How to write key messages

how to write key messagesReading time: About 2 minutes

Some skills are extra important for any corporate communicator. Here’s a quick primer on one of them: how to write key messages…

If you’re forced to make a big announcement for your company or organization, you need some key messages.

Essentially, these are statements that answer the obvious questions. For example, if you’re announcing a store closure, people will likely want to know the following:

WHY is the store being closed?

HOW many employees are being affected and what are you doing to help them?

WHERE is the general public supposed to buy [what you used to sell] now?

While there are many more questions than just these three, these are the main ones and many additional questions will essentially be variants.

Funnily enough — unless the announcement is extraordinarily complex (and some are) — three key messages is usually sufficient. For starters, the human brain can only handle so much info and most spokespeople stand a good chance of being able to remember three key messages. Give them five or seven, however, and their brains start to melt.

Second, particularly if you’re trying to prepare for TV news, the station is likely to use no more than 10 – 15 seconds (or less), so they won’t require lots of verbiage. Finally, if you’ve chose the right three key messages, MOST of the questions can be answered with one of them.

So let’s check this out with the store example. Here are three key messages for our imaginary store.

#1: We regret we have to close Wrigley’s Dog Food store in Vancouver. Rent in our Yaletown location was more than doubled and we haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement at an affordable price. As a result, we have to shut down our retail location.

#2: We have 15 employees. All will retain their jobs with the possible exception of two front desk clerks. We are working hard to retain them, but if that’s impossible we’ll give them a generous severance.

#3: Our many loyal customers are welcome to continue to buy our product via our website, Existing customers will be entitled to 20% off for the first six months.

Part of the trick to good crisis communications is simply good management. You can see how our imaginary store had: (a) a good explanation in key message #1, (b) a reasonable plan for its employees in key message #2, and (c) a reasonable plan for its customers in key message #3.

My hunch? Wrigley’s Dog Food would make it through this bit of rental bad luck with no serious downturn in business.

Will your company be able to say the same following its next big announcement? Start working on those key messages now.

Posted March 14th, 2014 in Gray-Grant Communications