How to craft key messages for business and why meaning matters [2021 update]
Crafting key message for business can absorb precious time, so early in my role as a freelance content creator, I figured a process would help; not only me, but the people I worked with too.
Short back story. This is how the Digging for Gold process was born.
Starting out as a simple one page questionnaire, over time it morphed into something much bigger as I realised there were more questions business owners must answer if developing the skill of how to craft their most key messages was a priority.
‘Key messages’ is another one of those content jargon terms that sounds a bit lame, but actually has relevance even if you’re a small business owner with a team of one (you).
I call key messages your ‘most meaningful’ messages for this reason, but I also think it’s a better descriptor of what exactly we’re expecting our messages to be and do. Provide meaning to you as the business owner, and to your clients too.
In this blog we cover:
- What are key messages for business? [They are important things you just have to share with your audience]
- How to craft key messages for business? [There’s a process involved. The good news is you can repeat it for any business, a book, and even a big idea]
- Why are key messages important for business? [They provide meaning, give you confidence, and help you to become fluent in your own business language – and who doesn’t want that?]
A lot of this is detailed in How to write content for business (the Business Content + Communication Guide), but be forewarned, there’s work involved.
What are key messages for business?
As the name suggests key messages are just like a key.
They unlock understanding between you and your ideal audience by succinctly communicating what’s important to you and them. These important messages communicate in language that makes sense to your audience without losing the technical integrity of what you’re saying.
I find it’s easy to understand as a point of intersection between you and your ideal audience; a point where you connect and grow in understanding and appreciation of each other.
To find that point, sensitivity and emotional acuity are required.
Logically we know that time, effort, and creative thinking should be applied, but seriously, who has time for that?
As the bearer of news you’d rather not hear, but know you’re going to anyway, I’m here to say that unless you do make the investment to craft your most meaningful messages, there’s a very good chance you’ll never hit your target. Bummer.
And you’ll probably find that the content conveyor belt you were hoping to jump off, well you’re gonna be stuck there too. Total bummer.
Think of it like this. We talk about crafting content for a reason. Quite simply, because there’s crafting involved.
A craftsman spends time honing skills. Refinement and improvement are an accepted part of the process. Like iron forged in fire, our key messages for business undergo a process of crafting and refinement based on the care we take putting them together. Without this level of care, we’re always at risk of missing opportunities and being disconnected from the very people we hope to engage.
By contrast, a message which is articulate, precise and meaningful cultivates a strong sense of appreciation in both messenger and recipient with laser-like accuracy, economy of words, and depth of meaning. Crafted and considered, this kind of message reflects what you’re all about succinctly (as in what you stand for), in ways that elicit exactly the response you seek from your audience.
Your to do is figure out what you stand for and write that down. See if you can finesse it over time, rather than hoping it will be done in a single sitting.
How to craft key messages for business
Earlier I mentioned the Digging for Gold process. Of course I’m a fan. I use it all the time, but only because in the words of Sam Kekovich – you know it makes sense. The process, is in fact, not only digging for gold. It is creating content gold through a kind of content alchemy.
A process for crafting key messages for business seemed only logical, just as it is for articulating all things that guide business content creation: an understanding of the market, how you solve market challenges, content themes, your very own business language, and so on.
Your key messages will emerge like filaments of gold from this process. To identify what these are, I have clients answer important questions like:
- Who is their ideal audience? Here’s a clue, it’s not everyone.
- What are their main challenges? What keeps them up at night?
- How do they solve these challenges specifically? Not just using weasel words.
- What content themes make sense for their business?
- What style of language, tone, and brand voice reflects who they are?
There are many other questions, and like these, I’m happy to report none require a degree in rocket science to answer. On the contrary, answering the questions and formulating key message for business is simple. But what I’ve realised is that maybe because it is so simple, people keep looking for a content silver bullet.
If that’s you, word up. There’s no such thing as a content silver bullet, so best you take the time to craft your key messages for business. Start with these questions. Then write your answers down.
Your to do here is to make a content date with yourself. Instead of seeing it as a chore, think of it as an opportunity to get creative and establish important content foundations that will repay you many times over.
Why are key messages for business important?
In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink asserts we are all in sales, regardless of whether we are employees or business owners.
I’m inclined to agree. On this premise alone, it makes sense to not only become clear on what your key messages are, but to become fluent in them as well. Getting your message right is now a valuable life skill.
If we don’t care enough and take time to understand and write down what’s important to our market (or boss, partner, children, colleagues) and communicate it in a way which makes sense to them, we’re always going to have a tough boat to row. Think of any challenging day in life and there’s every chance that crossed communication wires were involved.
One exercise from Daniel Pink’s book, which I found valuable for focusing my thoughts was taking writing my key messages for business in progressively fewer words.
Starting at 50, then 25, and working my way down, I found myself becoming more economical with my words until I had distilled my message down to a core of just six.
The rationale for this exercise is that because attention spans are spiralling ever downward, creating a laser focused message is vital.
The value of a coherent message isn’t news or new.
Back in my corporate proposal writing days, I was schooled in a ‘winning bid’ philosophy. Irrespective of the outcome, the ‘winning bid’ process required that the bid writing unite its creative minds to articulate a clear message. Thankfully, this removed much of the waffle that was so often a distinguishing feature of tenders from professional services firms. It also went a long way to the audience feeling their needs hadn’t fallen on deaf ears. That’s right, the client had been heard. High five moment right there, people.
You to do here is to acknowledge and accept content creation is an essential part of business, very much like bookkeeping, accounting, and dealing with suppliers. Instead of thinking that your key messages for business are a chore, consider them beautiful filaments of gold to be woven through all your content.
Irrespective of the process used to refine your key messages for business, once completed, it’s like discovering gold. And it’s a process that has multiple applications for business, book writing, and bringing ideas to life. Our brand’s key messages provide meaning. They are worth every ounce of effort we spend to get them right.
Macushla Collins is a content creator and content coach. She also works with purposeful business owners to write books with purpose following the Digging for Gold process outlined in her book 7 Day Book Blueprint.