Create Key Messages
It's never too early to develop key messages! Key messages are phrases of different lengths that provide a description of your organization in very succinct and understandable terms. The messages should generally be short and should use clear, precise language to convey your point. Here are a few questions to get started:
- What is your organization? What do you do and why? (A brief variation on your mission statement)
- Who is your target audience? Who does your project or center focus on?
- Who funds your project or center?
- Who hosts your project or center? Where are you based?
- Who are your partners?
- What makes you unique?
- What successes have you had? What are your plans for the future?
Messages can serve your organization as a whole or specific events (workshops, conferences, summits) or initiatives (curriculum, research). Messages should tell your organization's story in a memorable way and hook your audience, whether that audience is a prospective partner, an administrator, or the general public.
After you generate your messages, create a hierarchy, ranking the most relevant, compelling statements at the top. For example, you probably want to describe what you do and why that's unique before talking about who funds your project and where you're located.
Once you've generated your messages, you can use them in multiple ways:
- As talking points that you'll expand on, moving from general to specific statements.
- As part of an elevator pitch, or a description of your organization in 60 seconds or less (the time it takes for a short elevator ride).
- As the basis of an FAQ that anticipates audience questions.
- As part of the about us and/or personal biography for press releases.
For tips on how to modify key messages for each of these uses, read on!
Tips for Talking Points
- Talking points are a set of mid-length (2-4 sentence) key messages that build on information conveyed in your mission statement and/or respond to the most commonly asked questions.
- Identify and prioritize 5-10 talking points for each audience. Different talking points are relevant to different people. The general public, for example, will not have the same priorities and interests as leading scientists in the field or a funder.
- For media interviews or speaking opportunities, select 2-3 (no more than 3) talking points that are the most important for the topic being discussed.
- Expand your point from the general to the specific. For example, "Robotics are a critical part of STEM education . . . because they have X,Y,Z impact."
- Bring your points to life by putting them into context, for instance by using a personal story or statistic.
The ATETV project has multiple versions of talking points geared to different audiences, students, industry, parents, and more.
Tips for an Elevator Pitch
- Keep it short. Time it. Practice. Try it out on colleagues, friends, staff, and students.
- If you feel like your message is too complex to fit into 60 seconds, focus in on your impact — who do you help? Then explain how you make that happen.
- Explain why you and your team are the right people for your mission.
- If possible, include a story — try putting a face or name to your cause.
- Know your goal for the pitch. Are you hoping for more time to discuss a financial contribution, or even just future engagement?
- Script it or use bullet points. Also, share it with your whole organization so that everyone can use it.
- Delivery really matters. Make it clear that you don't just work for your organization but that you are a believer and active participant. People will respond to passion, clarity, and focus.
Buzzuka is a free resource that walks you through a seven-step process for creating an elevator pitch — whether it's for you, your organization, or a specific program or initiative.
The Art of the Elevator Pitch (video)
Tips for Your FAQ
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) should be just that: if possible, informally poll your organization and audience to find what those questions are.
- Revise and update the FAQ as new questions surface.
- The FAQ should be in the press kit and on your website — amplify your hard work by repurposing it whenever/wherever possible.
- A good FAQ for media and the general public is relatively short: no more than 3 pages.
- Advancing Science, Serving Society (multiple samples)
- The Making Learning Real Project
- National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology, and Science project
Tips for About Us
- An About Us document goes beyond the mission statement to include a history of the organization as well as its successes, supporters, events, etc.
- Use supporting information to make the details vivid: facts and figures or a list of advisory board members, for example.
- Don't assume a common understanding on terms. Explain anything that should be explained to the general public.
- Take a look at what competing organizations are saying about themselves in the About Us sections of their websites
Now that you have Key Messages, it is time to craft a news story. Go to the next section to find out about Making News for your project or center.