Writing key messages

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A great message can come to you in a flash, or you can work on it for days on end. Here’s some tips to help you with the process of writing key messages.


Your key messages can and should change quite often.

Your product or offer might not have changed, but your audience or your market probably has.

It’s especially important to get your messages right now that we’ve entered the era of unreliable reviews and ‘post truth.’

A great way to start is to return to the basic ‘what, why, where, when’ to define your offer.   Then it helps to check your messages against some key factors:


What evidence do I have to back up this statement?  This could be market research, product testing, a case study or a client quote.

Target audience

What features or benefits do I need to convey to my different target audiences? What are their concerns or needs that I can meet or help?


Am I using positive phrases and actions? A complicated sentence is often perceived as less positive or honest.  Use short sentences with positive convictions.


This sounds so obvious as to be silly, but actually you should check –  are you so wrapped up in your product bubble that you’ve adopted marketing speak rather than normal words and sentences?

Writing good, convincing key messages is an art form, like writing a good tweet.  We cite Rob Temple who built his fortune on the twitter feed, followed by the books: “Very British Problems.” 

His tweets look so innocent and funny, like a sudden observation of a moment of awkwardness: but he often takes one whole day to write a tweet.

So if you’ve lost your sense of humour, and are so bogged down writing key messages and PR content that you can’t see the wood for the trees, follow the tips here and take a moment to read this post from the Creative Review about writing protest signs.  I guarantee it will make you smile and refresh your copy writing skills:

“An emergency guide to writing protest signs”



Building brand trust. What is the role of PR?

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Trust in business, government, journalists and charities has all fallen dramatically in the past year.

Charities took the biggest trust hit, dropping from a “neutral” position of 50 per cent trust in 2016, to 46 per cent in the autumn, to 32 per cent at the turn of 2017. [i]

What can you do to prove that your brand or product can be trusted?

If you’re a charity for example, how can you protect your revenue streams, which allow you to keep delivering your charitable mission, if people don’t trust you with their money? Does PR even have a role in building brand trust?

The role of PR

The Trump election and Brexit votes have shown us that people are fed up with ‘corporate speak’. They are want plain, even blunt words, without any spin.

But this is not the time to ditch the PR.  This is exactly the time to use your PR team even more.

Your communications people need to get out there and connect with staff, customers and stakeholders so that they can help ensure that the voice from every level and touch point of your organisation can be heard.

For example, in October last year the National Trust was hit by accusations of corporate bullying.  The story  was covered over a few weeks in the national media, followed later by reports of a dramatic drop in donations because of the bullying allegations.

Amplifying authentic voices

One of the ways the National Trust has responded to this is to encourage communication from staff at grass roots level:

“PR has already evolved to the point where our gardeners and our teams in the field tell authentic stories about the charity. Those stories don’t always have to come from the press or PR team. Looking ahead, it’s all about widening the network of people who are going to be telling our stories.”

You can read the full article about this in PR Week but the message is clear – use PR to facilitate and amplify the voice and views of people at all levels of your organisation so that your true values and actions can be seen and trusted.

Here’s an example

Our client Cawleys is one of the largest family owned, waste management businesses in the south east.  Like all businesses in logistics, it wants to recruit good HGV drivers. Cawleys is a great place to work, with supportive teams, training, flexible hours etc. It really does deliver on family values as a great place to work.   But all companies says that don’t they?  How do we make it authentic, ensure people trust the message from Cawleys and apply to work there?

We’ve created a campaign across social media to show what a day at work as a driver at Cawleys is really like.  We’ve made sure the driver’s voice is heard as she speaks so well. Yes the person at the wheel of the skip lorry is a brilliant female driver – what better spokesperson than Kayla?

Six steps to build trust in your PR message

1. Back up every statement you make with evidence.  It’s old fashioned but more important than ever.

2. Draw evidence from as many sources as you can.  Evidence includes stories from individuals who can tell their story or describe their experience of your brand or product.

3. Identify your champions.  Keep talking to your people and ask their opinions and you will find someone who has something interesting and authentic to say.

4. Ensure you are using accessible channels or promoting your message – their message –  in the right medium.

5. Make it short and easy to understand.  For example if you are using the Yoast plugin to check your SEO performance on WordPress platforms, when it says make your text shorter, or less dense, it might be an idea to do       that. It is suggesting ways to make your words more accessible.

6. Use different methods of communication. Remember that one in ten adults struggle with literacy, and use videos.  Use captions on your videos for people who can read well, and who watch videos with the sound on mute.

[i] The measurement of trust  survey is from Edelman’s Trust Barometer which has been conducted for the past 17 years. It is based on a survey of 33,000 respondents globally including 1,150 people in the UK during the Autumn of 2016, either side of Donald Trump’s election as US President.


Get your flat lay on!  

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What we learnt from the 12PR Mince Pie Bake Off

Christmas means but one thing amongst the Twelve PR team, the return of the annual Mince Pie Bake Off.

Fiercely competitive, there’s all to play for, with each team member bringing in five pies to be sampled in a ‘come-dine-with-me’ style. We each bring out our inner Hollywood and Berry to mark entrants on their mince pie baking skills – taste, pastry and the all-important pie to filling ratio.  But this year, we introduced the flat lay challenge. Our baking athletes had the opportunity to win extra points as ‘star bakers’ selected by our panel of expert judges, including Emma, a Waitrose food stylist, Debbie, packaging specialist and Amy and Jenny, PR baking enthusiasts.

Over one million posts on Instagram are tagged with the #flatlay hashtag, which gives you just one indication on the style’s popularity and some of the most popular posts rack up over 2,000 likes a piece. The flat lay style can be an easy way to establish and enhance a brand or individual’s online persona, especially on Instagram. Using flat lay images with a choice of carefully selected props can reinforce key messages with your target audience.

The blogging duo, behind ‘Year of the Yes’, are a good example of how Instagram can be used to reach your target audience.  The pair use upbeat, colourful flat lay pics to attract a readership of positive, optimistic like-minded individuals.

Through our flat lay challenge, we’ve honed important visual skills and although we can’t share the mince pies, we can offer up a few tips to create a winning Instagrammable flat lay post!

Here’s what we learnt…

Experiment with light

Any budding photographer knows that light can make or break a photo. In fact, it’s often worth taking note of the advice of the UK’s number one Instagrammer, Me & Orla, paraphrasing here, ‘If the light’s not good, it’s not good enough for Instagram.’ We found that utilising natural light certainly helped take a winning picture, but what if you’ve not got that luxury?  Try experimenting with lighting props, here Graham created a festive glow using a string of fairy lights to bring out the copper tones of the pastry cutters.


Work with a theme

So Christmas is an obvious theme, but effective flat lay pics often pick out one or two visual links. In Helena’s photo she’s gone for a natural feel which is reflected in her choice of props – using pine cones and an attractive wooden chopping board as the back drop.  Thinking about your theme beforehand and picking up a selection of props can help create a more cohesive picture.

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Flat lay Composition

Another word for ‘flat lay’ could be ‘bird’s eye’; a distinctive characteristic of the flat lay style is its top-down perspective.  Nicky worked with different compositions before she had her final layout and she’d recommend thinking about whether your final photo will be used in a portrait or landscape position. Try lining up and placing objects in a parallel direction to the photo. If you are using the traditional square Instagram shape, experiment with arranging a composition on the diagonal, like Nicky’s.


Props and texture

With our flat lay challenge, we had to include at least two mince pies but after that, the world’s your oyster. Jess used a selection of props that were based on her silver theme including Christmas ribbon, labels and a handy festive napkin. Although these might be ‘flat’ pictures, Instagram pics which have most engagement are ones that incorporate textural elements – wooden boards are a popular backdrop, but why not try something a bit different – like Jess’s grey wool blanket?


Don’t be afraid of space

One element all our judges preferred were flat lay pictures that incorporated space. Olivia has used empty areas to draw attention to her mince pies in the centre of her photo.  Don’t be afraid to use space to your advantage, using it to highlight the focal point of your composition.


We’d love to see your festive flat lay pictures, don’t forget you can send them to us via our Facebook or Twitter pages!