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While key messages can be considered a core tenet for communicators, they have also gotten a bad rep. In some cases they have been described as inauthentic and jargon-filled. But, they don’t have to be. Ask yourself these five questions next time you're developing key messages.
The days of top-down, corporate speak are on the way out and have been replaced with transparent, authentic and “real” two-way communication. While many companies have already adopted this communication style, crafting and executing key messages to support it can sometimes be a challenge when it comes to introducing a new company program, initiative or organizational change.
Instead of ditching key messages altogether, ask yourself these five questions as you develop them.
1. Who are you communicating with? Yes, the need to identify your audience(s) was, is and will continue to be a critical piece of developing key messages. If you don’t know who the intended audience is, how can you craft messages that they understand or that compel them to take action?
2. If the audience takes away only one thing from the message, what should it be? Even with key messages, one employee’s interpretation of a message may differ from another’s. And that’s OK. This, coupled with general information overload, is why it’s all the more important to make focused and clear that one call to action.
3. Are the messages clear and compelling? If you read it aloud and the answer is no, then you’ll need to do more than just hope employees get it. Make sure the messages are relevant and focused on what the audience needs to know and not just what you want to communicate. And if you have not already, it’s time to lose the corporate lingo and overused buzz words — nothing says “corporate” and “inauthentic” more than this.
If you’re unsure what those are, don’t try and boil the ocean. Simply leverage your robust resources. Or, think outside the box to get the ball rolling.
4. Are the messages tailored enough to resonate with your different audiences? Why should they care? What does it mean for them? While the core message should be consistent across the board, this is a great opportunity to infuse more personalization based on the audience – think about their role, function, level, location, etc.
5. Have you counseled your leaders to put the messages in their own words? This is where some would caution that things can go sideways. It can and it has. However, this is also where a leader’s authenticity truly emerges and connects with employees. There’s a difference between adding their own voice to the message and going completely rogue and off script. This provides a great opportunity for communicators to counsel leaders, if needed.
A final tip is to test your messages with colleagues and others (barring the sensitivity of the topic) to see if they resonate or fall flat.
Key messages are important for clarity and consistency and are foundational for communicators and marketers. Do you agree? What questions would you add to this list?
Bronn Communications is an Atlanta-based internal communications agency that helps companies reach and engage their most important audience and brand advocates—employees.