I'm a liberal, so take my input for what you think it's worth:
You all are focusing on the wrong dichotomy of ideas v. message. The progression has to be ideas (or more accurately, ideology, which is not a dirty word), followed by designing a strategy to vindicate that ideology, which then leads you to craft a message to execute that strategy.
Movement conservatism did this very well until recently. Here's my rundown of that history with my "harsh lefty tilt": You had disparate groups of people who regarded themselves as conservatives milling about with no direction in the 60s. These included racists who were appalled at the federal government protecting the civil rights of African-Americans, cold warriors with Maoist-like beliefs that constant conflict and perhaps even nuclear war with Communist Russia was inevitable and even desirable, religious fundamentalists enraged and baffled at the sexual revolution and the liberation of gays and women from traditional norms, and the wealthy who were convinced that the New Deal and the Great Society would bankrupt the country (and them).
The ideology of conservatism is based on the idea that people are basically evil, and that a successful society creates traditional norms and institutions in spite of and in order to control that evil. In this view, good people were obligated to use power in order to keep everyone else in line and prevent social changes that almost certainly would lead to bad results. The strategy that developed was to sell this idea to the various conservative factions on the theme of virtuous strength v. degenerate weakness.
To the racists, conservatism could say, "You're right. You are the noble white people who built Western Civilization and the United States, the greatest country on Earth. Now these darkies want to take it all away." To the fanatical anti-communists, conservatism could say, "You're right. Capitalism is the highest form of human virtue because it requires people to compete for resources and demonstrate their skill and intelligence in a true meritocracy. Anything that hinders that competition is evil, and Communism is the quintessence of evil - it is an international conspiracy solely meant to destroy capitalism." To the religious wackos, conservatism could say, "You're right. God the Father preordained the natural state of things that should be reflected in human society, but Satan is leading these sluts and sodomites astray. You are the good people who are doing God's work in fighting their evil ways." To the rich, conservatism could say, "You're right. The mob of poor have discovered that they can vote themselves funds from the public treasury, from your pocket, and if they succeed they'll never work again and society will collapse. We have to stop them."
From there, you could cross-market. The obvious thing would be to unite the messages aimed at the anti-communists and the rich, inspiring the anti-communists to venerate wealth (even if they weren't wealthy themselves) and the rich to provide funding for the cold war infrastructure (even if they thought the Pentagon and CIA examples of bloated, big-spending government). It was also easy to get the religious and the anti-communists together over the subject of atheism both at home and abroad. For another example, you could sell the idea to both the racists and the religious that the worst sexual degenerates were blacks.
But the real genius was discovering a focal point for all these positions. Uniting all of these ideas was that the evil people used government to effect the changes that each conservative group was trying to oppose. Thus, the party of small government was born. Even an anti-communism in the form of a large military was a doctrine of small government - if you think of International Communism as the ultimate form of big government.
Armed with an ideological strategy that could appeal to various groups, movement conservatism then turned to crafting an electoral strategy. The key, of course, was the South. That had the largest concentration of votes in each of the racist, religious and anti-communist blocs. (The rich are there for their money, not their votes, since there aren't enough of them.) The putrid heart of this regional strategy was racism and the regional paranoia that remained from the Civil War. Southern conservatives viewed themselves as a separate, more noble society under constant attack from the outside. This feeling of being under siege solidified the South for the GOP for decades. From this base of North-South conflict, conservatism then aimed at pitting the suburbs (the rich and the anticommunists) and the rural areas (racists and the religious) against the cities (blacks, the poor, homosexuals, and feminists).
The rest is uncontroversial. The right used the money of the rich and the troops provided by the churches to create what liberals called "the Mighty Wurlitzer", which is:
a propaganda machine that can hone a fact or a lie, broadcast it, and have it echoed and recycled in Fox News commentary, in Washington Times news stories, in Wall Street Journal editorials, by myriad right-wing pundits, by Heritage seminars and briefing papers, and in congressional hearings and speeches. Privatization of Social Security, vouchers for school, Vince Foster's supposed murder, Hillary's secret sex life, you name it -- the right's mighty Wurlitzer can ensure that a message is broadcast across the county, echoed in national and local news, and reverberated in the speeches of respectable academics as well as rabid politicians.
This propelled Reagan to power, but the plan began to fall apart in the 90s when Gingrich and the Congressional Republicans overreached and shut down the government. Like the Beer Hall Putsch, like the Tet Offensive, the revolutionaries thought their bold act would result in a glorious uprising of the people! And it turned out, the people hated it. Oops. Anti-government conservatives running government is like the dog who chases cars but when he finally catches one, he doesn't know what to do with it.
People, it turned out, wanted efficient but effective government, and while they bought into the strength v. weakness rhetoric, weakness was to them always exemplified by the government program someone else liked, not the one they liked. The capstone was Bush's hands-off approach, which resulted in nightmares like Katrina and now the financial crisis.
It gets worse: The demographics are against you. The hardcore racists, religious bigots and anti-communists are all old now. (See the exit polls for any of the successful anti-gay marriage referenda - the young people hated them.) Old people like big government programs like Medicare and Social Security, so what's left to cut? The former communists are our buddies now, and the Muslims aren't scary enough to take their place, it turns out. Finally, the South is no longer Solid. Yankees are moving in. Blacks got their act together and are in political control across large swaths of the region.
The linkage between conservative thought, an ideological strategy aimed at various unaffiliated and disaffected groups, and an electoral strategy aimed at a winning number of states and Congressional districts, is broken. You need to forge a new one. The important step is to identify the current or emerging unaffiliated and disaffected groups, and determine if by uniting them you could seize power again. If so, then craft the message that will unite them. Who those groups are, I really don't know. I think you're just going to have to effectively hang out for a decade or two and see what develops that you can run on.
If I could help you, I wouldn't, of course. You're all pretty evil in both your purpose and in effect. Movement conservatism is a theology of hate that has perpetuated some of the worst aspects of the American character. I've been as honest in this post as I can be, but maybe the fact that I think you're bad people colored my analysis and made it seem more hopeless for you in the short run than it really is. Perhaps you can get the old gang back together by, say, convincing religious blacks and Hispanics that gays and sluts are the real menace. I don't think it will work, but please - go ahead and try.