Key messages are statements which synthesize the information of a message in a clear and simple way. Distinguished, specifically, for being very succinct.
They are announcements which have the intention of communicating just one subject (an idea, a concept, a fact, an indication, etc).
An effective key message cannot leave room for interpretation or second meanings. Furthermore it cannot be too brief or too extensive because it may not explain much or confuse the public respectively.
Effective key messages cannot be edited by the media, due to the fact that they are information in a pure state.
For example, some politicians use cryptic phrases or rhetorical speeches which are endless. This language can be good material for analysts, but they are far from being effective key messages in its transmission to the general public.
It is vital that the key messages have content, in other words, they cannot be rhetorical, otherwise they will not arouse interest from anybody and they will not fulfill their communication goal. This may seem obvious, but it is a frequent error made by those who present speeches full of sensationalism which has little relevant content for the public.
The inclusion of emotional references can be considered during the elaboration of key messages, as long as it is not used carelessly or superficially, its exploitation should have a main reason behind it.
The dynamic of the media may leave little space for the preparation of all the news which determine the present day. For this reason, when the broadcast of a message is made by a spokesperson in a clear, concise, ordered and attractive way, it will simplify the reporter’s labor, who will probably use these declarations with the minimum of cuts.
The technique used to prepare key messages can be practiced by any spokesperson and it is also valid in order to assist in the elaboration any type of speech. Moreover, key messages are an exercise which may help those who are not necessarily great speakers, but have the duty to communicate to the public through the media.
We are talking about heads of various organizations that were not prepared to face a public appearance or an interview.
Journalists look for the concrete set of words of an individual and they appreciate it when they are able to transmit their ideas in plain words and short phrases but rich in content. A spokesperson with clear ideas and an accurate language creates far much more affinity than someone who speaks in a way which is diffuse and redundant.
Now we will review two examples of how the technique of key messages is well used.
When communicating is vital
<<Remain calm and evacuate downtown Manhattan. My heart is with all of you. I’ve never seen anything like that. (…) I can only say that we will use all the resources we have to try to rescue as many people as possible. (…) Those in charge in the city are alive and we are evaluating the situation>> These were the words that Rudolph Giuliani, who at the time was the mayor of New York, said right after the terrorist attack of September 11th.
Simple phrases but full of meaning and integrity, in the middle of the great catastrophe and confusion, helped the people of Manhattan maintain calm and act in an orderly way and trust that things were under control.
Rudolph Giuliani took every opportunity he had when he was near to journalists to address the issue to the New Yorkers and transmit these messages.
Key messages are the axis of every public relations campaign, and so they must permeate all the documents that are given to the press (notes and dossiers), speeches of the spokespeople, institutional advertisements and in any information that is spread by the organization.