Lots of business owners see the many benefits of talking to the media - but are you clear on what you want to say?
Before you start the more sophisticated process of forming and offering up your opinions to the media on the issues that affect your market, you need to know what it is you can say about your business that will make readers, viewers and listeners choose you rather than one of your competitors.
This comes back to developing key messages that will resonate with your clients and potential clients.
Key messages - what are they?
Key messages are the main statements you want to make about your business and/or your offer. They tout your value-add, point to your successes, are underpinned by your core values and support your key goals.
Why do I need them?
Every key message at some level helps you articulate your value proposition. They provide a consistent and repetitive message in the public domain and give you and your business a professional voice in the media. Learn them by rote and they can also be very useful if for any reason your mind goes blank during an interview with a journalist.
Key messages can be developed at a macro and a micro level. Businesses may have many key messages to not only describe who they are, what they do and why they are unique, but to help them to talk about specific aspects of their business, products, services, markets or industries.
At a micro level, key messages provide a useful tool for discussing particular topics, for example, professionalism, ethics or competition. Irrespective of the issue, these statements can help start and continue a conversation and be used as a springboard into a particular topic. They give you an anchor from which to build a dialogue.
Developing key messages
To develop key messages requires high-level thinking around your value, your service and your differentiation. Key messages need to be informal but informative; descriptive yet colloquial and you should be able to roll them off your tongue.
Step-by-step guide to key message development
To help businesses develop key messages, we have arrived at a three-step process.
Step 1 - Brainstorm to arrive at a big picture statement
In this step, you are simply trying to arrive at a single statement that neatly summarises what you want to say. Your first big picture statement may be similar to your mission statement, but less stodgy.
A brainstorming session is a good place to start. At a macro level, thinking about words that describe your business, what you do and why you do it will help you get in the zone. As a starting point, think about an elevator pitch. You are aiming for one 'governing thought' or big picture statement.
Let's say you are a company which offers compliance services to risk advisers. Your big picture statement might look something like this:
"At XYZ Compliance, we help risk advisers with compliance."
Step 2 - Make your big picture statement more interesting
In this step, you are trying to make your big picture statement a bit more memorable. To help you do this, try making the language in your statement more colloquial. Think about turns of phrase, sayings, idioms, even cliches. The object is to make it very easy for anyone to understand exactly what you are saying, to help them identify with you and your offer and to make you sound conversational, interesting and engaging.
"At XYZ Compliance, we help risk advisers dot all their i's and cross all their T's."
This says essentially the same thing as the big picture message we developed in Step 1 but in a more interesting way.
Step 3 - Make your big picture statement unforgettable
In this step, you are trying to make your big picture statement unforgettable so that a journalist (and anyone else you say it to for that matter) never forgets you and your business. Here is where you really need to play with language and be very creative. Think more about idioms and become a student of headlines. What makes some headlines so compelling? Of course, plagiarism is out, but inspiration and clever wordplay is in!
"At XYZ Compliance, we help risk advisers stay on the right side of life."
This example is, of course, a play on the idiom 'look on the bright side' which itself inspired the lyrics of a song and for this reason is likely to stay in the journalist's head and therefore be unforgettable.
Developing key messages is part art and part science and it's likely to take longer than you think - but it's worth the effort.
Julie Bennett is the Principal of 64 Media, a specialist public relations and communications business servicing finance and related companies looking to grow and promote their businesses.