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Creating key messaging that resonates

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Feb 21, 2017 • Tricia McKim • Blog

Content Creation



Determining your story serves as a critical first step in developing a successful marketing program. Without a recipient-oriented story, most marketing efforts fall flat. Whether you are experiencing change, launching a new initiative, or revising your go-to-market strategy, recipient-oriented messaging sets the foundation for your communications efforts and helps ensure a consistent story is told across all channels.

So, how do you create a key message platform that will resonate with a range of audiences?

Knowing your audience is key to key messaging

The first step is knowing your audience. When crafting your key message platform, it’s tempting to get caught in the trap of simply telling people what YOU want them to know. But, it’s not about you. It’s about what the people you are engaging with want and need to hear.

For some companies, this means holding audience interviews to gauge recipients’ perceptions of their brand and current marketing messages. For others, it means diving into audience personas and using the information captured in these valuable tools to guide current messaging.

One trick I often use is to ask the following question about each audience before I begin writing:

After he or she hears, reads or sees my message, what do I want the recipient to:

  1. Think?
  2. Feel?
  3. Do?

The answers to these three questions become building blocks and frames of reference when creating your key messaging. With your answers in hand, you can reverse engineer what messages your audience will need and/or want to think, feel and take your desired action.

Crafting recipient-oriented key messaging

Once you have a clear understanding of your audiences’ wants and needs, and how you can move them to think, feel and act, you are ready to begin crafting your key message platform.

I recommend creating a multi-level platform that includes:

Elevator Speech: Your five-second billboard that quickly gives the highlights of your story.

Overarching Messages: These messages resonate with all audiences and can be used in multiple applications, on multiple channels.

Audience-Specific Messages: Many communicators stop at overarching messages. However, to create a truly recipient-oriented key messaging platform you must speak directly to different audiences. That’s where audience-specific key messaging comes into play. For example, when communicating a business acquisition, the information your internal employees will need and want to hear, and the actions we’ll want them to take, are much different than the information your customers will require.

Next, your messaging should contain three key elements:

  1. What? Describe the important facts, features and benefits.
  2. So, what? Why should the recipient care? What’s in it for them?
  3. Now, what? Tell the recipient what to do.

As you craft, review and revise your messages, ask yourself:

  1. Are these messages simple? Are they direct, and easy to understand?
  2. Have I captured what my audience needs to hear, not what I want to say? Are my messages recipient-oriented?
  3. Do I use everyday language? No jargon, no acronyms. Have I written my messages the way people actually talk?

We refer to these key elements of effective messaging as The Pathway to Great Messaging.

Download a copy of the Pathway and pull it out any time you craft new key messaging. It serves as a powerful visual tool and reminder of what it takes to create messages that truly resonate.

Bringing your key messaging to life

Once you’ve created your key message platform it’s time to share it with the people who matter most to your organization. This platform becomes the DNA of your brand or initiative story. Include messages in talk tracks, collateral and on social. Share the appropriate messaging with your account, creative and social media teams to ensure they get baked into all client touch-points. The key is that every individual internalizes these messages and uses them in authentic ways.

If you would like help developing your key message platform, contact us. We also offer key message training to help your teams discover how best to use key messaging in their work, or to train media spokespeople to use key messaging during interviews.