Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the power of messaging. His now emulated, but never duplicated “I Have a Dream” speech is an excellent example of how key messaging works to get messages stuck in our minds. By using simple and easy to understand phrases and key words, along with a healthy dose of repetition, Dr. King’s speech lives on, perhaps even for centuries to come.
But it isn’t just Dr. King who understood the importance of key messages. Other great leaders also knew the power they hold. Eisenhower, Churchill and Kennedy all used strong, but simple messages to drive home their point. And who can forget President Reagan at the Berlin Wall, telling Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall!”
Today, the world of public relations is built around the power of messaging that is clear, consistent and concise.
There are some important rules that have been adopted by communication professionals in the development of key messages.
Here are just a few:
- Keep it short and simple.
- Messages must be fact-based. They must be provable.
- Use common language known by the intended audience.
- Try to limit your key messages to three for any particular communication effort.
- Support each key message with one or two facts.
- Ensure that messages are consistent with the brand of the institution.
- Messages should not be confused with slogans, catch phrases or mottos.
Key messages work. They are powerful tools in the communications arsenal. They become the guideposts, the map and the compass to lead people on a clear and uncluttered pathway.