You Need a Messaging Matrix for Your Next Event

Here are the top five reasons why.

Note: If you haven’t already, I recommend reading part one (discussing best practices for a strategy workshop) and part two (outlining the resulting strategy brief) of this series.

As discussed previously in this series, successful event campaigns are rooted in a significant investment in strategic planning—ideally starting with a strategy workshop involving all key decision makers and channel owners, and guided by a subsequent strategy brief. Your strategy brief will help inform key decisions along the way, and hopefully keep the core planning team aligned to business goals and key performance indicators when the execution phase starts getting hectic—because it always does!

A key component of your strategy brief is an initial, high-level content framework, where you start to outline the event’s theme, if you’ve decided to implement one, along with supporting key message pillars—ideally three-to-five, across the most strategic value propositions to your event personas. Once the core team has gained alignment around that core messaging, it’s time to drill deeper into your communication strategy, and start developing your messaging matrix.

If you haven’t created or used one before, a messaging matrix is a deceptively simple but incredibly useful document—literally a matrix, or grid—which enables you to map out key external messages laddering up into the event’s overall core  value proposition, and then start drafting your event messages in greater detail, such as: 

  • Event-level messaging
    • Event message—what’s the event’s key value proposition, in a narrative format
    • Attendee takeaways—what do you want attendees to do, feel, and believe after the event?
    • “Who” messaging—who’s going to be there…or rather, the “who’s who” of your industry, described
    • “What” messaging—essentially, the “About” page of your event website
    • “Where” messaging—a succinct overview of where the event’s taking place, and why that’s a win for attendees
    • “Why” messaging—what will your audience get out of attending, and what knowledge and skills will they bring back to the home office?
  • Attendee-level messaging
    • Value propositions and calls to action—targeted to each of your audience segments
    • Express your event messaging in terms which will resonate for each audience—i.e., what is a CIO looking to get out of your event vs. an Information Architect?
  • Content-/channel-level messaging
    • Keynotes—what will the key message of each keynote be, how will that ladder up into the broader event theme, and why will prospective attendees be interested?
    • Content tracks—how will each track meet the needs of its intended audience?
    • Labs—what new skills and knowledge are you offering attendees, and what certifications will they walk away with?
    • Channel-specific messaging—what does an invitation email subject line sound like, vs. a social media post, vs. a blog entry, etc.?

So why is this all essential for planning and executing a successful event? Here are the top five reasons a messaging matrix is an invaluable and necessary tool to a successful event planning cycle:

  1. Keep the team aligned: Event planning can be intense, and there are a million moving parts and pieces. One of the biggest challenges is keeping everyone rowing in the same direction, across multiple teams (and, generally speaking, time zones). Your messaging matrix will become everyone’s “instruction manual” as each team is developing event-related communications, from email marketing, to social media, to PR, to internal communications, and beyond.
  2. Leverage the most value from the strategy work you’ve put in: You’ve made the effort to get key decision makers and channel owners aligned with event goals and overall strategy, and gained buy-in on a robust strategy brief. This is no time to start copywriting by committee, and letting the key strategic messages get muddied as you move into execution phase. Your messaging matrix will maintain clarity around what you say to who, across all of your most valuable audiences.
  3. Maintain a differentiated message with your core audience segments: At this point, there has also presumably been a great deal of time and effort invested in defining your core audiences, and perhaps developing an event persona for each. Your messaging matrix will ensure you’re hitting your most valuable audiences with the most powerful, resonant messages for each—increasing interest and ultimately driving attendance.
  4. Operate with maximum efficiency: See #1 above re: the joys and pitfalls of event planning. Generally speaking, it often feels like there’s more to do than there is time to do it. So move nimbly, and don’t reinvent the wheel every time you need to draft a communication. Your messaging matrix will become a copy/paste toolkit, full of ready-made messages when you need a quick social media post, a white glove email outreach to the C-suite, a media or industry analyst pitch, and more.
  5. Put your audience acquisition plan into overdrive: The next step in your content strategy cycle will be developing an audience acquisition plan, and related communications calendar. Your messaging matrix will become the grist for that mill, and also help you break down messaging siloes across your various communications channels (which are each typically owned by a distinct team within the organization). This will ensure your larger enterprise is speaking with one voice around your most important event(s) of the year.

Ultimately, creating a messaging matrix that maps to audience needs helps increase relevancy and engagement while driving conversion. A strong strategic foundation and defined messages will also help you effectively plan demand generation and audience acquisition campaigns for your event—more on that in the next post in this series!—which subsequently pays off via the onsite experience and narrative through-line for your attendees.

Is your organization ready to start defining the strategy and messaging plan for a key upcoming event or initiative? Get in touch with Opus Agency!

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