POSITIONING AND MESSAGING 101: PART 1

high tech pr silicon valley tutorial

Every full-service PR program starts with a thorough review of the client’s positioning and messages. While we have worked with established players as well as startups, the client’s messaging nearly always needs work, and one of the services most valued by a client is an outside perspective on their story. In this article, we’ll look at why it pays to spend some effort on positioning and messaging before you start attracting media attention and what to think about as you polish your company’s party line.

What are positioning and messaging?

Positioning is creating a unique place for your company, product, or service in the mind of a customer, business partner, or other interested party. Your position should be strong, unique, and durable—it should serve your product and your company well for years. Every majorly successful company, product, or brand occupies a unique position in our minds and conveys that position continually and effectively. Think Coke, Microsoft, Cisco, or Disney, for example. You may not like the positions these companies own, but you can’t deny that they own them. (For a truly insightful education into the art and science of positioning, read anything by Jack Trout.)

Messaging is the process of coming up with the specific language you’ll use to describe your position. The way you describe your position has a lot to do with how quickly and how well that position is created in the recipient’s mind.

How to think about positioning

Most technology companies are started by engineers, not marketers. Non-marketers seldom think about positioning and messaging.  Many companies simply describe what their product does and then leave it at that, assuming that the world will instantly decipher the product’s features and benefits and assign them their rightful place in the world.

But one of the most common questions you must overcome when describing your new product is, “So what?” And saying that a product is a “flexible, highly resilient, highly scalable multiservice access platform” or a “next-generation data center architecture that offers a new paradigm for human interaction” doesn’t answer that question at all. Even specific language like “the world’s first SDN Enabled DOCSIS” doesn’t convey a position, because it doesn’t explain why this “first” is important to anyone.

Your position must create a context for your product and then make the product stand out in that context. Ideally, it should identify your product in a way that excites the reader’s curiosity, trust, respect, or other positive emotions. The best way to consider a product’s positioning is to think about it from the outside in. Rather than starting with what the product does, create a context by thinking about the problem it solves, why that problem is important (and for whom), and how it uniquely solves that problem.

Here are some questions you might ask in arriving at a position:

  • What is the problem your product solves?
  • Who has this problem?
  • Why do they think this problem is worth solving?
  • How are they solving the problem now?
  • What competitive products attempt to solve the problem?
  • Why don’t competitive products solve the problem well?
  • Why is your product a better solution to the problem?
  • Why does having a better solution matter?

This is part 1 in a 2-part series about the positioning and messaging strategies that we use for our clients at Gallagher PR. We are a full service Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area tech PR agency serving companies in the high tech and green tech arenas. 

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