How to Identify Your Brand’s Core Values and Message
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”
- Steve Forbes
Right now is the ideal time to sit down and get clear on your company’s core values and message. Companies with clear brand identities who remain true to their values and do not get swept away with the ever-blowing winds of society and culture will win in the long term.
However, many companies have not taken the time to sit down and actually hammer out their core values and message in writing. Instead, these key components operate subconsciously - they’re there, but they can’t be clearly articulated and agreed upon by anyone in the company.
Just like people, companies without a solid grasp of who they are and what they’re about are more susceptible to external pressures. We are in a time where companies are being asked to change. While change in itself is necessary, there is a difference between changing how you operate and changing your identity and purpose at the core. If you’re in touch with your company’s identity, you’re far less likely to compromise it.
At Backbone Media, we have implemented a powerful Core Values Workshop for many companies to help them get clear on who they are and why they exist in the marketplace. We walk stakeholders, board members, and staff alike through a step-by-step process that leads them to their true core values and purpose.
Below, we’ve provided an overview of the why and how of our approach so that you can better understand how to clarify these important pieces for your company.
Core Values (Who You Are)
What are the key elements of your brand that will never change? What are the characteristics of your company that you consider integral to its identity? Everything your company does will connect back to these values. They are the spine of your business - without them, you collapse.
As you start to narrow down your core values, it’s important to hone in on the exact right word to describe what you mean. For example, one stakeholder may feel that “Trustworthiness” is a core value and another may feel that “Reliability” is a core value. These two words are similar, but their application is different. Which one is correct? Perhaps the right answer is another word altogether.
As you continue to brainstorm and work through various options individually and as a team, you will discuss and defend your positions. Eventually, you will find the middle ground where the true core value resides.
Your list of core values should not look like your weekly grocery list. Stick to a maximum of five definitive, specific values that your team agrees upon. Don’t stretch for more if two, three, or even one value encapsulates your brand. The goal is clarity, not quantity.
Core Brand Message (Why You Exist)
Once you have your core values in place you will be able to leverage them to identify and articulate your brand’s core message. This is also considered your “mission” by some. In essence, it is why your brand exists and why it’s unique in the marketplace. Without this message, your brand has no clear purpose. Without a clear purpose, it is difficult to stand out in your industry.
Companies that thrive for decades are able to do so because they have identified exactly what sets them apart from every other available option. They don’t try to be what they are not. They are who they are, and they let you know who they are with consistent, on point messaging that speaks directly to the heart of the customers they are built to serve.
The best core messages are simple, pointed, and memorable. They are timeless and truthful. They do not need to be changed based on current trends and events. Such a message takes time and careful consideration to create. It is not a slogan or a headline - those are more transient expressions of your core message. They may change over time, but your core message will not.
To create a core brand message, think about who you’re speaking to, what the perceptions are of you in the marketplace, and what makes you relevant. Based on your answers, you can begin to brainstorm a list of potential core messages. You will need to discuss these potential winners with your team, eliminate some options, and refine others until you land on the most accurate message for your specific brand.
Don’t try to write the perfect message the first time. Work at it, change it, and play with it until it resonates. Once you’ve landed on the right core message, however, let it be as unchangeable as your core values. Return to it again and again to help you decide how to communicate with your audience and what actions to take in your company.
Ready to nail down your core values but want some help? Backbone Media offers a Core Values Workshop to help you articulate who you are and why you exist in the marketplace. With our guidance, you and your team will walk away from the workshop with clear, unified core values and a powerful core message. You’ll be ready to weather any storm without losing touch with the elements that make you who you are. Contact us today to get started.