words, but there are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.

Who’s the Copywriter?

Most of your internal audiences aren’t copywriters, so why would you entrust them with this critical task? Whatever they come up with is almost definitely going to be worse than copying and pasting the copy you wrote.

Sure…the copy you give them isn’t the only thing they are going to communicate. They still need to put contextual information and prefacing etc. to make the messaging communication work correctly.

But the essential wording that you’ve crafted (and invested heavily in) should be copied and pasted. This is the messaging that really matters as it’s the words (in the correct order) that you want your intended audiences to read and hear.

To do anything else is a wasted effort and is ultimately bad for your prospects, customers and your business. It’s like having a master chef for a fancy restaurant, but instead of having them give the cooks their famous recipes, the cooks just “wing it”. Probably not going to be good.

Besides the problem of uneven copywriting, distributed authorship leads directly to inconsistency. Having lots of people in your company each writing their own version of the messaging introduces lots of variations and can create confusion for prospects.

(We get into the value of messaging consistency in this blog post.)

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need variation to avoid audiences getting bored of seeing the same message over and over again. While we all like to think prospects are hanging on our every word, they just aren’t. And in cases where they read your messaging from multiple sources they want it to be the same so it reinforces the meaning as opposed to obfuscating it.

Have you ever received a cold email that said one thing, went to the website to read another and then viewed an asset that said something completely different? I bet you didn’t buy that thing. Which makes sense, because people who are frustrated in their desire to learn about a product generally don’t have the patience to continue their journey with that company. This is why message matching between ads and landing pages is so important for conversion rates.

What about Training?

Ok so there are a bunch of reasons why just doing messaging training won’t work, but don’t get me wrong; training is good. Educating your internal teams about messaging is an important way to communicate what your positioning is and why you are messaging things the way you are. This foundational knowledge helps them internalize it better so they can truly “own” it as they are writing it and delivering it to others.

But don’t expect your teams to remember everything you train them on. if you have even a little bit of messaging complexity your internal teams can’t be expected to internalize or memorize it entirely. They probably won’t hold on to much more than your narrative and maybe the value props for each product. And they definitely aren’t going to remember the messaging for every capability, feature, benefit, use case, vertical and persona.

Growth Challenges

Compounding the problem of managing your messaging is the fact that so much is changing as a company grows. Not only is the messaging itself growing and evolving, but the people on the internal teams are changing as well. Often this is a function of organic growth, but acquisitions can be particularly demanding in terms of changes to be managed.

Sales and marketing teams in particular are tough to keep aligned on messaging due to attrition. The average tenure of sales and marketing people is 18-24 months, so by the time they’ve completely ramped up on your messaging, they’re moving on and it’s time to train their replacement.

Copy is Your Job, Not Theirs

If you’re a PMM and you only want to provide training on messaging to your internal teams and let them come up with the copy and scripts, you’re really shirking your duties as a PMM. For these other teams (especially for sales) it’s not their job. And it’s not where they add value. You’re only slowing them down by forcing them to come up with the messaging for each situation.

Your job is to understand your personas and products deeply. Their job is to say the right thing to the right person at the right time. Your job is not to make sure they understand the personas and products deeply, it’s to give them what they need to do their job. Plus, if you insist on relying on only providing messaging training, you’ll sound like that math teacher who used to tell you that “you better memorize your times tables because you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket”… but you do. You literally always have a calculator in your pocket.

So to enable the internal teams with messaging, don’t just teach them a math lesson…build them the calculator they always have in their pocket so they can quickly get the actual copy blocks and script components they need for each situation. Whether you choose a spreadsheet, a messaging “bible” doc or a centralized hub, making a trusted, single source of truth is critical.

Better for Them, Better for You

Once you have all the messaging accessible to your internal teams, you’ll feel the difference. With the messages about challenges, benefits, features, products, platform, brand, use cases (and everything else you have in your framework) all organized for consumption, they can create whatever they need. When you give them these building blocks you will increase their happiness and reduce attrition by giving them what they truly want.

You will also make internal teams more successful because they will more efficiently and effectively deliver the right messaging to the right audience at the right time through content and communications. Consistently. And by doing this you will not only bask in the glory of their success, but they will reward you with their professional gratitude for finally delivering what they’ve always wanted. A better experience for your prospects, customers and internal teams….isn’t that what it’s all about?