Be Influential by Developing Key Messages

Developing Key Messages is Critical For Business

  • Developing key messages keeps you confident
  • Key messages naturally make you more influential
  • Professionals use key messages to shape public opinion and to reduce confusion


When I interned at the Oklahoma State Capitol during college I learned a lesson on developing key messages for the rest of my life.

As an intern I licked envelopes. Literally. People actually did that for a living. And I was one of them.

While I licked my 798th envelope for the summer, I had befriended a lobbyist who was about to teach me one of the biggest lessons of my career. And it would set me on an obsessive path to figure out how to deliver key messages to an audience.

The Lesson on Messaging

The lobbyist was a head lobbyist for a large utility. He was pushing a bill that unregulated his company so they could start selling high-speed internet.

I took a break from my duty of licking envelopes to watch the vote on the House of Representatives floor. We sat upstairs and watched it pass.

This is where the lesson came into play and where my life would be changed forever. As we walked down the capitol stairs, an old reporter ran up to the lobbyist.

He said: “I need some time with you. Does this mean your company will start charging higher fees for your other services?”

The lobbyist replied: “This is a great step for our state and for the people of Oklahoma.”

The reporter tried again. “But are you going to charge higher fees for other services?”

The lobbyist put his hand on the seasoned reporter’s shoulder and softly said… almost whispering in his ear… “All I can say is: this is a great day for Oklahoma and Oklahomans. We’re going to be technologically ahead of so many other states.”

Then the lobbyist disappeared down the stairs.

I was amazed how he handled the reporter…but there was more to it.

A Campaign on a Message

The lobbyist built an entire campaign around this key message and he believed in his heart that this bill would make Oklahoma better.

He propagated this one message in small towns and with legislators across the state. It became his mission to get Oklahomans better technology.

This is how focused he was. He told me that when any piece of paper came across his desk… He looked at it and determined if it could get him closer to his goal.

If it didn’t get him closer, he would ignore it. If it did he added it to his list.

The only way the lobbyist got this laser focus was by having an insane level of clarity.

He knew what he wanted from his audience – or a call to action – and he knew how to say what he wanted in one statement.

That’s the power of a key message in a public relations campaign.

What is a Key Message?

Your key message is usually a general point about what you’re doing or offering to a specific audience. Then you back this up with secondary and supporting points. Here is a seven step process to make key messages.

It’s difficult to create good copy or communicate effectively without a clear message. If you don’t know what the most significant point about your topic or the overarching point you want to get across to your audience… eh… how will your audience know the point you want to make?

It’s the one point supported by facts, frames and persuasion points that you want your audience to understand after they hear your message. Key Messages are designed to resonate with your audience. When done correctly as part of an overall strategic message plan, key messages can influences and spur your audience into action.

Think of your key message more like a thesis statement. Your key message is usually a general point about what you’re doing or offering to a specific audience. Then you back this up with secondary and supporting points.


4 Reasons Why You Should Start Developing Key Messages

Be More Influential

When developing key messages — whether for a public relations event or a communication plan — you’ll become more strategic.

When you develop your key messages correctly, you will be focused on the fundamentals for strategic communication. The fundamentals are things clearly defining your topic, clearly defining who you audience is and what you want people to do after they hear your message.

Once you create your message with these principles, you are automatically more persuasive and influential.

Build Trust

Research states that people look at unclear communication as harmful, deceptive and untrustworthy. We have a psychological shortcut that makes us automatically look at unclear communication with skepticism and danger.

If you are constantly trying to figure out how to communicate your message to someone else, then it is going to cause a lot of people to be skeptical.

Obviously you do not want that because you’d get nothing accomplished. When we speak clearly we automatically start at a place of trust.

Stay Focused

This is very similar to key messages being influential. Because we have focused on the fundamentals of communication in our key message, we know what we want our audience to do. We know what we are trying to accomplish.

Knowing what our mission is with our communication can help us stay focused on the mission.

The mission is to keep the mission… the mission. It’s easier to do this when we clearly can articulate it and clearly understand what we want others to do.

Stay Confident

When you can answer someone’s question is a way that spurs curiosity and understanding, you naturally become confident.

If you are in a position where every time someone asks you a question about your project or idea and you are trying to explain it, then you are in trouble.

Your confidence will also suffer, especially if you know that every time you speak someone might not understand.

If you want to learn to make key messages, you can learn our seven steps to create a key message.