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Key messages – Why you need them to succeed

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Today’s information overload is changing our brains.

The average attention span has shriveled to a mere 8 seconds according to one Microsoft study that measured brain activity. *

We’re visiting more web and social media sites than ever before, doing it more often, and on smaller screens. With multi-tasking at an all-time high, competition for our attention is stiff.

So, it’s critical for every communication opportunity to pack a punch.

How, do you cut through the clutter and make a lasting impression?

“Messages are not the same as talking points, backgrounders or tag lines, although many people get them confused.”

Concise…..Strategic……Relevant. The meat and potatoes of communication!

This is where your organization’s key messages come in. These are main ideas that differentiate your company. They explain who you are and why people should care.

But, a surprising number of organizations haven’t developed them.

Messages are not the same as talking points, backgrounders or tag lines, although many people get them confused. These have their place too, but the first step is the messages – overarching short ideas, under which all of those other tools fit, and it takes work to get to them.

I find that although many clients say their organizations have messaging developed, they actually don’t. Often what they have is a one or two-page document that’s gone through lots of reviews. A laundry list of statements you want to get across, generally makes for terrible interview preparation.

The missing step is distilling that list down even further until you have a few main ideas. This needs to be done before the cameras roll, or the speech is written. That way the deliverer isn’t memorizing or trying to regurgitate pages of legal-ease. Instead, the speaker can expand in their own words in an authentic way, already clear on the points to make.

Here are some signs you’ve gotten it right.

Your messages:

  • Are phrases or short sentences

  • Can be delivered in different ways depending on the person speaking

  • Have supporting points under each one, including examples

  • Are easy to remember

  • Encapsulate what’s unique about your organization

Think THREE…..Trifecta…..Triple Threat.

I recommend organizations come up with three key messages. Sometimes a fourth can work, especially if that one is dynamic and can change to fit a particular circumstance. More than that probably means you need to do more distilling.

Think short, digestible pieces of content that will resonate with your audience. These should be the three things you want everyone to know about your organization.

Key messages are best tweaked in a group brainstorming session or two, so a variety of ideas and perceptions about the company can be taken into account and tested. The right external PR expert can guide the process and help you reach your goals with this exercise.

It’s a tall order, but the exercise is well worth the effort and can benefit the entire organization for years to come.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!

Once key messages are set, practice sessions to deliver them in compelling ways are critical. Successful organizations do this often to see what’s working, check relevancy and stay current.

Messages should serve as the game plan for media interviews, sales pitches and speaking engagements and be incorporated into all marketing materials. Advertisers often say that people need to hear a message 6-8 times before it resonates, so everyone and everything that gives information on your company needs to be singing from the same hymnal. The exact words and phrases may change, but the three key messages should be heard and seen in everything you do.

Your keys to SUCCESS!

Remember, messages are your game plan to win. They’re the map that helps you to find the treasure – to cut through the clutter and tell your organization’s story every chance you get.


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