Winning Communications Strategies Start with a Solid Playbook


This post is adapted from an article Bellmont Partners contributed to the PR News Media Training Guidebook. Use the promotional code “friendMT16” to save $50 off the Guidebook at

Key messages are the building blocks of a winning PR strategy, but are too often used in a limited capacity – for spokesperson preparation, crisis communication and little else. Why not leverage messaging as strategic beacons to support an entire brand narrative vs. using them merely as functional guideposts?

Graphic designers have long relied on style guides to address every aspect of the visual brand and its usage for marketing. Communicators should take a page from the creative process and develop a messaging guide – a type of lexical “playbook” that delineates brand messages for all communications activities.

A messaging playbook provides a repository of all foundational brand language in one place, so nobody ever has to answer the question: “What’s our elevator pitch?” or “How do we talk about our products in relation to mission and vision?” Like a sports playbook, it has practical application for all scenarios and executions, ensuring a high level of consistency and utility.

Building a playbook doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking or involve re-thinking fundamental brand truths – it simply has to be comprehensive, functional and malleable enough to account for shifts in strategic priorities. Here are a few tips to get started:

Start with what you’ve got. The easiest starting points are often current mission and vision statements, as a degree of organizational consensus and familiarity already exists.

Consider all of your audiences. Like a sports playbook, a messaging playbook should provide situational context for communications in order to be functional.

Spell out variations. Messages themselves should be situation- as well as audience-appropriate, as length, delivery method and significance will dictate different derivations of key messaging. The playbook should cover as many communications scenarios as possible.

Update frequently. Given the dynamic nature of business, it’s essential for the playbook to be a flexible, “living” document that can be easily updated and modified as information changes.

Refer to it often. Once a playbook is developed, PR and marketing teams can use it to enhance all communications deliverables and achieve a common theme, tone and message across multiple platforms.

Use what you’ve developed as a jumping-off point. Expanded messaging – using “seed” copy from the playbook – can now be created with ease for websites, sales materials, presentations, news releases and virtually any other execution without deviating from the core mission, vision and language already developed.

Share it with your team. As you’re developing the playbook, explain the concept to your team – including executives and key marketing and sales leaders. Ask for these key players to provide input, encouraging buy-in and support.

Building a winning game plan requires a comprehensive playbook that guides all of the action on the field and ensures everyone on the team has a single point of reference. Creating and using a key message playbook can accomplish the same clarity and consistency of communication for PR professionals as it does for elite athletes.

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