Social Marketing – Part Five: Key Messages

With multiple societal issues facing our country right now, the ability to create memorable campaigns that influence and help to positively change people’s behavior is more important now than ever. Over the past weeks, we have taken a deep dive into the first three steps of AFFIRM’s time-tested social marketing process. This post will cover the next step:

Create messaging that addresses any obstacles and offers a path to the desired behavior(s)

Once you’ve done your research and identified your target audiences, you’ll have a good understanding of how to approach them with messaging that will be relevant and effective. Key messages are a collection of statements or “takeaways” that tell your audience what they need to know to change their behavior(s). Some key messages provide information while others persuade the audience to act.

The most effective key messages originate from your primary and secondary research. It’s important that your campaign messages highlight your target audience’s unique traits and address the specific barriers they face.

At least one of your key messages must be a clear call-to-action: a statement, often beginning with a verb, that tells the audience the exact action they should take to solve the problem. Sometimes the call-to-action will also serve as the campaign tagline, as it does in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation traffic safety campaigns we implement: DRIVE SOBER OR GET PULLED OVER and CLICK IT OR TICKET.

For the Wisconsin Department of Justice DOSE OF REALITY Prescription Painkiller Abuse Awareness and Prevention Campaign, we developed messaging not just for our key audience (young people 12-25), but also for their influencers, including parents, friends, teachers, and coaches. We tailored each set of messages to each audience’s characteristics and unique barriers. For example, here are some of our key messages for parents:

  • More than 70% of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them through friends or relatives. (EDUCATION)
  • In recent years, the rate of prescription painkiller overdoses has increased 260% among Wisconsin’s young people ages 12-25 (EDUCATION)
  • It’s important to understand the signs of opioid addiction (PERSUASION)
  • Lock up your medication and safely dispose of unused/unwanted prescription pills (CALL-TO-ACTION)

Keep in mind that, for social marketing campaigns, how you deliver your messages is just as important as what your messages say. In other words, get creative! Your campaign materials should grab your key audience’s attention, convey the stakes of the situation, and emphasize your call-to-action.

It’s also important to consider who will deliver your key messages. Many campaigns feature members of the target audience to encourage the desired behavior change. However, if your target audience faces an apathy or negative affect barrier, consider asking a celebrity or community leader to deliver your message. Your audience is more likely to listen and accept your key messages if they come from someone they admire.

In our Wisconsin Department of Transportation ZERO IN WISCONSIN – CLICK IT OR TICKET Campaign, we reached out to legendary Green Bay wide receiver Donald Driver to be our spokesperson. We knew he had a strong influence over our target audience of young men, ages 18-34. Driver’s special ability to reach and win over our target audience helped our campaign to achieve measurable increases in seat belt usage across Wisconsin.

Once you have developed your key messages, it’s time to share them with your target audience. Read our next blog post for our best tips on distribution, education, and outreach.

If you would like to see a social marketing campaign in action, follow AFFIRM on social media for a look at our latest campaign, Let’s Beat COVID-19 Wisconsin Style. And, as always, contact us if you need help with your marketing needs!

author avatar
Affirm Agency

Let’s talk!

Contact our President, Danny Mager to learn how we can deliver results for your organization. No matter where you're at in your decision-making process, we can help you get the ball rolling.


Danny Mager