The backbone of any PR campaign is formed of key messages. These are the main points you want your audience to understand and associate with your company or brand. The things you want to be known for. The things you’re proud to stand by.
Key messages are so, er, key, we – like many other PR agencies – measure the success of our clients’ coverage in terms of how many key messages are included.
The secret to writing key messages is to make them memorable, relevant and meaningful. The best ones are also affirmative, positive and relatable to your audiences. Note audiences in plural – most businesses will have several target audiences and a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work.
If you can master the art of key messages, you will find your PR, marketing and communications are much easier. Your audiences will quickly catch on who you are, what you’re about and what you stand for. Consistency also shows confidence and confidence is a defining characteristic of thought leaders.
How many key messages?
The clue is in the word ‘key’ – these are the few things that will really mark you out among your competitors. Too many key messages, by definition, are no longer key. They’re mass messages! And that way lies confusion. Aim for three or four key messages per audience. More than that will be too many for any to stand out – plus it’s a headache for your spokesperson to remember them all in the heat of the interview moment…
Key messages should be:
- Short – aim for one sentence
- Easily understood – drop the jargon
- Audience specific – tailor where necessary
- Believable – have the stats to back up any claims you make
- Upbeat – shows optimism
- Confident – shows confidence
It can help to look at your competitors’ key messages before you scope your own for three reasons.
- Firstly, you can see what you like and understand what resonates with you in your market – why is that message strong and convincing?
- Secondly, you can see what you don’t like and avoid that style or attitude.
- Thirdly, importantly, you can carve out your very own key messages that will help you occupy a space that your competitors haven’t taken. This is the space where you and your key messages can really stand out.
Before you decide on your final key messages, try them out on other people. Check their understanding and watch their reaction – do they smile, nod, ‘get it’? Or do they check back what you’ve said and seek to clarify your point? If the latter, have another go at simplifying the message. Or be brave and ask them how they would phrase it – sometimes people who mimic your audience can give you a good clue as to the language and tone that would work.
Landing your message
It’s all well and good having a lovely set of perfect messages but their value lies in your ability to land them. A good key message should slip effortlessly into conversation and copy writing. If it looks, feels or sounds clumsy then it’s not good enough. Sometimes, it’s easier to create a key message by saying it out loud a few times and playing with the spoken language until it works. If it sounds right, it is right. Having got your key messages, practice using them in copy and conversation. The more you say them, read them and hear them, the easier they will come to you and the more believable they will be (to you and your audience!)