Key messages are essential tools in all communications
work. To be effective as a business / technical writer
you need to quickly identify key messages and use
them as a way of structuring your writing.
What Are Key Messages?
Key messages are the core of your writing. Key messages
open the door to direct communication with your audience,
because they bridge what your audience already knows
and where you are trying to take them.
You have a point to make—whether to educate,
discuss, promote or advocate. Within every text, key
messages are the messages you want your audience to
remember and react to. They are The Message,
the essence. Within all your writing, key messages
keep your writing on track with what you are trying
to accomplish. Readers should always come back to
your key messages.
Key messages are a means to an end. They assert your
viewpoint. Key messages are opinions that you can
back up with proof and case examples, which you demonstrate
within your writing.
By prompting your readers to ask questions, key messages
immediately get audiences involved in your issue.
Key messages prompt your audience to ask "Why"? "How"?
Key Messages get your audience curious about what
you have to say. Curiosity is the first step to participation.
Key Messages in Business and Technical Writing
Every piece of writing has a key message. Is it obvious?
Do you know what it is? If a particular section of
your writing doesn't have a key message, why is it
Because of the nature of reading, your key message
should lead the page. Readers shouldn't have to read
far to find it.
Summarize the intent of a particular piece of writing
in one sentence and you have the rough beginning of
your key message. In effect you’re asking yourself: “What
is the one thing I want my readers to know, to consider,
to think about?”
Creating Key Messages
To get your audience to ask why and how, you ask
yourself the same questions from your starting assertion.
Each question helps you break down the rationale
behind your intentions, and provides the step-by-step
statements that back up your key message.
The only way to find your key message is to repeatedly
ask yourself "Why? How?", until you come
to the core, the very reason for something happening.
Asking yourself these questions will reveal to yourself
the information you can take for granted that your
audiences need to know and understand.
Key Messages are:
- Concise: avoid jargon and acronyms
- Active: make every sentence active
- Positive: talk about what one can do, not
what you can't
- Short: one memorable sentence, 10-15 seconds
- Specific: address a particular challenge
Tip: If the word "should" pops up
in your key message, that's a red flag that there's
more information to uncover. Keep digging.
Using Key Messages
Develop key messages for every part of your document.
Each section should have a key message, forming the
core of your information. Together, the key messages
serve your communication goals.
Visualize how the following key messages can be supported
by important facts, and how each draws the reader
into a story about your organization. Each statement
makes the reader ask: Why? How? And, each statement
leads to a personal reflection by the reader, how
this issue affects them, and their role in it.
- Clean water is possible with shared work and a
- Learning to read will help you find the resources
you need for better food and health.
- Women must take responsibility for their reproductive
- Men must start talking about their responsibility
for protection against AIDS.
- The WAVE farmers' coalition can help you build
security for your family.