An audience typically only remembers a few main highlights from any presentation, so as a communicator, it’s imperative to ensure they are taking away the right points. Perhaps the most important technique to accomplish this is the development and communication of key messages. Key messages are three to five key highlights that have been thoughtfully distilled to effectively communicate the material that is most important for an audience to understand in order to position a company prominently in the minds of its target audience.
The Importance of Key Messages:
Management teams often overlook the importance of adjusting their messaging for an audience that might know a lot, or nothing at all about their unique story, industry or potential. As a result, significant value can be realized from investing in the development of strong key messages that can be adapted and easily understood by anyone. These key messages establish the backbone of a company’s external marketing and branding. They help explain the business so that any audience can quickly understand what that company does, why they do it and how it is adding value for stakeholders, descriptors that will eventually be required for any company.
Developing Key Messages:
Your process should start with the WHY: Why should the audience pay attention to the story? Why should they give you their time or trust you with their capital? Answering these questions will help kick start the key message development process. Once the WHY has been established, consider the following points to help develop and refine the key messages:
- Prioritize critical information about the business. Separate the interesting many from the important few.
- Highlight the value proposition that your unique business provides and how that will ultimately benefit investors.
- Showcase what differentiates the company from its peers and competitors. Certain sectors can be crowded, so it’s critical to be clear on the features that make it stand out.
- Frame key messages in plain language, avoiding industry jargon and non-standard acronyms, or define them right up front if they must be included.
- Tackle commonly asked questions or misunderstanding about the business, to try and answer questions before they get asked.
- Provide facts, figures, and statistics to substantiate and enhance credibility.
- Motivate the audience to action by enticing them to learn more, take a meeting with management or by creating a sense of urgency to buy stock.
Review and Adapt:
It’s important to regularly review the key messages to ensure they continue to accurately reflect the core business, mission, target demographics and market position. Through the review process, test whether the messages are easy to recall or if anything has been lost over time. Consider any past feedback received from the target audience about the company’s messaging, as that is the best insight you can get, and adjust as appropriate. Oftentimes, the most valuable support can come from engaging an external, third-party IR or communications professional (such as 5Q!) who is able to take a step back and help streamline and simplify complex stories. Being farther away from the detail enables us to help management teams see the whole forest rather than just the trees.
After identifying the target audience and developing a set of key messages, check to ensure they are clearly reflected on your website, within press releases, presentations and fact sheets, and start to consider how to incorporate those key messages in other documents like the MD&A, AIF or Information Circular. An active company, either public or private, will benefit from leveraging every opportunity to repeatedly convey a clear, memorable, consistent and compelling story to help position the company prominently in the minds of its target audience.