A politician gets asked about abortion and the answer somehow comes back to education. They’re asked about tax reform and the answer relates to education. Foreign policy is inexplicably linked to, you guessed it, education. What’s going on here? The politicians are using messaging points, the essential and core elements of an argument or pitch. It’s the message that you want to get across, regardless of the subject. It’s like getting a piece of press on “your terms.” Too often, success in public relations is measured by how much publicity you get. But if the publicity isn’t “on message,” what good is it?
Executives and clients too often miss the big picture involved in public relations. Too often they want hits, and a lot of them. There is little difference in their mind between quality public relations and plain old PR. While public relations is a results-driven business, the biggest differentiator between plain old PR and quality public relations is how effectively you can get across your client or company’s core message.
Pets.com, the well-known dot-com flameout, got loads of publicity because of its sock puppet spokesthing. But very little of the publicity it got was on message. In the end, all we ever knew about Pets.com was that it had a funny little puppet and sold pet stuff online. There had more to the company than that, right?
Jeremy Pepper of POP! Public Relations suggested I write about messaging points. So I asked him to define five the messaging points he would use to drum up publicity for his own firm:
POP is a small, nimble boutique public relations agency.
Boutiques offer corporations better service at a better price.
Large agencies do not provide the strategy and counsel clients need for good public relations.
Small boutiques like POP bring senior public relations practitioners to the client, not junior people to the account.
The world of public relations is moving away from large agencies to smaller boutiques that offer more strategy and counsel to companies.
If an article contained three of these five messaging points, Jeremy would consider it a success.
Defining your messaging points is the first step in the quality public relations process. The messaging points must be aimed at providing people with the message that you, not the media, wants to get across. When defining your messaging points, you must be prepared to offer a broad view of topic that can easily be narrowed. In the case of POP!, if a reporter asked Jeremy why he decided to set-up his own firm, a good response would be:
“I launched POP because small, nimble boutique PR firms offer corporations better service at a better price.”
The quote, which is “ready-for-print,” gets two messaging points across.
“Why,” the reporter asks, “do small PR firms offer corporations better service?”
“Large agencies do not provide the strategy and counsel clients need for good PR, while boutiques like POP bring senior PR practitioners to clients–not junior people,” Jeremy responds in our fictional interview.
By going out strong with the first two messaging points, Jeremy has forced the interview to concentrate on the message that he wants to get across. This isn’t an easy exercise, but it can be accomplished by simply focusing on your core message. The message itself should define the interview by forcing you to make statements of fact or opinion that can’t be ignored.
Even if the interviewer changes the subject, you can still bring it back to your core message. How many times have you heard someone on television say, “Well, as I said before…” It’s not that the question is being ignored, it’s that the question gives no opportunity to stay on message.
Here’s a quick checklist to keep handy when coming up discussing the idea of messaging points and preparing for a media interview:
1. Pick five messaging points that you would want included in every media interview.
2. A quality piece of publicity will include at least three of these five messaging points.
3. The messaging points should be concise, yet be able to be used as the answer to a number of questions.
4. Do not come up with “catch-phrases” for your messaging points. You’ll get bogged down and sound repetitive.
5. The messaging points should be designed to lead to questions that give you the opportunity to get other message points across. Again, use strong statements of fact or opinion.
6. The messaging points should be the key element of your press releases and marketing material.
As I’ve said a number of times, public relations is essentially selling an idea to the media. But unlike direct sales, the venue is not dictated by you. Keeping your interviews on message by using your messaging points will help level the playing field and lead to quality PR–not just hits.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.