I recently caught an episode of “60 Minutes” during which they shared the tricks of the trade by some of the most revered journalists ever, most of them now passed. As you may know, “60 Minutes” has been celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, which makes it the longest running broadcast program ever.
When the show first aired in 1967, the formula for a “60 Minutes” segment was simple: keep it timely, keep it relevant and never be dull. That same formula is as relevant today, and should be used by marketing communications professionals in developing stories and pitches for the media. It doesn’t matter if your story idea is for print, TV, radio or online – your media pitch needs to include all of those elements, and it needs to be visual, as even a good radio story can be shared online.
In the segment, they shared their rules for conducting a “60 Minutes” interview, and these are recommendations for how to prepare for them:
The GroundFloor Media team has worked with many organizations that have struggled to tell their story in a way that engages and resonates with target audiences. Building a strong brand starts with messaging. And delivering the right message at the right time is critical to an organization’s success.
I recently read an article, “Why and how you should integrate messaging into branding” by Carolyn McMaster, that talked about how messaging is now considered “verbal branding.” In the article, McMaster said, “if employees don’t understand an organization’s vision, they can’t convey it to their customers, so the organization will miss advocacy opportunities on its two most important fronts.”
More and more, as public relations practitioners, especially if you work with clients on crisis communication, you will work with attorneys – either the client’s in-house attorneys or outside counsel. Bill Ojile, an attorney and partner at Armstrong Teasdale and former GFM client, recently met with the GFM team to share his insights on how to effectively work with legal counsel.
According to Bill, lawyers’ jobs are to make people uncomfortable, to ask a lot of questions and to be skeptical. He also noted that lawyers don’t write for everyday people, and they don’t write for the media; they write for every contingency. With that said, how do PR people and lawyers co-exist and together create the very best communications and outcomes for their mutual clients? Bill provided the following tips for how to navigate the legal waters:
Marketing focused on interests more than demographics will net a much more specific audience
I came across a great Harvard Business Review article this past week outlining how psychographics (customer’s attitudes and interests) are just as important for marketers as demographics. The author outlines a couple of great examples of the differences between demographics and psychographics and why those differences are important for marketers, but more often than not we at GFM find the behaviors and interests of our target audiences to be much more important than their age or location.
Messaging is the foundation of any marketing communications program; and developing messages that are memorable and will resonate is one of the most challenging of all communications tasks.
Case in point: How many times have you been introduced to someone who started talking about his business and within 30 seconds you realize you still don’t know what he does? Unfortunately, this scenario happens all too often. It’s not that the person describing his business doesn’t know what he’s talking about; it’s that he’s not using messages that resonate with you.
Whether you are creating messages for your company, organization, new product or campaign, the steps you take are all the same. The first step should be to create one overarching key message that describes the core business. Think of this as the elevator speech or 30-second commercial and how you answer the question, “What does your organization do?” While the tendency is to try to fit everything, including the kitchen sink, into your 30-second commercial, don’t fall into that trap. Keep it to a couple of simple sentences.
Thursday should have been the first day of the 2012-13 National Hockey League (NHL) season. Unfortunately for hockey fans, owners and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) are in the midst of their third lockout in less than 20 years.
In short, this lockout began nearly a month ago, has wiped out at least the first 82 regular season games, and neither side has effectively told me why. A simple Google search for “NHL lockout” provides sparse results of any actual statements or messaging from one side or another. According to a few articles, one of the key sticking points is the players’ share of Hockey Related Revenues. But after a quick search none of the articles point to actual numbers behind those “revenues,” or better yet, why one side is more deserving of those revenues than the other.
The fact that NHL lockouts have been so frequent has prompted the popular opinion shared by ESPN’s Johnette Howard: Time to ignore the lockout. Who cares? Stop whining and just get it figured out. As a fan, I agree with Ms. Howard. The third labor-related stoppage of play in 18 years for a sport that lacks mainstream popularity…I’ve got NFL and NCAA football games on the weekends and playoff baseball to occupy my sports time. Just figure it out, you guys.
(See Oct. 31 post for part one, which covered identifying target audiences)
Limit Key Messages to Three and Back Up with Proof Points
There’s no magic to three key messages other than it’s usually easier for people to remember items in threes. Coming up with three targeted, memorable messages will help everyone in the organization serve as ambassadors, delivering consistent messages each time they communicate on behalf of the organization. Developing proof points to accompany your messages will help bring your messages to life and make them stand out. This is where you can come up with a “kitchen sink” list of proof points for each message. Examples of proof points may include: awards and recognition, research, statistics, real-life examples, practical applications, etc.
Key messages Should Be One or Two Brief Sentences
Messages that are three or four sentences each will not be memorable or resonate with your target audiences. By writing your messages down, this will help you focus on making sure they’re brief, concise and understandable.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you develop key messages, it’s critical to vet them. Practice your messages with people outside your company or organization. Deliver your messages to friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers, asking them to repeat back what they heard to ensure you’re accurately communicating your key messages. If your messages don’t easily flow from your tongue and the recipient is having trouble repeating them back, they may need more work.
Train Your Employees, Volunteers
The final step, and one that is often overlooked, is training your spokespeople, employees, volunteers and other ambassadors for your company or organization on how to effectively deliver key messages and proof points when speaking to target audiences. Media train your spokespeople and have them practice delivering key messages in mock interviews. Role playing in groups where employees can team up in twos and practice sharing the messages in different mock settings (cocktail party, business lunch, child’s soccer game) is another effective way to learn and become comfortable with the messages.
Uses for Key Messages
Your key messages and proof points should be incorporated into all internal and external communications efforts including media interviews, news releases, speaking opportunities, marketing materials, proposals, social media outreach, employee communications, website, etc. They should be reviewed and updated, especially your proof points, several times each year to ensure they remain relevant and timely.
GroundFloor Media recently worked with several nonprofit organizations, including Youth Opportunity Foundation, Colorado Youth at Risk and Rose Community Foundation, to help them develop key messages and proof points for their respective organizations.
Effective communications is both an art and a science, and to be successful, any marketing communications program must be relevant to your target audiences. At the very heart of the communications program are key messages. For this reason, developing key organizational messages is a critical first step to any communications campaign.
Key messages should speak directly to target audiences’ interests, while effectively impacting the desired behavioral changes. Too often, organizations craft overly complex messages by including “everything and the kitchen sink” that they want to say about the organization. The result is key messages that tend to be too long and difficult to remember. Instead, messages should be clear, concise and direct. “Easier said than done” – true, but not impossible. Following are some quick tips for developing memorable messages for your organization and for training your organization’s ambassadors (spokespeople, other employees, volunteers, etc.) to deliver those messages.
Identify Target Audiences Some important first questions to ask when beginning the message development process: Who are you trying to reach and why?What is it that you want your audience to learn or do as a result of your message?
Key messages are what you want your target audiences to “take away” from your campaign or program. Your organization will have multiple target audiences, but instead of trying to come up with 12 messages for the 12 target audiences you’ve identified, there’s probably an opportunity to combine these audiences into like-minded groups. For example, let’s pretend your organization is a food pantry providing food to individuals and families. While the food pantry may identify numerous target audiences, there is a natural way to “group” audiences because of what you want them to do.
Potential targets for a food pantry include: • Donors – People and businesses that donate money and food to the organization • Influencers or key stakeholders – Policymakers and community leaders interested in finding ways to reduce the number of families living in poverty • Clients or customers – Individuals and families who use the services of the food pantry. In this example, you can begin seeing how your messages are targeted to each of these distinct groups.
Following is an example of a key message directed to donors: “ABC Food Pantry is a model of efficiency and stability, from its low administrative costs and vast volunteer base, to how it collects and delivers food to people in need.” From there, you can insert a proof point to back up the message. “In fact, 93 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to providing services to people who are hungry.”
Check back for part two of this blog where I’ll cover more on how to develop key messages and proof points.