Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 3-part guest blog series by Seattle crisis communications consultant Wiley Brooks on how to improve your writing. Wiley blogs at WileyBrooks.com. He also offers a short online class for PR people to help you master writing clearly and concisely. To read the first part of this series, click here.
While we all know that good key messages are important, the stakes go way up when we’re in crisis communications mode. So, here in Part 2, let’s look at what makes a great key message. Are there traits that the best key messages share?
Let’s look at a couple key messages that ended up defining their brands. In this case, the brands were presidents. What do these two famous key messages share?
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Wait, I’ll throw in another: “Yes we can.”
Here’s a hint:
1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1. 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2.
2 3, 1 1 1 1.
1 1 1.
We remember these key messages because they are built on 1-syllable words. In Part 1, you were told to always challenge words that have more than 2 syllables to see if you could use a shorter word. And this is why.
If you want people to recall something you must keep it simple. Key messages written this way will roll off the tongue with ease, the first step to making them easy to recall. And this kind of key message will always fit into a tweet, so you have fewer worries about it being twisted as it is passed along.
First, always try to find shorter words. Second, use fewer of them. In fact, the fewer the better. Resist the urge to load up your message with TMI – too much information. The best key messages are straight-forward subject-verb sentences. Here’s a tip: If there is punctuation anywhere in your sentence other than at the end, you might not be done revising it.
In Part 3 of this 3-part series, we’ll try to answer the “says who” question by looking at the science of writing.
Editor’s note: Wiley offers a PR Writing Class that he created to help PR professionals write more clearly and concisely. He offers this 2-hour online class for $99. However, he has put together a special discount for the fabulous readers and followers of melissaagnescrisismanagement.com! Simply enter in the code Melissa812 at check-out and receive this class for just $79! Enroll in Wiley’s course today!