In her introduction to content strategy in the beginning of our study, Rahel Bailie explained that a content strategy is “a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire lifecycle.“ And one thing, which also needs to be managed are brands and their messages.

A brand can be defined as the image people have of your company and who people think you are. (Ann Handley, Marketing Profs, Co-Author of “Content Rules”) Therefore, as part of a profound content strategy, a company needs to define who it is and how it can be distinguished.

Based on a practical example for the Museum im Palais in Graz, we set up a message architecture as one part of a content strategy.

What is a message architecture?

Margot Bloomstein​ defines message architecture as “a hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary.” But it should not only be seen as a “concrete, shared terminology – not just abstract concepts that fall apart outside the hallowed halls of marketing.” Bloomstein furthermore states, that one person’s understanding of an expression might not fit another person’s viewpoint. So defining terms is valuable, but they are meaningless without context and priority. Therefore it is necessary to build a message architecture, where exactly those missing pieces – context and priority – are defined. (Open view labs, Building Your Content Strategy with a Message Architecture, 2012)

For us it was now very important to find a terminology that is:

  • well understood by the people working in and with the Museum im Palais
  • understandable for the (potential) visitors
  • gives the chosen expressions meaning and context

Dare to go beyond the status quo

The first thing to do from our point of view was to find out the current state of how the Museum im Palais is seen from the inside but also from the outside. In a briefing session with Dr. Bettina Habsburg­-Lothringen, head of the department of cultural history, we got a first insight into the current state. We were also introduced to the strategic ideas of the Museum and the desired future target group. Based on this information, we set up a plan of how to get more information of how the Museum is currently seen by the intended audience.

Asynchronous focus groups

Focus groups are moderated discussions in groups of predetermined topics. Therefore, they are very helpful to gain knowledge about specific issues in a very short period of time. As we wanted to bring together not only people from the region but also from outside we used an online form of this research method – which is the so -called​ asynchronous focus group.

In our case, we set up an online chat on S​lack​ with two different channels, where we divided the participants into two groups: “people from Graz” and “people from outside of Graz”. Hereby the following characteristics shall be compiled:

  • Parents with young children
  • Teachers and students
  • Culturally interested people

During the period of four days, we posted four specific questions in the two chat rooms. The participants could comment and discuss interactively on each question for one day. The outcomes of the asynchronous focus groups were impressive and could build a solid basis for the development of the message architecture. But what to do next?

“Who am I” –­ the brand M​useum im Palais

1. The brand steering wheel

On our way to the message architecture, we used the framework of the​ b​rand steering wheel by Esch​ to define brand benefits, tonalities, attributes, appearance and on top of it the core competence. Below is an extract of our findings:


  • Functional:​ The Museum im Palais offers the only historical cultural collection throughout Styria
  • Psycho­social:​ The Museum im Palais is a competent point of contact for historical cultural topics


  • Honest, but not boring
  • Competent, but not arrogant
  • Transparent, but not unexpected
  • Educational, but not pretentious
  • Modern, but not revolutionary
  • Pleasant, but not flattering


  • Educational
  • Innovative
  • Omnipresent (online & offline)
  • Modern
  • Narrative
  • Responsible


The brand appears with its content (also visual content, such as logo):

  • Competent
  • Inviting
  • Pleasant
  • Modern


In the centre of the brand steering wheel is the brand core competence, which explains who the brand is. For the Museum im Palais it was defined as follows:

The Museum im Palais is the competence centre for the cultural history of Styria.

2. The Message Architecture

As stated before, Margot Bloomstein sees message architecture as the definition of overall communication goals. Based on the internal as well as external information, we set up the hierarchy of our main messages for the Museum im Palais as follows:

  1. Competent
  2. Educational
  3. Inviting

The Content Style Guide ­ “How do I communicate?”

The content style guide for the Museum im Palais shall bring the defined brand values and message architecture on a graphical and linguistic level. This includes writing goals and principals, voice and tone, image style and the visual language.

Those elements should work for all types of content and for all people involved in the content creation. They should not only be convinced by the voice of the Museum and its visual language. Moreover, they should be part of it as a valuable piece of the puzzle – to bring it across to the (potential) visitors.

What comes next?

A message architecture is a valuable part of a content strategy. For the Museum im Palais, it is the first step toward reaching their defined goals and knowing their identity internally and externally. The next steps will be the analysis of the given content and the development of suitable templates within the backend of the website – content modelling. Furthermore, the definition of measures is going to be defined to bring the core values and message architecture across for the target groups – including the development of a community and content marketing strategy.


Useful links:

  • Appropriate,Inc.:​ An independent brand and content strategy consultancy and the nameplate practice for Margot Bloomstein.
  • Focus Groups: ​From Structured Interviews to Collective Conversations
  • Sintjago; Link:​ From Synchronous to Asynchronous: Researching Online Focus Groups Platforms
  • Rezabek, Roger: ​Online Focus Groups: Electronic Discussions for Research
  • Esch –­ The Brand Consultants: ​Identity and Positioning. Successful through focus.