Scott Smith

How-To Capitalize On Messaging (Part 3)

Part 3: Four Steps to Constructing a Bullet-proof Key Message

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits the Key Message approach to communications and so some other methods that are commonly used, let’s learn how to construct a Key Message that your customers and press won’t be able to get out of their heads.

Let me do a little catch-up for anyone who skipped the first two parts and jumped in here. A Key Message, a single statement – likely just one sentence – that crystalizes the most important reason for buying, writing about or supporting what you’re selling. Press, customers, analysts and other stakeholders absolutely must believe your Key Message and have it top of mind when your spokesperson says, “That wraps it up! Thanks for coming!” If they can remember only one thing, that’s the thing.

The Key Message should be so clear, so compelling that it’s as unforgettable and irrepressible as a first kiss.

Once your key message is undeniable and unforgettable, it drives everything that follows – communications objectives, tactics to deliver it, even how to measure success.

So, what is it you want to say that’s as memorable and uncontainable as a first kiss?

You may be stumped. You may sell socks.

That’s OK. I’m not saying that you need make socks as titillating and uncontainable emotionally as that smooch at your junior high prom. You reason differently with people at the Sock Warehouse than you would in a junior high school coatroom.

This process takes diligence. However, if you put in the work, the rewards will be outstanding. Not only will you nail communication with your audiences, but efforts in related areas – planning, collateral, web content, press events, customer communications – will be more on target and run smoother.

Let’s dig into the Four “Ds” to creating an unforgettable, irrepressible Key Message.

  1. Define What Most Ails Customers.
    Returning to our sock sufferers, what’s the primary cause of distress from their perspective? Holes in the toes? Yes, partially, but that’s from our perspective as observers of the human condition. What’s life like for those people who put off buying new socks? What’s their pain point? Sock Warehouse, Inc. conducted a study that uncovered two major pain points: 80 percent of respondents cited unbearable personal humiliation whenever they removed their shoes at parties to play Twister? In addition, 20 percent reported suffering painful, chronic blisters?

    Although customers suffer from two problems, we’re seeking a first-kiss caliber Key Message. So, we’ll go with unbearable humiliation as our pain point to remedy.

  2. Demonstrate Your Solution.
    This one is easy. Sock Warehouse offers a premium model woven with a new synthetic para-aramid fiber called Rmer. Rmer is bullet-proof, literally, ensuring the toes will never wear out. You can take Rmer socks to the grave. No holes, no embarrassment. This could be our message so far:

    Sock Warehouse new socks, with toes re-enforced by an indestructible synthetic para-aramid fiber called Rmer, eliminate the social humiliation of exposed toes.

  3. Differentiate your product.
    While good, our message lacks a statement that sets us apart from competitors. Several other companies strengthen their socks with other synthetic para-aramid fibers. As it stands, our Key message could work equally well for them. Are para-aramid fibers in these socks lighter, cheaper, permanent press? Unfortunately, no. However, Rmer is the only synthetic para-aramid fiber that can be dyed. As a result, fashion becomes our competitive strength. Playing the fashion card, the message becomes:

    Only Argyle Warehouse socks, with toes re-enforced by a new synthetic para-aramid fiber called Rmer, eliminate the social mortification of exposed toes in colorful style.

  4. Do It In English
    Now we come to final step, the explain-it-like-our-customers-are-all-grandmothers discussion. The same conversation is repeated hundreds of times with “synthetic para-aramid fiber” replaced with other jargon.

    PR Manager: “Explain ‘synthetic para-aramid fiber’ to me like you’re talking to your grandmother, so anyone can understand it.”

    Sock Engineer: “We sell to sock aficionados, not grandmothers. They’ll understand it.”

    Both have a point. Sock aficionados will understand the term. However, it does need to be in English, but not so everyone can understand it. It needs to be in English because even for sock aficionados “synthetic para-aramid fiber called Rmer” doesn’t rouse any emotion stronger than a yawn. An emotional element is as important as a logical one when you’re trying to sway opinion. Telling me instead that a “bullet-proof toes” in my socks, my passions are aroused. I’m feeling a little 007-ish.

    Only Argyle Warehouse socks with bullet-proof toes end the humiliation of exposed toes in colorful style.

Our message is clear, compelling and focuses on our primary differentiator – social acceptance in style. Plus, because it’s written without jargon emotion re-enforces the logically argument.

Now, for some practical experience. Evaluate a few of the press releases on the news feed of Business Wire, the leading distributor of press releases. Do they follow the 4Ds? Can you improve them? Share your feedback on what you find.

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