3 min Read
October 15, 2015

Why key messages are key

Big Duck

At a fast-moving nonprofit, it can be tempting to shrug off key message development. Maybe it feels like you already know your mission and what your programs do and it’s not worth the time and investment.

Having seen the impact of key messages myself as a nonprofit staffer, I couldn’t disagree more. It’s actually one of the most important projects that a communications team can undertake. Here are a few reasons why:

Oh, the time you’ll save

With a set of key messages on hand that cover the basic points of the problem your organization confronts, what you are doing about it, and what you hope to achieve—all written in (get this) approved language, producing new materials no longer has to be a slog. Key message development takes care of the hard work of finding the right language up front, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you need to write a new email. Just take the messages you need, organize them well and fill in the blanks with an engaging narrative.

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this you probably work at a nonprofit and you’re probably stretched to your limit trying to do what you can to end hunger, cure diseases, or stop climate change. Key messages can free up your time to focus on new ideas and be more strategic as you work to save the world.

Makes brand maintenance a piece of cake
Okay, we’re only talking about the written side of your brand, but that’s a lot, isn’t it? Your brand is more than just your mission statement and logo. It’s your personality (the feeling people get from your organization), positioning (the big idea you represent), values (the belief system that guides your approach), and, oh, so much more.

Key messages help by laying out the main facts that are essential to your organization’s story written with language that reflects a particular personality and other key elements of your brand. This way, by framing communications around key messages, a consistent tone will be present and messages that reflect your values will appear again and again.

Lets you own hearts and minds
How many touch points does it take to win a supporter? I know it used to be seven, but that was before we officially entered the worlds of Blade Runner and Minority Report.

If a single second delay in page load time can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions, your supporters are only going to give any single piece of communication so much time and mindspace. That means that if you want an idea to stick you need to put it out there again and again…and again and again. And the more consistently you state your primary messages, the faster they will become part of your recognized brand. 

Insta-media ready
When I went through media training, one of the most important things I learned was the importance of having central messages to fall back on. If you are asked a question that you’re not sure exactly how to (or just can’t) answer, the standard advice is to just fall back on a key message you know by heart that most closely relates to the question.

This tactic is why you may have been infuriated by politicians whose answers don’t truly address the question. But the alternative can end up looking like you caught Jeb Bush’s foot-in-mouth disease. So, put those key messages in your pocket if you need to, stick to the script, and make sure your nonprofit’s hard-won media coverage gives that warm glow you need to win supporters.