Developing Your Story: Tools and Resources to Help You Identify Key Audiences and Define Your Key Messages

Every time you…

  • Discuss the value of your program or the people you help
  • Develop text and graphics for websites, brochures, PSAs, handouts, et cetera
  • Submit reports or program summaries to administration
  • Interact with local government officials
  • Participate in public events or community meetings

… you are essentially making the case for your program and experiencing opportunities to build relationships, promote your value, and increase your impact. Being prepared to discuss or present key messages to various audiences in a way that best translates for maximum impact is vital to expanding your reach.

The resources below can help you begin to identify your key audiences and define your key messages.

Resources for Identifying Your Key Audiences

The Top 10 Ways to Find Your Audience
Ken McArthur is a highly successful American entrepreneur, business consultant, event producer, and author. PR Channel placed his guide, IMPACT: How to Get Noticed, Motivate Millions, and Make a Difference in a Noisy World, at the top of its list of must-read books for public relations people, and Fast Company selected him as one of their Top 20 Most Influential People Online. This resource on Ken’s site teaches methods for identifying, reaching, and (most importantly) captivating your target audience in a format that is easy to understand, even for a novice. [url; Ken McArthur]

Klout is a site dedicated to teaching people how to create original and engaging online content through social media. One interesting feature of their site is the “Klout Score,” which assigns scores to users based on their influence on social media. Klout’s tools provided insight into how social media works and succeeds, and the company offers ways to unite brands and influencers. [url; Klout]

PeerIndex and Brandwatch Analytics
Brandwatch recently integrated their PeerIndex tool into their Brandwatch Analytics platform. According to the company’s site, “Brandwatch Analytics is a powerful social media monitoring and analytics platform that allows you to collect, analyze, and report on your social media data.” This resource will help users to identify influencers and effectively research their marketplace or target audiences. [url; Brandwatch]

Social Media: Do You Know Where Your Target Audience Is?
According to Heidi Cohen, “Social media and content marketing are intricately interconnected. Used together, social media and content marketing give you marketing superpowers.” Formatted as a series of articles and interviews, Heidi’s site provides users with various helpful hints to aid in marketing their brand and message to as many people as possible, with the highest quality possible, and to do it affordably. [url; Heidi Cohen]

Internet and American Life Project
According to its website, “The Pew Internet and American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘fact tank’ that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, healthcare, and civic and political life.” [url; Pew Research Center]

Understanding Your Target Audience and Defining Your Value Proposition
UnLtd (“Unlimited”) is the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in Great Britain. They invest in individuals directly, rather than specific ideas, which is unique. The resource we recommend offers a crash course in marketing for those who don’t already have a background there. [url; UnLtd]

Researching, Identifying, and Understanding Your Audiences
The Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project was created to work with Denver-area nonprofits, including funding organizations, “to become more inclusive of people of color.” They have a page on their site about researching, identifying, and understanding who the target audiences are and can be, especially as far as minority groups are concerned. [url; Denver Foundation]

Resources for Defining Your Key Message

Develop Your Campaign’s Message
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world (over 62,000 members strong). A national nonprofit, the ALA promotes libraries and library education around the globe. This resource provides guidelines for mapping communication strategies and provides a worksheet for defining key messages. It also gives some helpful pointers on brainstorming and identifying the appropriate audiences. [pdf; American Library Association]

Value Proposition Kit
Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency in concert with Allies Against Asthma, the Asthma Community Network is “designed for community-based asthma programs and organizations that sponsor them – including representatives of health plans and providers, government health and environmental agencies, nonprofits, coalitions, schools, and more.” Their interactive network exposes members to effective strategies that can result in positive health outcomes. This resource, the Value Proposition Kit, walks Asthma Community Network members through the various components of messaging with the goal of preparing the speaker for that crucial elevator pitch. [url; Asthma Community Network]

Nonprofit Answer Guide: What Is Messaging? How Are Key Messages Developed?
Based in Los Angeles, the Center for Nonprofit Management exists to prepare nonprofits with the tools to accomplish their mission goals. Their site is an excellent tool for nonprofit leaders, helping them to build and hone the skills that will develop and strengthen their organizations. This resource explains the value of quality messaging and lays out three crucial steps along the critical path for those wishing to achieve it. [url; Center for Nonprofit Management]

Key Messages: Your Keys to Success
When the Environmental Protection Agency held a community involvement conference in June 2007, J. Mike Rogers and Briana Bill discussed what key messages are, why they’re so important, and how they’re tested. They also stressed that it’s possible to have too many key messages, and their reasoning makes perfect sense. This resource is the bulleted outline from that discussion: short, sweet, to the point, and packed with helpful information. [pdf; EPA]

Storytelling as Best Practice
The Goodman Center has existed under one name or another since 1998, when it was founded as a one-man company by Andy Goodman with the intention of making worthy causes more visible to a wider audience and with greater impact. Now in its seventh edition, Storytelling as Best Practice compiles the best of Mr. Goodman’s Free-Range Thinking newsletter. The book teaches how to tell a compelling story, and what kinds of stories you should be telling. [url; the Goodman Center]

Crafting an Elevator Pitch: Introducing Your Company Quickly and Compellingly
Mind Tools is a club that costs just $1 to join… for the first month. However, after that first month, you may be convinced that it’s worth it to stick around. The Mind Tools Club provides career-skills training in management, communication, and leadership, among other things. While you’re making up your mind, why don’t you check out some of the free resources on their site? May we recommend that you look at “Crafting an Elevator Pitch”? It shares helpful examples to illustrate ways to create a memorable pitch that will stay with the listener long after the elevator ride is over. [url; Mind Tools]

ComPRehension: Key Message Development: Building a Foundation for Effective Communications
With 22,000 members representing almost every academic and professional setting, the Public Relations Society of America is the largest organization of communications and public relations professionals in the United States. The organization is a great resource for those wishing to network, enhance skills, and develop professionally within the field. The resource below originally accompanied an online training session from 2011, but the information is still relevant. [url; Public Relations Society of America]