This is an exercise your audience will never see - your Messaging Framework unless you happen to share with them. By doing this you're creating a plan for further work with the stories you're going to tell, the presentation material you're going to develop, but this is not life-or-death. There are no right or wrong answers with this.

We're doing this to lay a foundation that the structure has yet to be built on top of it. Ultimately, you have to be more right than wrong, but worrying about making this perfect is not going to be a good use of your time. In fact, this framework is likely to get tuned and tweaked with time. I think of this Messaging Framework as a living document.

The bottom line: take this seriously, but don't overthink it.

For this section, we’re going to talk about the rows above your themes. We’ve already thought about your target audience and the perceptions we want to drive them toward. Let’s talk about those two rows: target audience and desired perceptions.

In order to make this easier I've created a new company and we can use it as a model...


Welcome to Bryan’s Rut-burgers!

It’s a different kind of burger joint, a few steps up from a fast-food restaurant with a focus on creative culinary experiences.

You can order the prebuilt burger with the traditional or unique toppings; or you can build your own from our menu of over a hundred toppings in addition to lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. How about a fried egg on top?

For cheese, do you want Swiss, bleu, plain old American, or one of the other 25 cheeses we carry?

And, we've got sixty-three different hot sauces in addition to ketchup and mustard all the way through to ghost pepper hot sauce. We also serve a variety of wine and beer and cocktails, plus innovative sides that go well beyond fries and onion rings.

Bryan's Rutburgers.png

Target audience and desired perceptions

Target audience answers the question of who do I have in mind when I'm developing my remarks or messaging? For Bryan’s Rut-burgers, I’m thinking my restaurant is a good place for a family or a couple on a date who are looking for a better experience and fast food people will be stimulated by choices and the fun but don't want to order from a clown’s mouth.

The desired perception is that this place is for people like my audience members somewhere will recognize other busy parents are professionals who want a good burger with interesting toppings and sides - something more daring than a coke or a milk shake to drink, and no happy meals.

I want my audience to think my place is a good choice on short notice for a not-too- expensive meal, and their date or family will like it, too. They also want to look smart and caring by appreciating that the food is organic and locally-sourced.

Now let's turn our attention to the top field on the messaging framework the value proposition, or benefit statement, and the overall key message are related to one another. Where the benefit statement is precise, highlighting the themes rather specifically, and the overall key message pivots those to the feeling you want to our audience to have, the value proposition starts and stops at a level higher. The value prop must be focused on what the customer or prospective supporter values.

The value prop must be focused on what the customer or prospective supporter values.

The construction I like to use for a value proposition is simple - it starts with the audience, scratches some itch that they have, and offers a reason why what I'm recommending is superior to alternatives. These four questions can help you think this through:


1. What action do I want the audience to take?

2. What problem (of theirs) will be solved when they take that action?

3. Why is my solution the best one compared to alternatives?

4. What proof points do I have that my solution works?


We are a restaurant, so our mission in a sense is to help fight hunger, isn’t it? The unique value proposition includes the three criteria; the solution is, of course, the restaurant itself. I could also do a separate value proposition about the special of the day, the location (that it’s on 1st Street versus the one that's on Main), or on making the decision about having a turkey burger versus a beef burger, or a garden burger. The result is delight, or, how the audience feels.

And, the outcome of delight comes from the benefits which are also differentiators against the competition. There may be others who offer the full and interesting menu that I do, and others who are a step from fast food restaurants, but I'm asserting that I'm putting it all together with delicious meals in a comfortable and classy atmosphere; so now, with the value proposition written to appeal to the audience we have identified.

Let’s talk about those last two rows: your benefit statement and your overall key message.

A benefit statement is how customers are going to realize the benefit that you're claiming, the value proposition, how they get that payoff, what the benefits are that they experience, and how do they ladder up to the value you're promising in the value prop?

In my case, I said that our approach to the classic burger joint delights - there's that word again- customers by providing healthy and sustainable choices from a rich menu in a comfortable and classy atmosphere. You can feel the echo back to the themes and the overall key message is audience-focused, benefit-oriented, and it summarizes what they get and why.

And, now my new life-changing restaurant chain has a messaging framework that's approaching completion. The hardest work has been done, and also the work that most difficult to explain. If you've been looking for the fine differences between value proposition benefit statement and and overall key message you're not alone.

Remember that the value of the messaging framework itself comes partly from the struggle in engaging with your themes and content to reflect on what's truly a difference- maker and why it should matter.


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