Key messages and what to do with them
Posted on 17th May 2023
If you have worked with a branding specialist, marketer or even a communications consultant, you might have been advised to develop your key messages.
Did the suggestion leave you mystified?
Key messages for your business play an improtant part in defining your brand.
They explain what you are like as well as what you do.
They are the building blocks for your communications.
Let’s start with the word ‘key’.
Messages are ‘key’ when they are about the really important things you want people to know about your business.
So, key messages:
are the foundations of your brand and reputation
distinguish you from others
should be stable over time.
Take an iconic British brand, John Lewis, for example. They say:
‘… as a Partnership we are a democracy – open, fair and transparent.
- Our profits are shared
- Our Partners have a voice
- There is a true sense of pride in belonging to something so unique and highly regarded.
We build relationships with our customers, suppliers and each other based on honesty, respect and encouragement.’
All good and positive.
However, the really important thing about these key messages is that anyone who comes into contact with John Lewis (‘touch points’) would be able to confirm that their experience matched these statements.
Your key messages must also be:
achievable and, above all,
be experienced in reality.
Where do key messages come from?
Your key messages are distilled from the things you do every day. They summarise the reasons you started your business and what you are passionate about. It can be difficult to define these very fundamental messages for yourself.
You can bring in the professionals to help you, or you can ask your colleagues and customers what they think (which the professionals will do too, if possible).
To develop you key messages, it's best to:
focus on what you do and the way you do it, rather than specific products or services you provide.
think about how you want your customers, staff and stakeholders to feel when they experience your business
consider what you want other people to say about your business.
Keep it brief, simple and clear.
You probably don’t want more than five statements as your key messages of you might choose to organise them into your vision, mission and vlaue (VMV) statements.
Then what do you do?
If your key messages work well, you should be able to read them out loud, one after the other. They shoudld give that mythical Martian a clear idea of what it will be like to work with you. Just like the John Lewis example.
If you meet someone for the first time, you should be able to remember your messages easily and use them to explain what your business is all about.
You could stop there, but the real purpose of your key messages is to underpin everything you say.
Key messages should be easy to use in a letter or email, on a website, in a brochure, on a poster or the side of a vehicle.
Everything else you say should be consistent with your key messages. You should illustrate how you deliver on your promise and tell your story clearly.
You don’t have to use all of your key messages all of the time; you can choose when they will be relevant.
You aren’t tied to using the exact words of your key messages. As long as the ideas are unchanged, it’s fine to use alternatives.
Once you are happy that you have the right key messages, you will be surprised how easy it is to use them regularly.
There’s an added bonus too – you can check back with your colleagues and customers from time to time to see if you are living up to your ideals.
In a nutshell then, key messages are:
the foundations of your brand and reputation
Your key messages must also be:
Key messages should:
focus on what you do and the way you do it
describe how customers, staff and stakeholders feel about your business
be what other people really say about your business, rather than what you would like them to say.
We have an easy-to-use ‘brand character’ tool that will help you to develop and to look after your brand and reputation.
Please get in touch if you would ike to know more.
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