Do You Know Your Magic Words

Yes, magic words exist.

They make you feel confident. They make you sound smart. They make your life easier.

They are your key messages.

If you’re in business, you’ve heard this phrase. But have you experienced their power? If not, then your key messages need some fine-tuning.

We had a great opportunity to see key messages in action at a recent client’s staff retreat. The organization is transforming itself through a new brand, and we were there to unveil the brand and messages, and give an orientation on how to use them.

People always ooh and aah over the cool graphics and images, but this group was even more interested in the key messages – the words they would use to express the new brand.

Key messages take some effort to create, but once you have them, your content almost writes itself. For any task, simply:
• Consider your audience and what matters most to them in a particular interaction.
• Review your key messages and select one or two that are most relevant for that interaction.
• Weave the rest of what you want to say around those messages.

This saves you from the terror of the blank page when writing, or the generic elevator pitch when speaking. We practiced both at this retreat.

The participants were not professional communicators. They were program directors for a non-profit whose job it is to interact with educators, youth and donors.

Our first task: an email to announce that their new grant program was open for applications.

As a group, this task took less than 10 minutes using our new key messages. The result was a powerful, effective email that reinforced the organization’s brand and got right to the point about the opportunity for educators. Project done.

Next, we worked on elevator pitches. I invited each person to choose a message from the list that seemed most natural to them in their situation. They jotted down some notes to help them see how it would flow, and then began role playing in teams. Then we asked people to share their new elevator pitches with the group.

What a difference 10-15 minutes of practice and some key messages makes.

Far from generic, their elevator pitches were things human beings would actually say to one another. In other words, they sounded natural, and also expressed the brand in a succinct and powerful way. Most important, the team felt good at expressing themselves in this new way.

Key messages are the gift that keeps on giving, helping you craft create branded content almost like magic.