Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy-Peasy Key Messages

If you’re a small-to-medium biz wanting to take control of your marketing and communications, one of the first things you’ll want to think about are key messages.

While they sound like bite-sized messages  (naff quotes like “Have a heart. Brake for cyclists”) they aren’t much like that at all.

Key messages distil what your business does in around three succinct points. It captures the essence of your business from a customer’s perspective and what value it has for them.

Importantly, your company’s key messages should also highlight your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition; that is, what makes you different from the competition. It makes a claim about what you want your stakeholders to believe, and this claim should be backed up by fact and example.

Once you have crafted and agreed on what your key messages are going to be, they become a blueprint for so many types of communications – website, advertising copy, newsletters, staff communications, printed brochures, speeches, social media campaigns, media releases and much more.

Benefits of having key messages for your company:

1. Everyone sings from the same song sheet

2. They help you decide what is so great about your business

3. They are tied to your organisational objectives, so you aren't going off on a tangent

4. It's your Cliff's Notes to describe your business

5. They reinforce your brand, values, products and services - all the time

1.   An easy-peasy way to develop key messages

Tools: Pen, paper... brain, and any existing marketing material about your company.

You may prefer to work on your computer, iPhone, iPad, Android, or write your notes in chalk on the road outside your house. I think best with old fashioned pen and paper.

Read over existing information and marketing materials about your company. Try to understand it from an outsider’s point of view as well as interpreting what you’re trying to communicate from inside the company. 

Make some notes. What is the product or service you provide, in a nutshell? Try to use everyday language rather than jargon. What do you claim is special about your business, your Unique Selling Proposition? Can you back it up with fact or an example? Further, what does your ideal customer look like? And why do those customers value your product or service?

Extrapolate three important things your biz does, incorporating your unique character, the product or service you offer, and any information to back it up. Write this into three dot points. Try to keep it succinct, objective and again, don’t make the language flowery or too corporate. In other words, keep it real.

Take another look and review. Are your key messages all different points? If they are repetitive, group or combine the strands of thought. Are the sentences succinct? If no, slash and burn to bring them back to three lines each. Is the wording too technical? If so, bring it back to what the customer wants, and write it like you are explaining it to someone.

Review until you feel it’s working. Then, ask someone you trust to look at what you’ve written. No one person can define what a company does – there are many different perspectives that can be useful, if you’ll ask for them!

Once you have an agreed set of key messages for your company, include them in brand and communications guidelines, new staff inductions, and keep a copy on hand.

You’ll be surprised how much use they will get.

Key messages... they won’t happen overnight but they will happen!

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