Successful people focus on what’s important, and that’s just as true in communications. Your audience’s concentration will fade as time goes by, so it’s no use trying to get across more than three messages in one take, whether in a standalone statement or in an interview. The upshot is, don’t try too hard. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of times, achieving 80 per cent of a goal will take 20 per cent of your energy, while achieving the other 20 per cent will take the other 80. In other words, a lot of times it simply isn’t worth the trouble to achieve perfection. Excellence will do nicely, so concentrate your efforts. What is really important will take little time to tell, and even less if it’s well prepared. So get working on your key messages.
Have your key messages ready, and you will find it easier to influence a conversation or an interview. If you can tell your story concisely, clearly, in a positive tone, consistently and credibly, you will be heard, or at least you will be able to make yourself heard.
But of course, as they are, your key messages won’t simply fit into any old interview. So get some tools. One is bridging (that is, closing) the gap between a question and your key message. This is most useful when the question is about something you would rather not talk about. Your spontaneous reaction might be: “No comment.” But that will destroy whatever good will there was so far. Better not to say what you can’t say, and instead lead over to what you can say. The easiest way to do this is simply to say so: “What I can say is this.” And then state your message. Or how about: “What’s important to us is…”
A statement is something you make to record an opinion or to explain your organization’s position. Classically, a statement will begin with a position, something that might work as a headline. So put things first things first and grab your audience while it’s still listening. After just a few sentences, their attention will decrease, and their minds will wander elsewhere. So get out a positive position fast, and make sure it’s also brief, consistent and credible. Choose a maximum of three convincing arguments to support your main message, then finish by repeating your lead. This is the way to hammer home a point.
Whenever you give an interview, record a statement on camera, when you write a letter to the editor or post a comment on a website, you are doing an important job for your company, because what you are doing is renewing your company’s citizenship. Alright, so you didn’t realize that was what you were doing, but think about it. In the long run, a business can be viable only if the public thinks that what the business is doing is beneficial to society. Otherwise, political pressure will build up, and that can result in the business being forced to close down, if only in extreme cases. Whether or not the public thinks a business is beneficial will be based on facts, but only to a degree.
Devising key messages is important for any organization and most professionals, but it can also be hard. To formulate a system of key messages, an individual or organization needs to come clean about who they are and what is important to them. As long as this is about technical questions, it’s easy. But the key messages that really matter are those that have an emotional component, and agreeing on something that is emotional can be, well, emotional. It also quickly becomes a political issue, and that means everyone will consider himself an expert.