Message crafting 101

March 20th, 2015

News Coverage:

Message crafting 101

Marketing makeovers use ‘Our Story’ themes

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 11:00 pm

By Linda Lipp

Design Collaborative was a willing guinea pig when the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership asked if it could incorporate some of the themes developed through its “Our Story” research project into the Fort Wayne architecture and engineering firm’s marketing materials.

The resulting content on Design Collaborative’s website added a new dimension to the company’s employee recruitment efforts, said marketing director Jason Villareal.

“At the time, we weren’t really talking about the region and Fort Wayne, and it’s a little difficult to recruit based on that,” he said.

Consultants for the partnership conducted 20 workshops across the 10-county region last fall in an effort to assess the strengths, weaknesses and personality traits residents associate with the area. What they found was a lot of consistency in the way people perceive their northeast Indiana home, whether they live in the big city of Fort Wayne, a smaller town or rural area.

Now, the partnership is helping businesses and organizations learn how to use those consistent themes to craft their marketing messages. The partnership is holding workshops to teach entities how to use the Our Story Project themes, and, no surprise, also is incorporating the themes into its own materials.

The shorthand for that process has become “OSP it,” said Courtney Stritch, the partnership’s vice president of marketing.

The Wells County Chamber of Commerce, Visit Wabash County, the Noble County Economic Development Corp. and the city of Angola in partnership with the Steuben County EDC submitted some written materials for a OSP makeover.

The Steuben/Angola piece promotes the development of the Interstate 69 and U.S. 20 area as a 21st century technology park and innovation corridor. “Dedication, hard work and a firm handshake. We make things happen,” proclaims the brochure cover. “We are northeast Indiana. We are a powerhouse. We are solutions,” the inside pages promise.

“The language may be a little stronger than we would have used,” said David Koenig, executive director of the Steuben EDC. “There may have been a bit of exaggeration in the way the words were used, but they got their point across.”

Koenig participated in the workshops in Steuben County and got some training in how to use the materials in January when the Regional Partnership revealed the results of its marketing study. But he didn’t really have an appreciation for how the themes could be used until the OSP’d brochure landed on his desk, he said.

Now, he has “a solid appreciation for the type of messaging that it will produce.”

For Design Collaborative, more than anything, “it is useful to us as a recruiting tool,” Villareal said.

“It’s not a complete departure from where we were going but it was a more refined approach,” he said.

The firm’s recruiting web pages ask “Why Fort Wayne?” and then answer “Why we love Fort Wayne” with phrases that emphasize characteristics such as diversity, creativity, strength and shared goals. The messages also have a very forward-looking attitude.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity to tell about growing Fort Wayne … the Fort Wayne of the future,” Villareal said.

Noble County’s marketing piece talks about the region’s ingenuity and its honest tradition of hard work. Wells County’s brochure says it is “Where you find your home town.” Visit Wabash County talks about its blend of “historic charm and modern innovation.”

All of the story lines come from the five key themes that developed during the Our Story Project research:

• Time-honored American strength;

• Spirit of collaboration;

• Progressive leadership;

• Uphold and embrace; and

• Big-hearted hospitality.

The do-it-yourself marketing guide developed by the partnership provides a framework in which to connect those themes to specific facts about the region, the organization or company that is doing the marketing, adding some appropriately descriptive adjectives along the way. It’s not quite as simple as connecting an item in column A with items in columns B and C, but it gets the process of crafting a message started.

The process can be applied to formal and informal verbal communications as well.

Tara Cahill, the community engagement and promotions manager for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, plans to use what she learned at one of the Our Story Project workshops in her talks to community groups, as well as in her personal communications. She believes it will help her deliver her message that downtown Fort Wayne has changed for the better, and that Parkview Field is a staple of that change, in a more concise fashion.

“Not only am I getting a clear message across, I’m marketing northeast Indiana in a positive way,” Cahill said.

A recent OSP workshop attracted representatives of Ball State University, Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne and Work One, among others. Additional workshops are being planned.

For more information on the Our Story Project, visit the partnership’s website, Examples of some of the marketing crafted with the OSP process are available at, under the title “Early Adopters.”