By Brad Addison - CoFactor Managing Partner; and communication, engagement and reputation management specialist
We’ve all witnessed conversations or presentations where the speaker or writer has overcomplicated their messages. So many times where you’ve come away from a meeting, email, conversation or major conference and been unsure what the key takeaways are.
We’ve all been guilty of communicating less than clearly too.
All communication is an attempt to inform or influence. Effective communication is of course what you say and send but most importantly, what the receiver perceives and does.
Your messages shape what you want people to think and do.
So how can you ensure you’re communicating clearly and that the audience hears and actions what you want them to? Consider using key messages.
What are key messages?
Key messages are the main points you want your target audience to hear and remember. They create meaning and provide the takeaway headline of the issue you want to communicate.
Key messages help you prioritise what’s important. They help you be more concise, leading to greater control over the message your audience hears. They help you stay focused when talking or presenting to your team, the media, at a conference or to other stakeholders. In other words, they help you stay on point and not ramble on about things less important!
A key message is not a fact or statistic, but rather a statement that succinctly communicates what you need your audience to understand or do.
Where should they be used?
Everywhere. Even if you’re not writing them down, you can prepare your communication with the same format. Consider them the key takeaway, master narrative or elevator pitch; the essence of what you want to communicate.
What makes a great key message?
There are lots of ways to build key messages, but here’s an easy time-tested formula that can be used for almost all communication.
- Central message
- Supporting messages
- Proof points
Central message - This is your core theme – the one thing you need your audience to go away understanding or feeling from your communication. This is the most important thing you’ll communicate.
Supporting messages - Next, develop a short list of supporting messages for each of your key messages. These will usually be a sentence or two in length.
Proof points - Round out your supporting messages with proof. Proof points make your messages believable and credible through supporting facts, data, statistics, demonstrations, examples, testimonials and other detail. It’s best to keep these short and where relevant use infographics or other visual aids to appeal to the audience.
Keep the following in mind when pulling together your key messages. Aim to be:
- Purposeful — Align the key messages with your objectives and make them relevant to your audience
- Concise — Deliver them in 1-3 sentences and less than 30 seconds when spoken, ensuring they’re easy to understand and jargon-free
- Compelling — Make them memorable and meaningful and designed to stimulate action
Finally, the most important key messages, like who you are, what you stand for and what you do, will rarely change. For these messages, it bears repeating (pardon the pun) that:
There’s a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time. — Frank Luntz