If you have been in public relations for long, you know about key messages. In media training, we tell our clients to deliver only three key messages and we teach them how to bridge to these messages throughout an interview.
Anatomy of a Key Message: Claim + Fact + Example
Key messages can be powerful. As proof, a few weeks ago Porter Novelli, on behalf of their client Watson Pharmaceuticals, won the Jack Felton Golden Ruler of Measurement Award. The case study shows a number of things, but some of the most interesting were that communication of key message was a key driver of both patient visits and prescription sales, and articles that contained key messages were six times more likely to be positive than those without key messages. (Thanks to Katie Payne for the link)
They are also great for measurement, and go way beyond counting impressions and the dreaded ad values, which is easy but wildly inaccurate, especially if you add a PR value multiplier.
However, the use of key messages can also be a downfall. Think of the politician that never seems to answer the question that is asked, but instead repeats the same phrase over and over again. Also, how do key messages fit into the day to day work of a company or group of individuals that need to communicate within the context of their work? How does a one-size-fits-all approach work there? Or on a blog where authenticity and the free-flow of communication matters?
I have been fiddling with a format for my clients that allow them to effectively use key messaging yet also allows them to keep it real.
Example of the Format
Basically, the format relies on corporate values. What is it that you want to be known for? I try to limit my clients to three or four of these, any more and it becomes unwieldy. These values become the claims, for instance:
Claim: We are champions of education
Then you come up with a list of facts and examples to back up this claim. In other words, you walk the walk.
Fact: Last year we gave over $100,000 to local charities to support education of K-12 students in the community. We also had over 40 rotating volunteers reading to students every day for the entire year during their lunch break.
Example: One 11th-grade student, was able to move up from a regular English class to an AP class and is expected to earn an A. She says that her mentor helped her to realize that reading was fun, and said that no one had ever done that for her before.
You can literally come up with an unlimited number of facts and examples to back up your claim. It also helps the organization to coalesce around these points and adopt them. It is also measurable if the claims remain consistent.
What do you think? How do you use key messaging?