So What’s in a Key Message?


The most important thing any communications person will tell you is that you have to be on message!

What does that mean anyways? Why is it so important to think about key messages and how many exactly do you need to be effective? I love this topic so much I want you to know that when I do media training for executives – this is the only part that makes me light up – because if you get this then you are an effective communicator and nothing makes me more happy than to see someone tell a story on message that really represents who they are and what they want to say. It’s like nailing an essay test and getting into your favorite college. You want to crush it.


Why do messages matter?

  • Messages allow you to tell your story
  • Messages keep you disciplined and focused
  • Messages help you break through, get attention
  • Message repetition creates awareness, emphasizes importance
  • Message discipline is an art that requires practice


The Key To Messages

Focus on making two or three key points – these will be the foundation for a successful interview or storytelling. Nobody likes long-winded stories so decide in advance what is the most important information to convey and then use colorful language to convey those interesting points. Focus on telling a short story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Thousands of words are spoken – but only a few may be quoted so think what would you like to be quoted for – what key message is the most important to be conveyed? Remember quotable language helps the media write and edit the story so give them something to quote you for.


Repeat Your Message. Yes. Repeat.

Repetition is very effective. Come back to your key messages again and again. The more you make a point, the more important it becomes. Think about the ad slogans or songs that stick in your head – do you know why they are there? They have been repeated over and over and over again. Consistent repetition is what got you to pay attention.


Staying on Message.

The hardest thing is to stick to your guns and your message. It’s easy to get distracted and talk about other things – that’s what conversations do. They take you places you weren’t planning to go. So if you are telling a story about what your business does or what you are interested in sharing with the public – stay focused on your message. No matter what questions come your way – weave the conversation back to your key message. No matter what topics are brought up – pivot back to your key message. I always tell the story of one of the greatest message managers of all time whose job was to face the press as Secretary of State. Henry Kissinger would start every presser by asking does anyone have questions for my answers”– because no matter what he was asked he was there to deliver his key messages. Period.


“Does anyone have any questions 
for my answers?”
Henry Kissinger,
beginning a press conference