The risky proposition of not knowing your key message

Communication people spend a lot (A LOT) of time talking about key messages, writing key messages, and coaching clients how to use key messages.

Why all the bother about a simple statement?

Because if you do this one thing well, people (read: clients, customers, staff, your kids) will remember the crux of what you're talking about. Do it poorly, and they remember nothing -- or, perhaps worse, the wrong thing.

The thing about memory that has been shown to be true is that it's a patchwork at best. We may remember bits and pieces of different events and cobble them together to create inexact recollections.

We often remember bad things as being more significant than they were (Like that old performance review when the boss said lots of nice things, but you've focused on the one area she said needed improvement.) and tend to remember those things that struck an emotional cord over things that don't.

When we deliver a lot of information, we're asking people to decipher our meaning. This seems a risky proposition precisely because we know that communication is an inexact art.

Words carry different meanings. Emotions, bias, inattention are just a few of the things that get in the way of mutual understanding.

That's why you have to do the work of creating your key message for your audience.

Remember in grade school when your teacher would ask you to read a passage and find the main idea? Key messages are like that. They are the most important idea you want your audience to remember after they read your email, watch your webinar or hear your presentation.

Next time you interact with someone, whether you're making a sales call or telling your spouse why you're upset, give thought to your key message in advance. You'll get better results and whomever is on the receiving end will appreciate your clarity.

Happy communicating!


P.S. If you're a podcast lover like I am, you might be interested in delving into the vagaries of memory through an episode of Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History called, Free Brian Williams. It is fascinating.


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