How to write key messages - it's harder than you think!

Key messages. This term is bandied about a lot but many of the ‘key messages’ that we see aren’t actually key messages.  That’s because how to write them is actually harder than you think!

What are key messages?

Think of key messages as a strategic framework for everything you may wish to say about a given subject.  They do not convey detailed information.  Instead, they are more like a series of headlines for all the detail. For example, “The water is not safe to drink” would be a key message.  However, “250,000 litres of raw sewerage flowed into the reservoir” is a supporting detail – it would not be a key message.

Organisations typically need several sets of key messages in their key messaging tool-box.  For example, ‘About Us’ and ‘How Using Our Product Benefits Your Business’ are two typical sets of key messages for B2B commercial entities.  There may even be a third set of messages that relate to the sector in which the business operates.  For example, a PR consultancy may find it useful to draw upon a third set of key messages that relates to typical communication challenges facing businesses.

Here’s an example of how an organisation can have a toolbox of different, but inter-relating key messages.

Here’s an example of how an organisation can have a toolbox of different, but inter-relating key messages.


A larger organisation may even have a fourth set of key messages, which are about its employer brand – i.e. ‘Working with us’.  Additional sets of key messages could be needed for specific issues.  For example, if the organisation is advocating for regulatory change then there would need to be another set of key messages about this.  Likewise if the organisation was dealing with some kind of issue or crisis.

How to write key messages

Here are some things to take into account when writing great key messages:

 1.     Look at the organisation’s mission, vision and values.  The key messages should support and align with them.

 2.     Be clear about the communication objective for the key messages. In other words, what do you want the key messages to achieve – and exactly how will you know when this has been done?

 3.     Identify who are the target audiences that the key messages are to be used with.

Doing a good job on these three steps will help you to be crystal clear about the key message theme.  Is it ‘About Us’? Or is it ‘How using our service will benefit your business’? Or is the theme about something else?

Once you have done this then it’s time to brainstorm everything you would want to say on that topic, then refine those things down to five or six key messages.

Handy hint:  If you have more than six key messages on any given theme, then they need further work.  You either will find there’s a double-up in the messages, or a supporting detail has been included in the key messages.

How to write key messages may sound easy but getting them right can be surprisingly difficult.  We have developed a methodology for developing very robust key messages. It works so well that people who have done our key message workshops tell us that they realised they previously had no idea what key messages really were, and how powerful they could be.

Subsidised training on how to write great key messages

Cadence Communications is a NZ Trade & Enterprise Regional Business Partner network provider and our key message workshop is registered with the Management Capability Development Voucher Fund. This means you may be eligible for a 50% discount when attending a media training workshop. Find out more by visiting

 If they deem you are eligible, they will provide you with log-in details. Then it’s simply a matter of searching for Cadence Communications’ key message workshop service – from there you will be guided on what to do next in order to get your subsidised key message session underway.