The other day I compared two blog posts on the same topic written by two different writers trying to define which one was more valuable and more effective. They had a similar structure, but one of these articles had a key message and the other was just a mere accumulation of information. Guess which one kept me interested to the very last word?
In this blog post, we'll talk about a key message. What it is, why you need it, and how to develop it.
I wrote a book for content writers called From Reads To Leads. It talks about 11 principles of writing content that attracts the attention of your target audience and converts them into leads. One of these principles is Have A Message And Make A Point. And this is what we'll talk about in this blog post. But you should definitely check out the book for more insights.
A key message is a core idea that you want your audience to hear and remember. It's the main argument or a “claim” backed up with evidence that supports it. You can think about it as your point of view on a subject.
It's not enough anymore to just get a “topic” and write anything about it. You need to stake out a position to get your point across.
So what’s the core idea or the key message of your piece? Express it using a single sentence. Put this sentence in the lead and make the rest of your content lay out the argument, looking at it from every angle.
Your key message plays a pivotal role throughout your content. It links all parts of the text, helping you create a narrative focused around one fundamental truth that can influence your readers and move them to action. It’s something they don’t know yet.
To develop your key message, ask yourself the following questions:
You need to make sure your key message is convincing and credible. It needs to be supported by evidence. See if you can break down your key message into three parts:
For example, if you’re writing a piece about how to segment a target audience, your key message might be “there’s no single correct way to segment a market.” The following are three possible arguments with which you might support this message:
To make each of these arguments believable, you need to give your readers some proof. Your first argument about good marketers can be supported by examples of companies that use different types of segmentation methods. Search for interviews with marketing executives of brands you’re interested in to find such examples.
The second supporting argument is a bit easier to prove. It’s enough to search for “how popular brands segment audiences” to find lots of examples of how luxury car brands use demographic segmentation to focus on high-earning individuals and how companies like Coca-Cola use geographic segmentation to sell different drinks in different parts of the world. You can list common segmentation approaches illustrated with examples of how companies use them.
The last argument on the list — Because people and their needs change, your approach to market segmentation should also evolve over time — you can prove with your own experience. You can tell your readers how you used to segment your audience and how you do it now — and tell why you changed your approach.
If you work on your key message in this way, you’ll be able to develop a strong argument that is informative, illustrative, and persuasive.
If you can list tons of arguments that strengthen your key message, don’t rush to put them all into your piece. You may feel like more arguments give your message more weight. But it’s not the number of arguments that matters — it’s their power. Focusing on two powerful simple and easy-to-understand reasons of why you’re right can sometimes be much more persuasive than giving ten reasons. Simple words make for powerful arguments.
When the UK was deciding whether to leave the EU, the Remain campaign had dozens of arguments, including these:
The Leave campaign, on the other hand, boiled their ideas down to just one argument: Leaving the EU means taking back control. This simple and straightforward message won.
When you’re working on your key message and supporting arguments, make sure your language is concise and to the point. Simple ideas always win over complex ones.
Your key message can’t live separately from your marketing goals and your overall brand strategy. After all, the whole reason for writing content is to make more people know about your brand. Think about key messages as the building blocks of your brand. They express what your organization believes in and what you want to tell the world.
When your writing is focused on getting across a clear and precise message, your readers are likely to remember that message and associate it with your brand. To make sure this association is established, you should add your brand to the narrative. Projecting a key message supported by relevant experience unique to your company is how you spread brand knowledge.
For example, if you’re writing an article about the best tools for remote work and your company specializes in building data protection software, your core idea or key message might be this:
Tools for remote work help you stay productive and connected, but some represent a security risk.
What relevant experience unique to your company can support this key message?
For example, you might talk about how your clients have experienced increased security risks during quarantine:
Since the lockdown started, we’ve observed an increased number of cyber risks threatening our clients’ data. Because corporate data is now being accessed from laptops and home PCs that may not have the same level of security as in-office setups, data is more vulnerable. Some of our clients have reported ransomware attempts. Without our data protection system in place, these attempts could have resulted in disasters like the one that happened to Universal Health Services, one of the largest healthcare providers in the US.
Or you can mention remote work applications in which your team has identified cybersecurity risks:
During lockdown, our team has identified more than 520 risky apps connected to our clients’ accounts. Using these apps, cybercriminals can install malicious software to wreak all sorts of havoc.
In this example, I didn’t simply mention the client’s product and expertise. I connected the key message with the company’s experience to help readers realize how important it is to ensure the security of corporate data when working remotely, especially during quarantine.
Connect your key message with your brand and you can expect that your readers will be willing to learn more about what your company does and how it can help them solve their problems.
When you’re creating an outline. By answering the three questions posed — Is my message believable? Is my message easy to understand? Does my message spread knowledge about my brand? — you can create a well-thought-out and meaningful story structure and keep your writing tight and focused.
I have a blog post about how to write an outline. Make sure you check it out.
Your key message is more than just the topic you’re writing about. It’s the truth you want your readers to understand.
If you don’t have a story that’s about something, you’re in trouble. Figure out what it is you’re trying to say. Once you know, start looking for arguments to prove it and ways you can spread brand knowledge.
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