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  • Writer's pictureMindy Hamlin

Back to Basics: Five Steps to Effective Key Messages

With so many amazing tools to reach stakeholders, companies often skip over the strategic communications planning phase in a rush to grow their social media footprint or get a press release out the door. Without a goals and message-driven strategy to guide their campaigns, however, many companies are left wondering why their efforts have not garnered the results they wanted. In this series, I will discuss the communication basics that are critical to executing successful campaigns.

The nine basic elements of effective key messages.

Whether you are launching a media relations campaign, personal brand, or crisis communication response, the first and most important step you can take is to identify the foundational messages that will drive your communication efforts and ensure consistency, while strengthening engagement with your most important audiences.

So what are key messages? I like this definition from the PRSA blog, which says that key messages are "The takeaway, master narrative, elevator pitch; essence of what you want to communicate." They are also "bitesize" summaries of what you want your audience to know, think, and do. Key messages are also the thread that ties all of your communications together and ensures your brand is consistent across channels. This is a critical point.

Every time someone from your organization writes a blog, responds to a customer, or sits down for a media interview, they are the brand. To the audience, whatever this person writes or says is what the brand values and what it will be known for. If there are no guiding messages your organization risks:

  1. Confusion around your brand and what it values

  2. The release of inaccurate information

  3. Statements and opinions that are not representative of your company or brand

While it may seem overwhelming, identifying key messages isn't hard. Gather a group of those with the most information and insight into the campaign, project, issue, or crisis you want to create messages for. With this group, use the questions below to guide a brainstorming session that will result in compelling, concise, and simple messages.

  1. What is the story you want to tell? Are you introducing a new project? Explaining a new policy? Are you responding to a crisis? Or an emerging trend that may impact your industry?

  2. Who are your audiences? What do they want to know? Remember, you may be speaking to more than one audience, which may mean you need different messages for each one. Determine what each audience wants to know about the issue or product. What are their pain points and interests?

  3. What do you want your audience to know, understand, or do? Be clear about your purpose and what you want from your audience. REMEMBER: Communication is only effective if you combine what you want your audience to know with what they WANT to know.

  4. What facts, figures, and anecdotes can you use to support your key messages? This will be the information you use to support your messages and build credibility.

  5. WRITE YOUR MESSAGES. Be sure to keep your messages between two to three sentences, concise, and jargon-free.

Through this simple exercise, you can identify the three to four driving messages you want to focus on. By adding facts, figures, and anecdotes to support these messages, you have the messaging foundation that will drive social media posts, website copy, blog content, media interviews, ads, and presentations. By spending time brainstorming and writing your messages now, you will ensure consistency across channels that will grow your brand and engagement with your audiences.

Do you need assistance creating key messages that resonate with your stakeholders? Let's talk.

Get your copy of my free, five-step guide for creating effective key messages.


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