Message architecture: how to use it?

If you start thinking about a communication strategy for your business and come across the concept of message architecture, it can be difficult to understand what is it good for at first. So this article is a good read both before you start creating your message architecture and after you’ve done it. I will use the example of my friend (teaching English online) to show you a hands-on experience of how your message architecture informs your communication strategy.

Message architecture example: teaching English online

My friend lives in Russia and aims to teach English online to her Russian-speaking audience. She herself is highly educated and speaks several languages. Here is the message architecture she has defined so far.

SolutionI feel like any language is a code, cypher. Unravelling and decrypting it you dive into a new world.
DiverseThe knowledge of diverse languages develops linguistic flexibility, the ability to quickly orientate me in a new context. This allows me to understand the structure of languages close to each other better.
LoveThe love for languages, other countries and cultures builds that important connection with my audience.
FieryI am fiery about languages and I want to share my passion with my audience.
FreedomThe knowledge of a foreign language gives a feeling of freedom – freedom to communicate and to travel. Freeing yourself from restricting attitudes of one language you also gain a freedom of thinking.
Message architecture example

Take it serious and stay agile

Though the method of creating message architecture seems simple, it is also very powerful. So if you have not done it really thoughtfully, it might guide your communication efforts in the wrong direction. So you’d better take it seriously. If later in the process you feel like one word does not suit you, feel free to revisit your message architecture.

The message architecture in this example has been revisited twice before getting to this state. And who knows, maybe after this article there will be more changes to it.

What decisions does a message architecture inform?

Your message architecture helps to guide a whole lot of decisions. Starting from your colours, typography and finishing by the tone and voice of your communication. Lets us go step by step and explore the power of message architecture.

Step 1: Message architecture statement and slogan

Before we take a deep dive into communication strategy guided by your message architecture, let us get the first impression and make some sense of the newly created message architecture.

Solution. Diverse. Love. Fiery. Freedom.

These words are on a creative side of things (unlike ‚accurate‘, ‚perfect‘, ‚evaluation‘). Being unfamiliar with the context and reading them for the first time you might actually never think of a language course.

Love, fiery, freedom – are all coming from inside, which can eventually relate to the motivation sources of the audience.

‚Diversity‘ is about my friend being fluent in several languages, being curious about different cultures, closing international friendships and promoting open-mindedness.

In this context space ’solution‘ can be interpreted differently. Here is my perspective in a message architecture statement:

Building a community connected by their love for languages. Creating a fiery but tolerant space (freedom) where diversity becomes the key for the solutions.

Message architecture statement. Version 1

Obviously, these five words can be interpreted differently. So this is my perception. This statement will also need some brainstorming to get its final shape. Then it can be used as a foundation for your slogan.

Use agile approach until you find the statement that suits you perfectly. But for the purpose of this article, I will simply continue with this one.

Step 2: Audience

In my message architecture statement, I talk about building community. You would probably wonder: ‚How did she come up with that?“ Again there is no right way, but I will explain to you my reasoning.

Love, freedom, fiery, diversity – these words are on a creative side of things (unlike ‚accurate‘, ‚perfect‘, ‚evaluation‘) and they come from inside. This message architecture shows no signs of stress, pressure, exams, career growth, necessity or whatsoever. Which means that most probably following types of audiences should not be targeted:

Type of audienceReasoning -> why not them?
BeginnersThis audience is very broad but in general, their language level is too low. Which makes them unable to value diversity and freedom just yet.
Pupils and students preparing for examsTheir motivation comes from outside – it is exam pressure and demanding parents. They don’t share love and don’t feel fiery.
People aiming to improve their career chancesTheir motivation comes partly from pressure and partially from necessity. They are passionate about what they do (engineering, marketing, banking etc.) and a foreign language is only a tool to promote their other skills better.
People who learn a language for travel purposesThe most common motivation here is the necessity to be understood and being able to understand while travelling. It is not the love for the language itself.
Inappropriate audiences

I can get into deep explanations of why these audiences are not appropriate. So if you need more details – write a comment with your question. Now let us continue with suitable audiences based on their motivation.

Type of audienceReasoning -> why them?
Pupils and students passionate about languageThey have an inner motivation. They are fiery and passionate. They can be great active community members but they will probably have no money for a course.
People making career in languages-related areaSo these guys are originally passionate about languages, they are skilled and interested in diversity, experience exchange and unusual solutions.
…needs user research to be continued
Appropriate audiences

I don’t claim this list is complete (no user research has been done yet) but this is enough for the purpose of this exercise.

So looking at the appropriate audiences – connected by a love for the language – it becomes clear they are all highly motivated, highly-skilled, thus they face challenging problems and may seek for diverse approaches to find a solution.

The question is: Do they need online English courses? Probably not. What do they need then? These people are professionals and they might be interested in a community that helps to tackle their challenges and they might value practical courses where not their language level but specific practical skills can be developed and sharpened.

This is how my thread of reasoning leads to a community. Creating a community is a powerful way of doing business in a meaningful way.

Step 3: What type of content should I create?

You would need user research to answer this question, but a quick answer is – what does your audience need? What content can help them tackle their challenges and doing their job? As Atherton&Hane put it in their book ‚Designing Connected Content‚:

No one comes to your website to hang out. They’re coming to get stuff done.

So you have to find out what exactly do people come to you for? Do they need professional advice? Support? Or maybe a laugh on a tough day?

Are they looking for epic translation fails? practical tips and tricks for better translations? support in translating difficult sentences? individual training on simultaneous translation?

You’ll need to figure it out. And then produce this type of content. Most probably it will be a mixture of professional, motivational and passionate content.

In order to answer this question better, a user persona needs to be created. (And this topic is worth an article for its own)

Step 4: Photos and videos – how to create authentic content?

When you find out what kinds of content does your audience need, you will see how much photo- and video-content you will need to create. However, even if you are specializing in copy, nowadays you will need at least some minimal amount of photos and videos. So are there any guidelines based on message architecture?

Solution. Diverse. Love. Fiery. Freedom.

  • Love and fiery might indicate specific light setting for your photos and footage.
  • Freedom might mean that the shots shouldn’t be crowded or overloaded. They should be rather airy and clear. Or it can mean the usage of some specific colour (blue?).
  • Solution and diversity might indicate an unusual camera setting opening new perspectives to ordinary things.

Again it is an interpretation work and now I will actually need some real photo examples to make my point. I guess I will have to search for a good article for this topic and link it here later.

Step 5: What communication channels suit my business best?

Firstly, look at the channels where your audiences are hanging out. Secondly, choose the one (or several if you have enough resources) that supports such functions as building community, creating required types of content (photo? video?) and giving online lessons.

You might want to create a list of things you need, so you do not get distracted in your search for suitable communication channels.

Step 6: Corporate identity: logo, colours, typography

Solution. Diverse. Love. Fiery. Freedom.

This will be very helpful for any designer you will ask to create a logo and choose colours and typography for you.

Colours

While love and fiery might indicate warm red-ish colours, word freedom adds a note of blue. So it could be some interesting combination involving these colours.

Typography

Since diversity and several languages are an important point here, I believe the most important requirement to the typography is that it supports all the languages in question. This is a strong restriction since not so many typographies look good for both Latine and Cyrillic alphabets.

Step 7: Voice and tone – addressing prospects and clients

Here is a good example of a voice and tone guide by MailChimp. Take a look at it before you continue reading here.

For one-person businesses, it is easier to be authentic with their voice and tone. And since this message architecture actually only reflects the authenticity of my friend – it should come naturally for her. One thing I want to point out here is this.

Solution. Diverse. Love. Fiery. Freedom.

For me it looks like a communication takes place in a friend-ish way, it is rather ‚Du‘ in German and ‚ты‘ in Russian.

Conclusion

I hope I could show you how to use a message architecture for your communication strategy. Please keep in mind that there are always multiple interpretations possible, so keep shuffling puzzle pieces around until they fall perfectly into place.

This exercise supports you in answering many questions in a consistent way. So that in the end, it all should make sense. So yes, message architecture is highly useful and it is not that difficult to create.

Let me know if you’ve got any questions for me in the comment section 😉

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