COVID-19 PR Series: Key Messages, the foundation of ANY PR activity

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Tips

Key messages. The clue is in the wording, yet why is this crucial first step in any PR activity often overlooked, especially during times of unexpected events or a crisis?

If your PR campaign is a house, then key messages are the foundations. Without nailing what you want to say, how you want to say it, and adapting those appropriately for different audiences from the outset, then your plan will crumble like a sandcastle.

Where do you start?

As Fräulein Maria told her children in The Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning. The first step is to say what you want to say – yes, really. Gather your team or people on your inner business circle (virtually right now) and tell them out aloud, in plain English, what you’re trying to communicate. Give the people you involve in this activity your full permission to be honest; this is not the time for anyone to feel they can’t share their honest view.

Once you know that part, the rest is easy and this process can be applied time and time again.

Create a document with a grid or table that will become your Key Message Matrix. Column 1 is what you want to say, column two is how to you need to craft that message into something appropriate for public consumption, column 3 and onwards are any adaptations you’d make for your various internal and external audiences. You can download the LBPR template at the end of this blog.

Always remember that your key messages need to be congruent – if you’re telling your internal team the sky is blue, but telling people outside of your business that it’s pink, that’s a recipe for PR disaster.

Apply the KISS principle

When constructing key messages, it’s very easy to fall into the trap on using more words than are needed, using flowery language to make it seem more compelling, or simply adding in jargon nobody outside of your industry knows (or quite frankly, cares about). Applying the “Keep It Simple Stupid” strategy is so important once you’ve drafted the key messages. When we media train our clients, we always tell them to imagine they’re speaking to a 10-year-old; the same principle applies to key message development. If you have a child you can test it on, great. If not, look at what you’ve written through honesty glasses and if you can see a way to use less words, or you note jargon, take it out. As Albert Einstein has been attributed as saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”

Taking it further…consider a glossary of terms

To make key messages easier to develop, you may want to create a “Glossary of Terms” for your business. We have one here at LBPR and it makes it much more efficient to craft copy, whether it’s for a social media post, a blog like this or even a client email. Why not use this time to run a virtual workshop with your team? Gather all the words you want and words you don’t and off you go! To help, you’ll find our “Word Wide Web” template at the base of this email; inside the web write the words that you want to “stick”; outside write the words you don’t want to stick. Those that stick? Assuming alignment, then that’s your tailor-made glossary!

Revise and refine regularly

We live in a world where things are always changing, and that means agreed key messages may become outdated or less relevant quicker than you think. Schedule in a quarterly review with your team or trusted inner circle to ensure you get it right. Use the feedback your target audience gives you – whether via a social media comment, a reply to an eDM or in phone call – to note the language they use and what seems to resonate. The clues are there in terms of key message refinement if we take the time to note them down.

Get in touch

If this has whetted your appetite and you’d like to find out more about how you can harness the power of PR for your business, get in touch at

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LBPR Key Message Matrix Template

LBPR Word Wide Web Template

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