A Guide to Crisis Communication in Modern Day PR

Public Relations is the cornerstone of effective crisis communication. In the midst of unexpected challenges, how an organization manages its public image can make or break its reputation. Crisis communication through PR involves a strategic and dynamic process aimed at preserving trust and credibility.

With so many avenues for communication as a business today, the odds of facing crises that require astute and timely responses are naturally higher, so it’s essential your public relations team is decisive yet adept at de-escalating and maintaining your brand’s reputation.

In this year alone, large businesses like TikTok, Silicon Valley Bank, and Ticketmaster faced a flurry of public scrutiny. Though a crisis can feel catastrophic, it only is without great communication management. PR professionals must act swiftly to assess the situation, gather accurate information, and develop a well-thought-out communication plan. This often includes crafting clear and empathetic messages that address the issue at hand while demonstrating the organization’s commitment to resolution. So, don’t panic or freeze, instead become crisis ready by creating a response plan that include the following three steps:

Step 1 – Validate

The last thing you want to do in a crisis when you’re directly in the public’s eye is make your audience feel dismissed, unheard, or devalued. Address it head on, acknowledge why people are upset, own the mistake (even if another party indirectly caused it), and do these promptly. In addition to losing ownership of the story, taking too long to respond can be worse than saying nothing at all. Silence often leads to negative assumptions and communication is essential to de-escalating, especially in situations where people are prone to panic.

Step 2 – Relate

Validating the reason people are upset is just the first step in repairing any damage. Next, is connecting with your audience. Let them know what matters to them, matters to you, and by admitting the mistake, you show you’re imperfect and that’s a good thing; it makes you human. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to be emotive and speak to people’s emotions by painting a picture of a better tomorrow, creating a shared vision that inspires and unites.

Step 3 – Prove

Your team must navigate the fine line between disclosing pertinent information and ensuring that the organization is not incriminated. It’s okay to set the record straight… as long as you do so with a solution and people driven message behind it. Gear that messaging in a way where you guide and refocus the story. Remember to utilize social media effectively by responding to negative comments and steer the conversation back towards a positive outcome. Provide fact-based intel for clarity that demonstrates credibility, and then follow it up by reassuring them not only through words but actions. There needs to be a plan in motion to establish trust; seeing is believing.

You want to be prepared and ready to lead at times when it matters most. Think of crisis management as an opportunity to showcase your brand’s true character and ultimately, that you are a brand to trust and follow. Keeping these steps in mind will help you handle the unexpected successfully.

We may be equipped with language, but communication isn’t always second nature to us. Take the pressure off and turn to Next-Mark for any public relations and communications challenges your business may encounter.

When you partner with us, not only do you have a vast resource of marketing solutions at your fingertips, but you can expect a team of dynamic and seasoned professionals ready to collaborate with you. View our capabilities video to learn more or get in touch at 941.544.2765 or send us an email.


You started your business for a reason; you saw a need or desire and knew you could create a service or product to fulfill it, but if no one knows what you do, and more importantly, who you are, you’re not going to get very far. That’s where strategic marketing begins.

Effecting marketing, marketing that actually moves the needle, isn’t an ad here or a social media post there, it is integrated content working together consistently to tell your brand’s story. Leveraging an extensive suite of marketing tools and comprehensive strategies, we take your business’s potential and create a brand that’s uniquely yours and stands out against the rest. Here’s how we can jumpstart your business’s marketing engine.


With cover stories and high visibility client press coverage, we put your brand front and center of your target audience with messaging that represents your mission and vision clearly.


diverse client portfolio of award-winning designs for brands of every kind. For a look and feel that flawlessly depicts your business, come to our team of talented creative strategists for an elevated brand that draws clients to you.


From website design, creation, and SEO to social media management and digital advertisements to email marketing campaigns and newsletters, we build comprehensive digital strategies that integrate seamlessly with every other element of your marketing plan.


As a certified Salesforce partner, we bridge the gap between strategic content and full utilization of your Salesforce application. From implementation to management of Salesforce, we strive to be a strategic, collaborative partner focused on results.


Our team develops video content starting from conception through to fruition. Whether it’s a short clip, like an Instagram reel, TikTok, or YouTube short, or a longer piece, like an explainer (“how-to”) or a cross-platform campaign, we create productions that capture your brand’s story and your audience’s attention.

Discover the Power of Brand

When you partner with us, not only do you have a vast resource of marketing solutions at your fingertips, but you can expect your business to be handled with the utmost attention and creative determination. View our capabilities video to learn more or get in touch at 941.544.2765 or send us an email.

We would like to give you a look inside our team members’ recent ventures and life milestones, allowing you to get to know us a little better. Lately, we have traveled to far-off places, welcomed new life, produced works of art, and excelled in our fields. Welcome to our world!


Ryan Hoevenaar, our Director of Creative Strategy, welcomed a new member to the family in February when a healthy baby boy, Logan, was born on 2.9.23. Congratulations to Ryan and his family!


Next-Mark’s team is always reaching new heights both as an agency and individually. We are proud to announce that Travis Cornwell, our Manager of Client Experience and Development, received the honor of the Joe Curley Rising Leader Award from the Florida Public Relations Association. The award nominees highlight up-and-coming FPRA members that demonstrate emerging leadership traits, and the winner is recognized for their dedication to active involvement in FPRA Chapter activities, programs, functions, and events. Congratulations Travis!


Luke Piety, the team’s Creative Producer, produced and created a short documentary about The Anna Maria Island Players and their theatre’s rich history. The documentary first premiered at the Sarasota Film Festival in April, showing in the Florida Filmmaker category, and later, officially released to the public with a premiere at the Island Players Theatre itself on Anna Maria.

Watch the documentary here.


Our Manager of Client Experience, Matthew Fenton, recently embarked on a trip to Indonesia, backpacking around its beautiful isles and embracing the full spectrum of experiences these captivating islands have to offer. From the pristine beaches of Bali to the lush rainforests of Sumatra, Matthew traversed the beautiful landscapes while immersing himself in the vibrant culture of the island life. This extraordinary experience allowed him to witness life in its rawest form and dive into the breathtaking waters renowned as some of the best diving spots in the world.


By: Ashley Bernhardt

Modern PR and media relations have undergone vast changes in the past three years. Though traditional journalism outlets have scaled down, media relations are more relevant and pertinent to marketing than ever. With other media platforms expanding, navigating and assigning the appropriate importance to each can feel daunting. Here is what we know:


Social Media Influencers & Bloggers 

Social media’s reach is undeniable and those who have large followings have cultivated target audiences that can be hard to register with otherwise. Influencers are a media contact to consider when promoting a launch, campaign, or product that can prove valuable in increasing reach and fostering engagement.

Podcast, Webcast & Radio Hosts

An even greater relevant resource for media relations are podcast hosts. The rise in podcasts popularity is monumental and their content is a huge medium where people get their information. Although podcasts can be treated as media outlets and their hosts like journalists, doing the proper research and finding the appropriate shows to reach out to is essential. The right podcast can provide a format that informs as well as entertains, creating brand trust and garnering connection.


Along with a redefined version of what a media outlet is today, modern PR utilizes a variety of digital tools that can aid with nearly everything, such as monitoring earned coverage, measuring results, managing contacts and lists, press release distribution, and streamlining outreach.   


Not a replacement for earned media but a supplement to it, paid media does have a relevant place in the online and social media environments. Targeted advertising across social channels drives awareness of a brand and draws in your key audience prior to earned coverage, and a carefully crafted and curated paid placement can contribute to an earned strategy by reminding viewers of your unique value.   

Paid media doesn’t have to be the shameless advertorials of a decade ago, or more likely than not, shouldn’t be the plain self-promotions of the past. Paid content can be genuinely good and engaging, surrounding and boosting your earned media.


One thing is for certain in this new digital landscape, the importance of PR and media relations is still instrumental in marketing, and it’s not all “in with the new, out with the old.” All have a place in elevating your marketing strategies and delivering success.

If we can help with your Public Relations strategy, please reach out to info@next-mark.com

Award-winning Bay Runner turns one March 2

Ridership continues to grow and surpass expectations as the inaugural year for the complimentary open-air trolley service the Bay Runner is marked Thursday, March 2. Over 150,800 passengers have experienced the award-winning Bay Runner during the first 12 months of operation.

Sarasota, FL (March 1, 2023):  Ridership continues to grow and surpass expectations as the inaugural year for the complimentary open-air trolley service the Bay Runner is marked Thursday, March 2. Over 150,800 passengers have experienced the award-winning Bay Runner during the first 12 months of operation.  

“The popularity of the Bay Runner is greater than we could have imagined,” said Planning Director Steve Cover whose parking, mobility and transportation teams implemented the  City Commission’s vision of a free shuttle service to help alleviate traffic congestion between downtown and Lido Beach.  “People in Sarasota truly want to live more and drive less. The Bay Runner is a unique experiential service that is relaxing, fun and helps get vehicles off the road and reduce emissions in our beautiful coastal community.”

From the first day of service on March 2, 2022 when an impressive 208 passengers tried the Bay Runner, the trolley has become increasingly popular. In April 2022, the monthly ridership was 14,291. By February 2023, it grew to 17,000 passengers.

“The Bay Runner is a convenient, safe, and stress-free option to travel between the mainland and barrier islands,” said Mayor Kyle Battie.  “By opting to leave their vehicle behind and ride the trolley, each passenger is doing their part to reduce traffic congestion and that’s significant, especially during peak season. We’re proud of the Bay Runner’s success and want to keep the momentum going.”

The Bay Runner provides free service on a fixed route along Main Street through downtown, over the John Ringling Bridge, around St. Armands Circle and to Lido Beach and Ted Sperling Park. 

Service is available every day of the year from 8 a.m. to midnight.  A route map is available at www.SarasotaBayRunner.com A mobile app with real time tracking and arrival information can be downloaded via the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The Bay Runner carries 28 passengers, is equipped with a wheelchair boarding lift and transports bicycles.

The service is operated by CPR Medical Transport, the same company that runs the popular Siesta Key Breeze trolley.

The City Commission partnered with the Downtown Improvement District (DID), St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and City staff to launch the trolley service. In addition to City economic development funds, and a $1.5 million FDOT grant, the DID and BID each allocate $50,000 annually toward the initial three-year program.

“We understand the important role the Bay Runner is playing with mobility,” said City Manager Marlon Brown. “We are reviewing all potential funding sources to ensure the trolley continues.”

The trolley, plus micromobility options, were identified through citizen input during the creation of the City’s first transportation master plan, Sarasota in Motion, adopted by the City Commission in 2020.

Just two weeks after the Bay Runner launch, the City rolled out a new e-scooter/bicycle rental program to provide quick, convenient mobility. Veo, the operator, is reporting record demand in Sarasota with 127,753 total trips taken between March 2022 and January 2023. Many riders incorporate the Bay Runner and Veo to reach their destination, by taking the trolley then a scooter or vice versa for the first or last mile of their trip.

The City’s trolley and e-scooter/bike rental programs were honored together in June 2022 by the International Parking & Mobility Institute (IPMI) with an Award of Excellence for innovation with a mobility program.

The Bay Runner also received four prestigious awards this month from the American Advertising Federation for creativity and excellence in branding and marketing provided by Sarasota-based marketing firm Next-Mark.


About the City of Sarasota:  Distinguished by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S. and the number one place in Florida, the City of Sarasota is a diverse and inclusive community located on Florida’s Suncoast with 56,000 year-round residents, several internationally recognized cultural arts venues, stunning sunsets along Lido Beach and Major League spring training baseball with the Baltimore Orioles. Learn more about us at www.SarasotaFL.Gov


The Sarasota-based marketing and communications agency earns a company record of 17 awards for creative excellence

SARASOTA, Fla. – Next-Mark, a full-service marketing and communications agency serving clients in Florida and nationwide, announces it earned a company record of 17 ADDY® Awards at the Advertising Federation’s annual competition hosted by AdFed, the Florida Suncoast’s regional AAF club. 

The awards span multiple categories that directly impacted the success of Next-Mark’s clients. Clients for whom Next-Mark won awards include The City of Sarasota Bay Runner Trolley, Willis Smith Construction, The City of Sarasota Downtown Improvement District, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors, Sarasota Rising, and Elsevier. Categories of excellence included integrated marketing campaigns, video, ambient media, branded content, and digital media, among others. 

Specific work recognized included the launch of the City of Sarasota Bay Runner Trolley, The City of Sarasota Downtown Improvement District Brand Launch, Sarasota Rising Brand Launch, four Willis Smith videos, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors architectural videos, and Elsevier tradeshow design. 

“We are committed to delivering impactful creative content driven by a strategic business approach across client categories,” said Next-Mark president and founder, Joseph S. Grano, Jr. “To be recognized by our peers is a testament to our results-driven process, as well as the commitment of our team in delivering exceptional work on behalf of our clients. 

About Next-Mark

Next-Mark, LLC is a full-service, award-winning marketing communications agency based in Sarasota, FL. It helps business leaders beat their growth targets by delivering better competitive insights, more powerful branding, stronger strategies and faster results. Breaking away from the constraints of traditional marketing service organizations, the Next-Mark team facilitates new conversations about a client’s brand, integrating experience, analytics and innovation in developing strategic marketing solutions to meet clients’ individual needs. Next-Mark focuses on internationally and nationally recognized brands along with growing companies across a broad spectrum of categories, including healthcare, technology, hospitality and entertainment, technology, tourism, retail, destination, real estate, environmental, marine products and tourism. With clients from Beverly Hills to Amsterdam, its roster includes industry leaders such as Comcast/NBC, LexisNexis, Elsevier, Neuroflow, Nuance Communications, CMX/Cinebistro, Medecision, CGI, California Pizza Kitchen, along with Florida-based clients including The City of Sarasota, Willis Smith Construction, St. Armands Circle, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors, Sun Protection of Florida, Yarnall Moving and Storage, CitySide Apartments, and The Met Sarasota among others. For more information, visit its website at www.next-mark.com.


Next-Mark Shares Prize With City

Bay Runner marketing campaign nets agency international prize

SARASOTA, FLORIDA – As part of the International Parking & Mobility Institute’s (IPMI) annual Awards of Excellence, the City of Sarasota and Next-Mark, LLC have taken home top prize in the “Innovation in a Mobility, Transportation or Parking Program” category for the Bay Runner Trolley.

The free trolley operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to midnight and has seen ridership in the tens of thousands thanks in part to the success of the robust, impactful and creative marketing campaign created by the downtown marketing agency, Next-Mark, LLC. “More than anything, we were really invested in helping the trolley program garner strong ridership numbers,” says Next-Mark founder Joe Grano, “but an award like this is really humbling and reflects the energy we put into this project.”

The award recognizes projects in five categories that all “reflect the zeitgeist in their originality, creativity, and responsiveness to owner goals, user needs, and social and environmental impact,” according to the IPMI. As one juror commented, “the motto of ‘Live more, drive less’ is perfectly put into practice with this experiential journey,” while the award announcement also cited robust print, TV and in-person advertising as a vital component of the program’s selection for the award.

“It truly takes a village to successfully execute something this big,” says City of Sarasota parking manager Mark Lyons. That “village” was comprised of the city, the Downtown Improvement District, the St. Armands Business Improvement District, and the Florida Department of Transportation, who all contributed funding and insight into the program. “And, of course, hats off to the team at Next-Mark for helping the Bay Runner exceed our expectations,” continues Lyons.

To view the full listing of awards, visit the IPMI website here.

ABOUT NEXT-MARK, LLC: Based in downtown Sarasota, Next-Mark, LLC is a full-service marketing agency that specializes in marketing communications, marketing strategy, public relations, content development, brand strategy and Salesforce services. With both local and national clients, Next-Mark brings a high level of creativity and professionalism to every campaign, regardless of industry or scope.

Marketing The Invisible: 4 Tips to Effectively Market a Service-Based Business

If the entire production output of the service economy were compiled into an empty 10,000-sq-ft. warehouse, that warehouse would still have 10,000-sq-ft. of empty space. That’s because, unlike the manufacturing economy that produces cameras, clothing and candles, the service economy produces no tangible goods.

According to Frances X. Frei of the Harvard Business School, this means a service business’s offerings must be focused on the customer experience rather than on the intrinsic characteristics of a product’s utility. Since a customer’s experience is difficult to quantify, service businesses often have a difficult time conceptualizing a message that can clearly communicate how their service will add value to their customers’ lives. After all, how do you measure “convenience,” “entertainment,” or “peace of mind”?

The key to addressing the challenge isn’t always simple, and that’s before a service business even arrives at the equally important step of designing a tactical plan. With that, here are 5 tips to effectively market a service-based business.

1. Define what you do.

This seemingly innocuous task can elicit crickets from service providers, who often have no clear idea of what they do beyond one or two fundamental actions. For example, a web designer designs websites (obviously), but the process of designing the website might also involve discovery sessions to discern a client’s needs, several rounds of client feedback, regular site maintenance, and incorporating different functions into the site. It’s important to have a clear understanding of a business process that can then be clearly delineated for customers. The most important places to explain these processes are on a website, in social media bios, or on introductory print collateral.

2. Make the case for your value.

Like item #1, a value proposition can be difficult for a service provider to compose because there’s no tangible product. A plumber, for example, most commonly uses their skill to repair existing items like toilets, faucets or bathtubs, as opposed to selling the toilets, faucets or bathtubs themselves. So, a plumber might be “selling” their expertise to get the job done, their professionalism in arriving on time and keeping the worksite clean, and/or selling the client the peace of mind that their plumbing will operate smoothly for years to come. In some cases, the effects of the service might have measurable results like greater sales, reduced operating costs, or, as in the example of the plumber, reduced water bills. Tactically, some things to consider incorporating into a marketing plan to help make the case for your value are client testimonials, concise taglines, and images that depict the kind of satisfaction your service can provide.

3. Pamper your repeat customers.

Everyone wants to grow their business, but getting new customers is more expensive than keeping the ones you already have. It’s important to commit resources in a marketing budget to customer retention instead of focusing exclusively on new leads. Especially when providing services that have maintenance capabilities built into the initial offerings, it’s important to nurture existing client relationships to maintain their awareness of the full scope of your offerings. An A/C company might make a sale for installation, for example, but it’s the maintenance that helps support the livelihoods of technicians and will ensure the customers return to that A/C company when they need a new system in 10 years. Some ways to pamper your repeat customers are with regular follow-ups via phone or email, newsletters to keep them up to date on new services or offerings, referral bonuses or discounts, or brief emails to celebrate birthdays or milestones.

4. Establish your expertise.

Simply put, you can do something for your customers that they cannot do for themselves, most often because they lack the know-how. The more you can demonstrate your services require specialized skills and experience, the more trust you can build in existing and prospective customers. It’s important to let people know not just what you do, but all of the time and specialized training it took for you to become proficient at it. Does your service require extensive schooling? Have you practiced your service in multiple industries? How many years of professional experience do you have? Are you a leader in your field? These are questions your customers will want answered whether they ask them out loud or not. Some ways to answer them are with white papers, case studies, blogs/vlogs, editorial commentary, or speaking engagements.

Ultimately, all of these tips are designed to help service businesses make their intangible offerings seem more real. It’s about connecting with your customers in a dialogue in which you can walk them through their journey with you. As that guide, it’s important to communicate clearly, be relatable, demonstrate that you understand their needs and that you are just the person to meet their needs.

Are you a business operating in the service economy? If so, reach out to Next-Mark to see what we can do for you. We’ve worked extensively with clients in banking, medical services, government agencies, public sector, nonprofit organizations, design firms, and professional trades.

Some years ago, we were part of a PR professionals meeting held at a local daily newspaper. While we were waiting for the session to begin, a biz reporter popped in to thank us—yeah, we were surprised too. In essence, this reporter told us he was glad when a company was represented by an agency because, when left to their own devices, they often didn’t know how to work with the media.

That holes true today even as media forms and platforms have emerged and changed radically over the past few years, each with its own purpose, process and potential value.

Ultimately, that’s the gap we work to bridge every day, keeping clients connected to an ever-changing collection of dots to create and maintain a favorable public image and grow market share. In that pursuit, we have developed a process that is both solid and flexible, grounded yet nimble. And it works.

A Strong Beginning

It starts with research. Before our first substantive meeting with the client, we dig into their organization’s existing media to get a customer’s perspective and find gaps in their messaging.

After that comes a strategic messaging meeting, where we explore how a company wishes to be perceived with our proprietary method.

From there, we work hands-on with the client to compile the nuts and bolts of a messaging strategy to build a thought leadership position through content and implement a media strategy across platforms and vehicles, choosing the right message at the right time with the right language.

Client Education

All along the way, there’s client education, because it’s true most owners and managers are too busy with their day jobs to care about the kind of deliverable we’re producing. They just want to know that it’s working.

For instance, we recently created a virtual press kit for a client who was curious about its purpose. The answer (to us) is simple: To make everything as easy as possible for the inquiring media outlet. The press kit is a snapshot of the company today, including its leadership, services/capabilities, history, contact info, story pitches, topics on which they are qualified to comment, and so on. Whether shared as a hardcopy or digitally, it’s a calling card to meet with local media and an introduction to those beyond earshot. And, since it’s professionally designed to represent the company’s character and personality, it makes a concise, compelling first impression.

More than just a convenience for reporters; now, it’s fodder for today’s understaffed outlets. Other tried-and-still-true methodologies are video (in spades) and social media (a must). Bottom line: It’s all about removing every conceivable hurdle between our client and media.

Ongoing Evaluation

Underlying all PR efforts is an insightful assessment of emerging outreach avenues. This involves keeping track of trends and measuring their worth to each client. In 2022, these trends include:

Sponsored Content

This entails material in a print or online publication that resembles the publication’s editorial content but is placed there, and paid for, by the advertiser. We know what you’re thinking: “Nobody reads this content”. But according to Reuters, 75 percent of consumers say they will engage with whatever well-written content interests them, sponsored or not. So, it’s a great option for some when employed strategically.

The Pitch

“Pitching” a story or an event to an outlet has changed in many ways, with mass email going the way of the dodo. Today, the process must be driven by research and based on a compelling, relevant, personalized story concept. That takes specialized knowledge of how editorial teams work to know how to grab their attention.

Enter the Influencer

It’s a fact: A teenager in Iowa with 100,000 followers on Instagram can have a profound impact on your brand. It’s also a bit unnerving: If your fingers aren’t on the pulse of so-called influencers, there could be forces at work against you. There’s an art to dealing with influencers, figuring out who they are, their level of actual credibility and whether they’re just in it for the free stuff. With the right connections to the right people, though, outreach to bloggers and influencers can be effective, especially for openings and product launches that match their areas of purported expertise.

Consumer Reviews

Unhappy customers today have scores of places to voice their dissatisfaction. With more consumers relying on reviews to make their buying decisions, it’s important that your organization stay true to its brand promise. This will reduce the risk of bad reviews and allow you to collect your own testimonials to display proudly and prominently on your own channels. In addition, responding to reviews is a great opportunity to engage directly with clients to thank them for their input or personally invite them back in to make up for a bad review.

Benchmarks in Perception


Unless yours is the only feed store in Cowtown, people are going to compare your organization to others. Most are going to start online. Your website and social channels will tell a consumer right away how seriously you take your business. Quality content and good design build trust and respect. Decades-old web design templets, outdated fonts and grammatical errors can hurt your image. You can keep it simple, but professionalism is communicated with clear content that’s in your unique voice.

Consistency and Frequency

A lack of these is poison, especially when it comes to social media and online presence. As with personal relationships, it takes consistent, frequent engagement to build/reinforce trust. Does your company finish what it starts? Does it regularly have something worth saying? Is its project list up to date? A lack of effort in communicating an answer to these questions can make a company seem like it’s barely getting by or doesn’t have the time to consider the ease of their customers’ journey.

If we’ve spurred your interest or encouraged you to dig deeper into opportunities, give us a call. We’re always available for a chat and always open to a new mutually beneficial relationship.

In Conversation Series with Bonnie Merrill Limbach

Our In Conversation series continues with another look inside the mind of one of our many talented marketing communications pros. In this edition, we explore the career of Director of Communication Strategy, Bonnie Merrill Limbach. Read on to find out how Bonnie came into the marketing field and some insider tips on the importance of a comprehensive marketing strategy. 

Tell us about your background, and how you chose communications as a career.

I’m a born storyteller, perhaps because of my Appalachian heritage, and I have loved to write for as long as I could do it. Thus, when I finally got the opportunity to go to college full time (and because I haven’t the attention span to write a novel), Mass Communications called my name. By the end of my sophomore year, I was editor of the school newspaper and president of the state collegiate press association, so the passion seemed mutual. For decades now, our love story has continued through stints in journalism, corporate and crisis communications and marketing. 

Why is strategic messaging so vital to organizations?

Strategic messaging is purposeful and persuasive communication, and the sheer process of developing it is, in my opinion, its primary strength. It forces leaders to hit the pause button for a little while to really think about where the company/organization/governmental entity has been, is and wants to go. It’s amazing how often our clients have discovered that they’ve been too busy succeeding to actually take advantage of it, communicating their evolution and truly preparing for the next level. 

Many organizations get caught up in the ever-changing, fast-paced nature of digital marketing tools. What do businesses miss when they fail to enter into a messaging exercise?

Digital marketing tools give companies unprecedented reach. But, without a solid knowledge of the various tools, their purpose, and their users, companies can wind up standing out in the wrong way. Without a unified approach to string all the tools together, a company can end up reaching the wrong audience with the wrong message at the wrong time. Creating an affinity for your brand, it requires mindfulness of whom a company is targeting, and how they prefer to be communicated to. A messaging exercise explores all of these components and gives an organization a cohesive strategy.

You’ve provided messaging counsel for businesses, governmental agencies and politicians. What’s at the core of drafting a messaging platform, regardless of the entity you’re drafting it for?

As Lewis Carroll famously noted (and strategists like to quote): “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” A platform gives you clear direction, a pathway to follow. Key components are messaging goals, desired positioning in the market, a strong value proposition and a brand promise only you can make to set you apart and clearly show differentiators. Key messaging then can be developed with supporting points to create and maintain a consistent voice. 

A messaging session can sometimes feel like conducting a “DNA” eval on an organization. Is this a fruitful analogy? Why or why not?

I see it more as a therapy session. DNA denotes something you’re stuck with from birth, for good or for bad. A messaging exercise is a dynamic process, a deep look into both structure and personality, with decisions made that can change or accelerate a chosen course. It’s a matter of taking control vs. stasis.

We know a messaging document can help a client understand their own organization, but how does a messaging document improve an agency’s ability to generate deliverables?

An approved messaging document is a ticket on an express train. No back and forth is needed, and, with also approved strategies and tactics, work can be completed expeditiously and with – again – purpose, moving steadily toward stated goals. 

What is the greatest advice you have for companies approaching a strategic messaging exercise?

 Specifically, I would say don’t forget the people in the trenches, that is, those in sales, customer service, etc., who actually deal with prospects and customers. Their input can be invaluable. In general, I would say to relax and enjoy the introspection and honest evaluation of the organization and its potential. I honestly can’t remember a client who didn’t find the process enlightening. That’s our goal, and, so far, we’ve succeeded.