From a distance we all look more similar than different.

Up close, we all are more different than similar.

If we want to stand out, we have to find ways to make people look at us more closely.

We all know the techniques: dress differently, be loud, be diffident, distance ourself from the norm.

We are sensitive to the risks as well. If we are too different, we run the risk of being ostracized from the group.

That’s a sure thing.

Brands have the same problems, and the sensitivity to risk is heightened by the current disorder in how brands interact with consumers.

As a brand, you want your distinctive qualities to be discernible in every instance. As a brand, you don’t want to lose control.

This means migrating the brand message from traditional controlled channels, like advertising and public relations and sales materials, into new interactive channels, like social media and content marketing, with the understanding that we don’t get to tell the brand story without being interrupted anymore.

I am involved in a lot of discussions these days about migrating a brand message into new media. These discussions are stressful and confusing for everyone involved. The stress stems partly from the confluence of uncertainties: How do we accomplish our communications goals while sustaining our business model?

The starting point for these discussions is usually a brand messaging framework. This is a document prepared by a branding specialist.

These are people who are very good at exploring the unique qualities of a brand, synthesizing the concepts, and laying out the language in a way that it can support multiple communications. They are very good at what they do.

They present the document. Words get discussed. Nuances are tweaked.

Then the meeting ends. The brand message lives on a slide as a series of statements.

That’s not going to work.

To truly create the toolkit for your entire organization and all of your marketing partners to present the things about your brand that are unique, essential and important, you have to turn the slide into a conversation.

Everyone around the table needs to talk to each other. Really, actually talk to each other. Tell each other stories about the brand, describe it, understand it.

When everyone in the room can have a conversation about the brand, using words that they are comfortable with but that have real meaning, then you are ready to begin building your migration strategy.

Not before.