Key Messaging: 5 things you need to know

In Public Relations/Marketing by Karla Coleman0 Comments

One of my favorite activities in public relations is creating good key messages. It’s the first thing I create – either with the client or without. Otherwise, it feels like everyone is working in a silo, instead of singing from the same hymnal.

Your key messages are the foundation for your 30-second elevator speech. If you can’t explain who you are, what you do and why in 30-seconds or less, and in turn, receive an affirmative nod from the person you’re talking to, then you’ve missed your opportunity to tell your story or at least interest them enough to find you through Google or on Facebook.

Here are 5 things you need to know about key messaging:

1. Helps you stay focused.
Having good key messages for every project helps you remain on message and task. We’re all human, and we see the world differently. Each person on a team may have a different view of what’s important to tell your audience. Unfortunately, varying messages can make you look and sound like multiple companies in one and your message is lost. Key messages can help you stay focused on the most important messages so that they can be repeated often and your audience may hopefully repeat them back to you and take action. I ask my clients to create approximately 3-5 strong, short messages with proof points, if necessary, for each. Now when we start developing the strategic plan and writing press releases and other materials we can refer back to these key messages for consistency.

2. Clear, concise and consistent.
Writing key messages are not as easy as you may think. It requires a lot of research and soul searching. You have to know the project’s goals and objectives and put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Ask yourself: Will these messages resonate with this audience? Are they clear, concise and consistent? The message is clear when it’s free of jargon, or internal “inside baseball” speak, and it’s relevant to the listener. It’s concise when you can deliver it quickly. When you can repeat it often, and you should, then you are consistent in your message. And that’s when you are really comfortable with the messages – they roll off the tongue.

3. Must be memorable, so take them for a spin. Some times we lose sight of why key messages were created in the first place – to tell your audience about your issue, company, new product or service and to encourage action. It’s important that they are easy to remember and can be repeated to others in conversation or on social media or elsewhere. Don’t make your audience work too hard. Test them out on a friend during casual conversation and gauge their reaction.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Not much more to say on this one. You need to know your key messages and be able to fit them into the context of any business discussion at any time. No cheat sheets allowed. Practice with a friend or colleague, videotape yourself, say them back to yourself in the shower, what ever it takes to remember the messages and make them count. During media interview, it’s not unusual for even the best of us to get flustered and fall back into your technical jargon or go off on a tangent. Practicing make this easier and prepares you for any question – easy or hard – that may come your way.

5. Use them everywhere, all the time.
Don’t create and abandon your messages. I’ve seen this from time to time where a team will spend a lot of time and effort, (or not enough time) creating messages only to say whatever is top of mind at the time, even during a media interview. If you don’t feel comfortable telegraphing your messages, then you need to go back to the drawing board and create messages that are useable and memorable.

For more information about our Key Messaging Development Workshop or Media Training/Coaching Workshop, e-mail me — karla@thornhillcom.com. 

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