How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 9 – Messages

Your analysis is done, you’ve figured out your communications strategy and you know who you’re targeting. It’s time to craft your messages. But where do you start?

Message in a bottleYour key messages help you draft all your products down the road when you’re executing your communications plan. They’ll help you stay on track and make sure you’re communicating the right things to the right people.

The messages will permeate all of your communications, so they’ll also attract a lot of attention from decision makers. It’s important you spend the time to get this section right.

This is all about what you’re trying to tell people. If people take something away from your communications, you want it to be these messages.

Your key messages should:

  • Communicate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it
  • Communicate what will be different
  • Fit with your objectives
  • Speak to all of your audiences

What you’re doing and why

The first message you’ll usually draft is the main one that says what you’re doing and why. You’ve spent time researching the initiative (ideally you’ve been involved in the planning for a while) so you know what the organization is doing and why it’s doing it. Now you just have to get it down onto paper. Sounds easy but it can be surprisingly tough.

A few simple pointers:

  • Focus on the main points – you don’t need to get into detail here
  • Be brief
  • You’re human; write like one
  • Highlight the positive side of what you’re doing. Don’t mislead, though
  • Decide what you want the stories to be about. Focus on that.

What will be different

It’s much easier for people to understand what you’re doing if you can give some context. Are you doubling money for a government program? Producing a product that’s 50% better than its predecessor?

  • Use before/after examples if appropriate
  • Explain why people should care, in terms they care about
  • Support your messages with facts if they’re available

Consider your objectives

Think about the objectives you’ve set. Whatever they are, write your messages to reflect that.

Are you trying to raise awareness for a product? Are you trying to get people to change their behaviours? Maybe you’re trying to address a contentious issue. Make sure you don’t go off in a direction that ignores the reason for you doing all of this. It’s easy to do if you’re not careful.

Include all of your audiences

Some people like to write one set of messages for each initiative and tweak them for each purpose. Some like to create one long list that addresses everyone.

Personally, I prefer to look at each audience in turn and craft messages that meet their needs.

If you know one audience is going to have concerns about a certain aspect of what you’re doing, make sure the messages for them specifically address that issue. Likewise, if they’re looking for a certain feature in your new product then make sure that’s highlighted. If you do this, you’ll find you have much less resistance to your initiative from those parties.

Your approach to this part of a communications plan is one that your personal preference can heavily influence. My take on this may not match yours. What factors do you take into account when writing your messages? What tips would you offer?

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is post number nine in a series of 13 posts exploring how to create a good communications plan. To read more of the series, check out the other posts here.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.