Watch a political campaign debate for techniques you can use to stay on message in your own business

The TV reporter’s in front of you with a camera and a microphone.  How do you make sure that your important content winds up on the air and not on the virtual cutting room floor? Here’s the secret:  Only “60 Minutes” can roll video for as long as it takes to hang you.  TV news reporters have to get on to the next interview.  If you keep repeating the same thing over and over, they’ll be forced to use it.

Answer their question if you can.  If you can’t, answer the question you wanted them to ask.  How?  Key messages.

There are actually four elements in this system:

  • Key messages
  • Proof points
  • Bridging
  • Rehearsal

Key messages are brief assertions – opinions — about your business or issue. For example:

Stagecrafters is an important economic development asset in Royal Oak

You support them with as many proof points as you wish:

  • Stagecrafters brings 20,000 people to the city each year, from as far away as W. Bloomfield and Shelby Township
  • 45% of our patrons dine in Royal Oak before or after the show
  • Most of our patrons drive to the theater, spending tens of thousands of dollars in municipal parking lots

You will create three to five key messages.  Together they should cover every possible question a reporter – or anyone — might ask.

You will respond to questions by bridging back to one of your key messages.  If there’s time, you’ll support it with a proof point.

City commissioner:  “Why should we grant Stagecrafters this special event permit?”

Stagecrafters representative:  “We are an important economic development asset in Royal Oak.  Your parking deck alone captures tens of thousands of dollars a year from our patrons.”

In the final stage, brainstorm to think up all the unfriendly, pointed questions you might encounter in an interview.  Use them to make sure your message shield covers all your vulnerable spots, then rehearse your answers until you can bridge smoothly.

Now to the gubernatorial debate.  Both Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder  will have about five key messages, which they’ll back up, as time permits, with proof points.  Sometimes they’ll answer questions directly but you can expect them to handle about 75 percent of the questions either by using a key message or by bridging to one.   Look for the occasional Olympic-caliber long jump when they have to get from a really ugly question back to the safety of one of their core themes.

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  1. Reply

    As a new start up in the Detroit area it’s an ongoing issue of how to get media exposure and how to present that vital information about your business to the press. This makes sense…great post!


  2. Pingback: An election year is a great time to do key message training | Douglas Communications Group

  3. Pingback: Listen online: Learn to control your message in interviews. (Don’t forget to rehearse) | Douglas Communications Group

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