Leah Andrew
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7 Criteria for Developing Key Messages that Resonate

Are you in the process of developing key messages for your organization?

A critical part of your organization’s brand strategy  is the development of key messages.  Key messages are external statements informed by your brand strategy.  They get used frequently and consistently across your marketing and communications materials to build relationships with your customers.  

But too often, key messages are vague.   And often, there are way too many!  On top of that, many key messages don’t clearly tell your customers about the problems your brand solves, or why your brand is the one to use.  In short, the key messages aren’t building trust and credibility. 

How many key messages do you need?

When it comes to developing your own key messages, we recommend developing no more than 5 key messages!  Too many key messages will confuse your customer, as well as your internal team.

How do you develop key messages? Start by identifying key message themes

Key messages typically reinforce certain themes or areas of your brand that you consider to be strengths or competitive advantages. Start by analyzing your work on your positioning and promise statements to identify pillars you think are important for your customers.  Then, lay out a goal for your message.  What do you want to communicate?

For example, you might have a pillar around innovation, or customer service because those are important themes.  Or it might be around your proven approach, or the people who make up your team.  

Below is an example from a client session that identified 5 main themes, three of which are shown below.  Completing a table similar to this one is a good framework to use as you begin developing your own key messages. 

Developing key messages


7 Criteria to use when developing key messages

Finally, when developing your key messages, be sure they meet these seven criteria:

1. Not Claimed by the Competition

How are you setting yourself apart in the marketplace if your positioning is similar to your competitor? 

2. Not a Cliche

Cliches are overused phrases and by definition show lack of original thought. Your key messages should strive to show that you’ve given some thought to what you’re good at and how to communicate it.  But in a simple way without jargon or buzzwords.

3. Quantified

While this is sometimes hard to achieve, it is important to strive for. Quantifiable statements hold weight and instill a sense of confidence in the quality of something. Just think about your reaction to the following two statements:

  1. We help social entrepreneurs grow successful businesses.
  2. We’ve helped 1000 social entrepreneurs launch their business. 

4. True

This one is obvious, but must be said. Your key message must reinforce something your organization can deliver on today.  It is not something you are aspiring to provide in the future. 

5. Specific

Stay away from motherhood statements like “we provide great customer service!”  Instead, work to truly define what great customer service means to your organization.  Put through the criteria, a refreshed key message around customer service might now read “We pride ourselves on great customer service.  We guarantee you’ll always talk to a human, and that your wait time will be less than 1 minute.”

6. Objective

Ensure your key messages are not just communicating your own personal feelings or opinions.

7. Relevant

Remember who you are talking to when developing your key messages.  Great messages must resonate with your target audience to cut through the clutter.

Next Steps

Once you’re done developing your key messages, put them to use!  For example, put them on your website, or in an explainer video. This way, you’ll get a sense of what resonates and what doesn’t so you can tweak and refine. Be sure to use these messages frequently and consistently throughout your marketing activities and across your channels. 

If you feel like you need more help developing your key messages, consider our Brand Strategy workshop.  It’s a fun and interactive way to revisit or create your brand strategy.

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