Month: May 2022

Messaging Mastery: How to write to trigger emotion

If you missed TPWโ€™s inaugural vodcast on ๐— ๐—˜๐—ฆ๐—ฆ๐—”๐—š๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐— ๐—”๐—ฆ๐—ง๐—˜๐—ฅ๐—ฌ, with our Founder Tessa P-W and guest speaker Vanessa Cuddeford, Strategic Comms Expert fear not, the recording is here. Weโ€™ve also picked the best bits below in a blog.

Read on to discover:

How we make decisions based on emotion, not logic โ€“ and why that matters

Why you need to channel your inner Trump (yes, that one)

And how to call on short, punchy Anglo-Saxon words (not Latin)

Intrigued? Then tuck inโ€ฆ

TPW: Messaging or key messages โ€“ such incredibly dull words โ€“ but why is crafting standout messaging so important in business communications?

VC: There’s just so much noise out there, isn’t there? You can’t move for information in this day and age – whether it’s on social media, emails, newspapers, online, on the radio. And so, we’ve got so many calls on our attention that if your message as a business isn’t super clear the moment people see it, then they’re simply going to bounce off. And the mistakes that people often make is that they talk often about the features of what they do rather than the benefits. One of my favourite TED Talks of all time is by Simon Sinek, and he talks about the importance of having a why – and that people buy into your why and that then appeals to people’s emotional brain. We often think that we make decisions on information, but we don’t. We make decisions on emotion and then we justify with logic. And so, to get a really good message, number one, it needs to be clear immediately. But it also it needs to appeal to people’s emotions.

We make decisions on emotion and then we justify with logic.

TPW: What do you think are some common mistakes when crafting key messages?

VC: Saying too much is a big mistake. We tend to overload people with information and not just keep it simple. You and I, as journalists, know how difficult it is to be simple. And often you’ll get a very complicated story. Itโ€™s a journalist’s job is to make it easy and understandable for people who aren’t experts and create a headline so that people can immediately understand what that story is about. Businesses need to do that as well. Another problem that I see is that businesses make it about themselves. They’ll want to say things like: โ€œWe’ve got 14 offices around the world. We won this award. We work with these clients.โ€ But your audience doesn’t care about you. They only care about you in so much as you can help them. A feature is – this car has an airbag. A benefit is – this airbag saves your life. That’s the critical difference.

Your audience doesn’t care about you. They only care about you in so much as you can help them.

TPW: Thereโ€™s often a misconception that colloquial messaging is somehow dumbing downโ€ฆ

VC: When I’m training people to speak in meetings, often they’ll want to show that they know all the lingo and all the jargon because they think it makes them sound more intelligent. Itโ€™s quite exclusive and it’s a real skill to be able to describe and talk about complicated ideas simply. There’s a big difference between simple and simplistic. One of my favourite quotes of all time is by the French writer Paul Valerie, and he said, โ€œEverything simple is false, but everything complicated is unusableโ€. And what he meant by that is you’re never going to be able to get all the information across in one go if you make it simple. It is, to an extent going to be false because you can’t get everything in there. But if you try to get everything in there, then it’s unusable anyway. So, you’re going to have to slaughter your darlings and cut stuff out. Painful though it may be.

There’s a big difference between simple and simplistic.

TPW: Going back to the emotional part of our brain โ€“ the EQ can often be left out of messaging, canโ€™t it? But strong key messages are all about the feelโ€ฆ

VC: Emotion is key and there are some really great examples when emotion has been more persuasive than the fact. If we think back to the London 2012 Olympic bid, it should have gone to Paris. Paris was the shoo-in; it was assumed that Paris would win that bid. But when it came to that presentation to the IOC, Paris really majored on the logistics – the fact that they had hotel rooms, they had all the transport infrastructure, they were very well set up for it. Whereas London talked about the legacy, the sporting feeling and how this would be so great for generations to come. And ultimately, at the last minute, that’s why London pipped Paris to the post, because the feels worked.

TPW: What kind of language works best for key messages?

VC: It was Winston Churchill who said that short words are the best; the old words best of all. English is a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Latin – from when the French came over. If a word has more than three syllables, it’s probably Latin derived, rather than Anglo-Saxon. Day-to-day, we tend to speak in Anglo-Saxon. If you’re writing in formal language – like legalistic language โ€“ itโ€™s more likely to be Latin. If you’re writing in words with more than three syllables, then you’re probably speaking in Latin. In that case, go back to the drawing board โ€“ the shorter, the better.

TPW: Do you have any good books people can read to get advice on messaging?

VC: There’s a great book called โ€˜Made to Stickโ€™ by Chip and Dan Heath. They talk about what makes a message sticky and have impact. And they came up with an acronym – the โ€˜SUCCESโ€™ formula. Simple. Unexpected. Concrete. Credible. Emotional. Stories. And if you can include some, if not all of those then you’re going to be creating a good message. I remember reading about Margaret Atwood describing how to tell a good story. And she said: “If you were telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood and you started with ‘Once upon a time, there was a little girl’, we’d all go – boring! We’ve heard that story 100 times before. But if you start from the point of view that says, ‘It was dark inside the wolf’, you’re taking people right into the middle of the action”. Now we’re intriguedโ€ฆ

The SUCCES formula: Simple. Unexpected. Concrete. Credible. Emotional. Stories.

TPW: What famous person would you say is good at messaging?

VC: Controversially, I think Donald Trump is a good example of someone who was quite surprising in his messaging. And that’s why he was so successful; he would say things that people didn’t expect and they couldn’t quite understand in the moment. So, when he said, โ€œWe’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for itโ€, how does that add up? How the heck is Mexico going to pay for it? Now, that turned out not to be true, and obviously we want to be truthful in our messaging. But what he did was created that intrigue. He piqued people’s interest and they wanted to find out more.

TPW: To wrap things up, what three things should businesses do to crack the messaging nut?

VC: Speak to the benefit for your audience, not the feature – it’s not the what you do, it’s the why you do it. And really to find that out for yourself again, look to your own values. Why did you join this organisation? Why did you set up this company? You will have had a why. Most of us want to get some kind of benefit. That’s your why. In terms of the writing of your messages, use short Anglo-Saxon words. And then finally, less is more. Better to say one thing and it really cut through, than say five things and it all just gets lost.

Omne trium perfectum: everything that’s perfect comes in threes…

We couldnโ€™t agree more.ย  Especially when it comes to messaging or key messages.

Here are three reasons ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น ๐—ฏ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฑ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ in their messaging and copy:

โœ๏ธThree is the smallest number required to make a pattern. Our brains like patterns. ๐—ฆ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜, ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ, ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ.

โœ๏ธWeโ€™ve historically ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฒ ๐—ถ๐—ป to groupings of three:

๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

๐—–๐˜‚๐—น๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฒ: Sex, drugs and rockโ€™nโ€™roll.

๐—ฆ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ: Newtonโ€™s Three Laws of Motion.

๐—”๐—ฟ๐˜: Aesthetic composition in thirds. 

โœ๏ธIn marketing, thereโ€™s also a belief that this system of steps engages audiences the most effectively: ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ด๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป (๐—ฎ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€ / ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด), ๐—”๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜ (๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด, ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ), ๐—•๐—ฒ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ (๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป).

So, why not ๐—๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜ ๐——๐—ผ ๐—œ๐˜! Give it a goโ€ฆ


An effective content marketing strategy is one of your most valuable business assets. Research shows that content marketers with a defined strategy in place drive 7.8 times as much unique traffic as those without.

But how do you know how to write the messaging for an effective campaign? We take a look at some examples of key messages and how you can develop your own to speak to your ideal consumers.

What are key messages?

There are two main types of key messages:

  1. The core message, which is how you talk about your business as a whole.
  2. Audience-specific key messages, which build relationships with each of the different kinds of people you do business with.

These messages are โ€˜keyโ€™ to your business, because they should be part of absolutely everything you do. Key messages must form the backbone of how people within your organisation answer the phone, communicate in emails, post on social media, greet people in the lobby, respond to complaints, present at conferences and talk to each other in meetings. They arenโ€™t sentences that sit in a content strategy document on a shelf – theyโ€™re out there, at the very front of everything your organisation says and does.

TPWโ€™s top tips:

  • Know who youโ€™re talking to. You have distinct groups of clients or customers (a bank might be talking to fund managers, retail customers and consumers, for example), so make sure you can picture who they are. 
  • Once you know who youโ€™re talking to, work out what they care about. What keeps them up at night, what would they never compromise on, what do they want in life?
  • Now you know your audience and what they care about, you can start to look for the why behind your message. Simon Sinek famously said that people donโ€™t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. You have to find the why behind what youโ€™re selling. People think that they buy based on logical decisions, but research shows that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. In other words, 95% of the decisions we make are based on emotions, gut feel; everything except logic. So donโ€™t sell someone the technical specifications of your brilliant product, tell them how it will make their life better.
  • Your key messages should be short and concise. You need to be able to sum up the problem you solve for your consumer in one simple sentence.
  • Maya Angelou is famous for saying that โ€œpeople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.โ€ Make your prospective customers feel welcome by using language that everyone can understand. Replace jargon, industry speak or technical language with the same plain English youโ€™d hear in the pub (follow our TPW crusade to ban jargon on our blog!).
  • Your company has a personality, so let that shine through. Go through the story of how your brand came to be and see what themes pop out. Focus on what makes you unique and then put that out front and centre. This sense of your own personality will become your tone of voice, dictating whether youโ€™re formal, chatty, casual, edgy or downright rude in your communications (we donโ€™t recommend this, but there is a restaurant in Boston, USA where all the staff are encouraged to be as rude as possible to their guests. It is, surprisingly, packed!).
  • Once youโ€™ve created your key messages, give proof and examples of your products in action. The very best proof is user-generated content, such as reviews, product pictures on social media and unboxing videos. Companies such as Marmite are great at encouraging lovers and haters of their brand alike to contribute content to their marketing campaign in a playful way.

In summary, your key messages should connect with your target audience and motivate them to act. Itโ€™s all about creating emotion and demonstrating how you can solve their problem, rather than the nitty-gritty of what you do. Only 66% of B2B marketers think about their audienceโ€™s needs, choosing instead to prioritise the sales message – get ahead of the game and put your ideal client first!

Examples of key messages

Core message: Appleโ€™s โ€˜think differentโ€™ 

Appleโ€™s long-running campaign celebrates โ€œmisfitsโ€ and people who think outside of the box. It doesnโ€™t tell you what the products do or their technical specifications, but creates a feeling of belonging and desire to break the mould. This core message sells a powerful idea of Apple consumers as โ€˜people who donโ€™t follow the crowd, people who challenge the status quo.โ€™ Using personalities like John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix and Amelia Earhart as part of the campaign adds to the allure of being a misfit.

Key message: Yorkshire Teaโ€™s โ€œwhere everythingโ€™s done properโ€ 

This core message is re-purposed for different audiences and pain points. For those interested in sustainability, the message becomes, โ€œmakes a proper difference.โ€ For tea-aficionados, thereโ€™s a message about โ€œhow to make a proper brew.โ€ This is an excellent example of a colloquial, playful tone of voice thatโ€™s proud of its regional heritage. The host of famous Yorkshire-bred personalities whoโ€™ve taken part in their video adverts also acts as proof and endorsement for both the brand and their social aims.

Struggling to create effective key messages?

If you feel like you canโ€™t see the wood for the trees, invite people in from outside. And we donโ€™t just mean hiring a content specialist (although weโ€™re here if you ever need to talk to us!). You can get a fresh perspective just by inviting colleagues from different parts of your organisation to throw ideas around with you. Key messages are important for the way the whole business runs, so schedule a day where people from across the company get together to create new ideas.

If you fancy finding out how weโ€™d tackle your key message dilemma, get in touch for a chat. Or join our monthly newsletter at the bottom of TPWโ€™s homepage, for more tips, tricks and techniques.

TPW vodcast #1: Messaging Mastery

Welcome to TPW’s inaugural vodcast: ๐— ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐— ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜†. This was first shown live on LinkedIn – but you can watch the full recording below.

This is for businesses having a messaging lull, or in need of some strategic advice.

TPW’s Founder, Tessa P-W is joined by ๐—ฉ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฎ ๐—–๐˜‚๐—ฑ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ, ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ท๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ฐ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ.

In this vodcast, youโ€™ll discover these three things (and much more):

๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜† ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ฑ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ณ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐˜† ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜€

How to move from boring and bland key messages to standout ones that pack a punch.

Just click play below…

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