Flight of the Conchords - Robots

How to Develop Modern Key Messages

Flight of the Conchords - RobotsRoughly six years ago, I wrote a guest post for Kami Huyse’s blog about the role of messaging in public relations – at the time, the term “key message” had developed a bad reputation. Folks were hopping aboard the Cluetrain Manifesto’s proclamation that “there’s no market for messages,” and robotic-sounding politicians and executives, saying the same words over and over again, had grown annoying and old-fashioned to an increasingly sophisticated public.

Though I disagreed with a ban on messages even then, as I said in 2009, the “no-message movement comes from a good place: the need to inject humanity into our communications. It’s a call to organizations to eliminate corporate-speak gobbledygook, and just be real.”

While there’s still room for improvement, the state of key messages has improved immensely in the first half of this decade. In the age of two-way communications and social media, we've seen that overly packaged messages have an inauthentic air. Some organizations had to learn this the hard way, but now the vast majority of those earning a living crafting and communicating key messages knows: customized and situation-appropriate conversational language is a requirement.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean key messages are “dead,” they’ve just evolved – thank goodness. As most of us know, key messages continue to be one of the cornerstones of public relations and communications.

BullseyeJanuary is often the time for a key message refresh for communications professionals and our clients.

When crafting modern key messages, keep in mind they should be:

  • Focused on the audiences’ interests and pain points, not just your client’s products/services
  • Easy to understand, as brief as possible and free of buzz words
  • 100% correct and verifiable
  • Usable in all of the tactics you’re planning for your client’s program/campaign
  • Written with enough differentiation that they wouldn’t apply to your client’s competitors

Whether you use a full message map format or something simpler in its presentation, the time-tested best practice for modern key messages involves the development of 1) a central message; 2) supporting messages; and 3) the proof points that offer backup and/or more detail. The format can be as simple as a multi-level bulleted list.

A fictional example could look like this:

Key message example

In addition to audience retention and the ability to respond to questions faster, having agreed-upon messaging in place helps you align client stakeholders, build spokesperson confidence and provides a useful metric when measuring and tracking success. It’s hard to believe messaging was a controversial topic five years ago, but I think it’s a testament to the progress communicators have made in recent years that it seems a little silly when we look back! What do you think?

For more information, including 10 downloadable key message formats and detailed message mapping templates, join Solo PR PRO Premium today!

Members: download the 25-page ebook, Key Messages and Message Mapping here.

Image credit: http://stackoverflow.com/nocaptcha

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  • Joan Witte

    Great and timely post Kelly. I am getting ready to write a new client’s key messages. Totally believe in their power. It’s all about consistency.

  • Wow, that was a long time ago. Thanks for showing us the evolution.