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3 Key Messages

Posted by prnext on September 6, 2009

BullseyeEvery organization that you work for has some key messages that it wants to convey it to its stakeholders through its communications efforts.

So what is a key message, and why is it important? Key messages are the core messages you want your target audience to hear and remember. Key messages allow you to give directions to your communications and enhance relationship with your target audience. Key messages are designed to work out what you really need to get across about your company to the audience.

As a PR professional our job is to identify these key messages and communicate the same to the company’s publics.

You may very well be trying to get a slightly different reaction from each of your target audiences, and that’s why you may have multiple key messages pertaining to each of your key publics.

Some criteria for developing key messages

  • Be believable — support with evidence
  • Be understood — reflect stakeholders understanding
  • Be distinctive — clear competitive awareness
  • Be agreed — company strategy
  • Be credible — know your stuff
  • Drive your agenda
  • Avoid negativity
  • Enhance positively
  • Use the brand

The most important thing in communicating key messages is that it needs to be consistent. Consistency gives comfort to people, and public relations professionals are charged with providing a comforting view of a company or client.

Just identifying the key messages is not enough you need to make sure that these selected messages forms the part of every coverage you get for your client in any media.

But the question is how to communicate the messages effectively so that it finds its place in the coverage that you may secure for your client. I will try solving this query with an example, which I believe we all must have gone through at some point in time (or many) in our PR career.

Your client is really impressed – he’s just had an hour-long interview with a reporter from one of the national dailies which you secured for him. You wait with bated breath for the newspaper to hit the streets so you can bask in the glory of the unpaid glowing editorial. After all your client told him EVERYTHING he thought the reporter should know – or did he?

After searching the paper a couple of times you eventually find the article – you were beginning to think you got the date wrong. There it is on page five, bottom left hand corner and it’s all of two column inches! As you find it your client is on the phone and he’s livid – have you seen the article and what happened to all the comments I made and the information I gave? And where did that headline come from – that wasn’t the one on the press release you sent them?

Your explanation to the fiasco

The comments and information went the way the majority of articles written by tired journalists go – cut by the sub-editor and again by the news editor. You see, what you hadn’t factored into the equation was that an insurance company placed an ad it insisted went in that day and a cellphone company said it’d give an order for six weeks of ads but it insisted on page five also.

This meant the sub editor had to find an article to take up what was left of the page – two column inches. The journalist did what he was trained to do – write the story in the inverted pyramid style, starting with the most important information and going down until he was left with the least important. Now depending on how your client gave his information this could be where the problem started.

If he’d chosen to put forth the three key messages to get across and made sure he got those in right at the beginning of his interview and then used the balance of the interview to back these messages up with facts, figures and even anecdotal information, then even if the article was cut at least one or possibly two of the messages would have made it through to the reader.

But then again would they?

Scary part

Research shows that the interviewee gives 100% of the message – the reporter’s interpretation is around 60%. By the time it’s subbed, 40% of the original message has survived (if that) and by the time the editor and anyone else has fiddled around with it there may be 20% left. The scary part is yet to come – the reader’s understanding and interpretation of the article. Yes – this is where the problem really lies – this is 10%!

And what about quotes – how do these get twisted? Well, here’s some advice. Do what we follow religiously when we go for client-media interactions – use a tape recorder so you also have a record of the conversation. Now this may pee off a few journos but it would get the message across loud and clear that you expect the quotes to be accurate.

The problem comes when journalists take the quotes out of direct speech and use them as ‘so and so was quoted as saying he was unhappy with the situation in the industry right now.’ The problem here is what he actually said was “I’m not that happy with the current situation but am excited and reassured with what our industry is about to do.” This is a mild example of what can happen with quotes.

Best form of exposure

This means that the best form of exposure is the controlled one – live radio and TV – but I hear you say that’s scary. Not if you are properly prepared and again decide on three or two key messages you need to get across and then make sure you get these across as quickly as possible. Sometimes you’ll literally have a thirty second chance to answer a question to a talk show host – or five minutes on morning television. You need to take full advantage of that time to get your message across and remember if it’s live no-one can tamper with your message.

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Posted in Articles, My Space, September 2009 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Measuring your efforts

Posted by prnext on July 20, 2009

hile I was pondering over what I could possibly write for the forthcoming issue of PR Next, a colleague recently raised the issue of “ROI.” That’s not a nouveau way of spelling “Roy,” but “Return on Investment.” It’s a particularly sticky wicket for us folks in public relations because, as Vikram had brought it out in his last article, public relations is plagued by a lack of respect that finds its roots in (1) the fact that you don’t need a license to practice PR, (2) PR’s poor and often inaccurate depiction in mass media/TV/movies and (3) nobody knows quite what PR is (A press release? Phone sales? An abbreviation for Puerto Rico?)
Depending upon the corporate culture your typical PR professional finds him/herself, trying to prove the value of public relations can be a challenge. There are those who try to equate PR to advertising as in measuring off the column inches of a story placed in a newspaper or magazine, or measuring the time of a TV news segment, then determining the equivalent cost if it were a paid advertising spot and saying, “This story would have cost you Rs. 5,00,000 if it were an ad,” you get the idea.
There are a myriad of problems with this approach. One, you can’t control editorial content like you can in an ad, so if you get a story placed for a client, is the ENTIRE story just about your client? There can be just a small mention or simply a quote in a 400 CC article. And what if what is said isn’t all that complimentary?
I took these questions to a noted industry veteran, who said that determining ROI should not be something that the PR person contemplates after completing the promotional campaign, getting the news story placed, etc. ROI should be predicated upon what your initial goals were for your client in the first place, as the strategy and tactics you implement should be tailored to support those objectives so that ROI is actually something pretty easy to measure, not something that involves either algorithms or advanced theory to work.
For example, perhaps you’ve secured a story about your client on the front page of The Economic Times. If your client’s goal for this effort was to increase their marketshare by 50%, chances are this single placement isn’t going to do it. However, if the client’s goal was to simply “raise our profile,” then getting this placement (and following up by securing reprints which could then be shared with the customers, supporters and other key target publics) would seem an appropriate step in the right direction.
He also mentioned that the other thing to keep in mind is that public relations are NOT just media relations. Sometimes it’s a counseling function that might involve working with Human Resources, Risk Management, Sales, etc., about sensitive issues that could have an enormous bearing on the image and profitability of your client organization. This sort of work is often not given the credit it is deserves because it often doesn’t result in anything immediately tangible. In other words, if you are teaching someone to drive and you point out a pothole so the driver misses it, well…nothing happened, did it? Your client is still driving and expected to be doing just that. Of course, if you DIDN’T point out the pothole and now your client has a broken mudguard, that’s a “return on investment”, you do NOT want.
I wonder if it is so easy to understand as he explained it to me and more importantly to implement, though I personally agree that going forward we will have to align our activities with clients’ business goals in-order to deliver results that makes a real impact on the bottom line of the company.
To sum it up, I feel the best way to determine your value as a PR practitioner is going to depend on how much RESEARCH (the foundation of good PR) you did in preparing your PR campaign to isolate measurable, perceptible, agreed-upon-with-the-client goals and objectives so you can say, yes, we were successful, we did achieve what our client wanted.
What’s your view… Do let me know on richa.seth30@gmail.com

While I was pondering over what I could possibly write for the forthcoming issue of PR Next, a colleague recently raised the issue of “ROI.” That’s not a nouveau way of spelling “Roy,” but “Return on Investment.” It’s a particularly sticky wicket for us folks in public relations because, as Vikram had brought it out in his last article, public relations is plagued by a lack of respect that finds its roots in

(1) the fact that you don’t need a license to practice PR,

(2) PR’s poor and often inaccurate depiction in mass media/TV/movies and

(3) nobody knows quite what PR is (A press release? Phone sales? An abbreviation for Puerto Rico?)

Depending upon the corporate culture your typical PR professional finds him/herself, trying to prove the value of public relations can be a challenge. There are those who try to equate PR to advertising as in measuring off the column inches of a story placed in a newspaper or magazine, or measuring the time of a TV news segment, then determining the equivalent cost if it were a paid advertising spot and saying, “This story would have cost you Rs. 5,00,000 if it were an ad,” you get the idea.

There are a myriad of problems with this approach. One, you can’t control editorial content like you can in an ad, so if you get a story placed for a client, is the ENTIRE story just about your client? There can be just a small mention or simply a quote in a 400 CC article. And what if what is said isn’t all that complimentary?

I took these questions to a noted industry veteran, who said that determining ROI should not be something that the PR person contemplates after completing the promotional campaign, getting the news story placed, etc. ROI should be predicated upon what your initial goals were for your client in the first place, as the strategy and tactics you implement should be tailored to support those objectives so that ROI is actually something pretty easy to measure, not something that involves either algorithms or advanced theory to work.

For example, perhaps you’ve secured a story about your client on the front page of The Economic Times. If your client’s goal for this effort was to increase their marketshare by 50%, chances are this single placement isn’t going to do it. However, if the client’s goal was to simply “raise our profile,” then getting this placement (and following up by securing reprints which could then be shared with the customers, supporters and other key target publics) would seem an appropriate step in the right direction.

He also mentioned that the other thing to keep in mind is that public relations are NOT just media relations. Sometimes it’s a counseling function that might involve working with Human Resources, Risk Management, Sales, etc., about sensitive issues that could have an enormous bearing on the image and profitability of your client organization. This sort of work is often not given the credit it is deserves because it often doesn’t result in anything immediately tangible. In other words, if you are teaching someone to drive and you point out a pothole so the driver misses it, well…nothing happened, did it? Your client is still driving and expected to be doing just that. Of course, if you DIDN’T point out the pothole and now your client has a broken mudguard, that’s a “return on investment”, you do NOT want.

I wonder if it is so easy to understand as he explained it to me and more importantly to implement, though I personally agree that going forward we will have to align our activities with clients’ business goals in-order to deliver results that makes a real impact on the bottom line of the company.

To sum it up, I feel the best way to determine your value as a PR practitioner is going to depend on how much RESEARCH (the foundation of good PR) you did in preparing your PR campaign to isolate measurable, perceptible, agreed-upon-with-the-client goals and objectives so you can say, yes, we were successful, we did achieve what our client wanted.

What’s your view… Do let me know on richa.seth30@gmail.com

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