Pssst: Your Key Messages Sound a Lot Like Everyone Else's

If you’ve ever worked with a media trainer or PR person, you’ve likely been coached to identify and then stick to your key messages.

This is the fundamental rule of media training--and for good reason. Neither a reporter nor any other audience can reasonably remember more than three or four main points from any conversation. So we organize our thoughts into bundles of three or four messages and repeat those over and over.

But here's a media training secret:  Most company messages sound a lot alike.

It’s true!  So while communications teams may be pleased when executives “stick to the messages,” reporters and other audiences are frustrated that they can’t get beyond the predictable, abstract and boring rhetoric they’ve heard time and again. 

Not only is that bad for the reporter, it’s bad for the executive who will either be quoted saying something forgettable, or more likely, not quoted at all.

But here’s the rest of that media training secret: Most company messages sound alike until we back them up with interesting stories, examples, analogies, metaphors, etc. At Bluestone, we call these “message enhancers.”

Imagine a reporter asking, “What sets your company apart from the competition?”

You might be inclined to answer with any of these common key messages “Innovation is at the heart of all we do,” or “Our location well positions us to serve customers,” or “Our strength is in our people.”

Zzzzzzzzz.

While all of those are excellent key messages, when they’re used with no supporting points, they seem cliché, trite and hollow.

But imagine if instead the conversation went like this:

“What sets your company apart from the competition?”

“Our strength is in our people---and how far they will go for customers. We like to say we’re a global company operating like a corner store. In fact, just this week I received a letter from a customer who said he called us trying to track down a discontinued machine part. When he hung up Friday afternoon, it seemed hopeless. Then he got a call Saturday morning from one of our people who had located it at a warehouse in Oklahoma. She called Saturday so he wouldn’t worry all weekend. And that happens every day.”

Suddenly, the reporter can picture the executive opening that letter and imagine the grateful customer and the helpful employee and perhaps begin to think, wow, they DO have great people.

With catchy phrases like “global company operating like a corner store,” and memorable details like “a warehouse in Oklahoma,” suddenly the abstract message "Our strength is in our people" starts to have meaning and credibility.

Though of course they must be vetted first, stories, examples, analogies, metaphors, and snappy one-liners can all serve as powerful message enhancers. And when organized around your three or four key messages, they're almost certain to resonate, be remembered and, with just a little luck, get repeated. 

If your organization needs help crafting compelling messages and unforgettable message enhancers, give us a call at 248.514.7085. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.