Key Messages – The key to business communication

Pete Burdon, Founder and Head Trainer – Media Training NZ

Whether you are presenting to a prospective client, a large crowd or through a media interview, it’s vital you know what key points you want to get across. It’s even more important to know how to get them across so they are remembered and acted on. The mere act of talking to someone is not communication. It only becomes communication when it is understood and remembered.

People only remember a few points from presentations. Think about the last one you went to. What can you remember? That’s why you need to nail down the two or three points you really want that audience to take in. You then use stories and examples to back up your points and make them interesting and memorable.

In media interviews, a reporter will only use two or three points in his or her story. So by focusing on your three-point message, you increase the likelihood that your points make it into the subsequent story. You use sound bites to do that.Image sourced from Thinkstock by Getty ImagesImage sourced from
Thinkstock by Getty Images

The same key-messaging principle applies to ongoing campaigns. A good example is the current argument for and against Charter Schools. Those in favour of them have three basic message points they consistently use in presentations, media interviews and other meetings. These are: ‘These schools are not compulsory’, ‘What has a student got to lose if he is failing in the current system’? and ‘There is research to show they work overseas’. That’s fairly understandable and memorable.

But last time I looked, there were about 20 points used by those against the schools. If these are all used in a presentation, they will all be forgotten. And if they are all used in media interviews, those against are handing power over to the journalist to select which ones to use.

The best idea is for all those against the schools to get together and identify the three most important points and focus on those. This is how successful political campaigns are run. For example, in the last Election, the Greens had a good three-point message as their campaign focus. This was JOBS, RIVERS and KIDS. That’s not to say they didn’t have positions on other issues. But they knew they could never get everything across, so they focused on what was most important to them.

A Tom Sawyer quote is relevant here. He once wrote to a friend and said: “Sorry I’ve written you a long letter, I didn’t have time to write you a short one.”

In other words, sometimes it can be hard to break something down to its core. But that’s vital if you want to get your messages through. Also, if you can’t break them down, how do you know what it is you are trying to communicate?

The skillsets needed to get messages through in media interviews vary considerably from presentations. In a nutshell, they need to be repeated in different ways throughout to maximise the chances of them making it into the subsequent story. There are many other differences between media interviews and presentations that are outside the scope of this blog. But the importance of identifying key messages and knowing how to get them registered in the minds of your audience are vital to both.


Pete will presenting the PRINZ course ‘Presentation and Media Training’ in Christchurch on Thursday, 7 August. Click here for the course overview and to register.


One thought on “Key Messages – The key to business communication

  1. Pingback: |Get To The Point

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