Get Your Key Message Across Effectively

By Dorcas Hand, Editor of TASLTalks

As a member of a non-library board, I am learning a little about fundraising techniques. After participating in this organization’s board discussions, I’ve been struck by the fact that those techniques are remarkably similar to what we call “advocacy” in schools and libraries.  The biggest point of commonality? In order to get results, we have to be really clear about our message. What is the bottom line for our “ask?”

You’ve been reading in the library literature about elevator speeches and such forever. But then this new approach – this key message grid – landed in my inbox from the other organization.  It looks  like this:

The minute I saw this, my board member hat fell off as the wheels began spinning: how could I make this work for school libraries. It is such a simple, step-by-step method to build your talking points. You can see this example is very basic, working to get more face time with students – but it works for more sophisticated topics as well.


This second one doesn’t yet have the last column, but I think you get the general idea. Make it work for you! Whether it is an elevator speech you need, or a project/program proposal, this method is helpful – with every audience, depending how you focus the supporting info and the Ask.

ALA offers ESSA Elevator Speech Examples planned by the same grid approach. I guess my discovery isn't so new - but maybe you didn't know it either and will find it useful. And we're all working on ESSA topics these days!

Go ahead, pick any general point you want to make. Take it from a general statement to directed content specific to your library and your community. Build in your supporting info. What do you want to happen after your audience hears this info? How can you tailor it even more to the specific person or group so that they can see exactly what they might do to support your school library. “Mr. Smith, please stop by to see the work second graders have done learning about turtles using library resources. I’d love to chat about ways to make the library even better.” “Mr. Smith, third grade has enjoyed using iPads to find the right books for their library research – they just don’t have internet or books at home. We would love more iPads – I think PTA might help us, with your support.”

I offered a template to the Key Message Grid at the District 10 Fall conference - perhaps it will make your job easier.

In some ways, this is just the same thing we’ve always done – but the grid makes it seem so much clearer and easier. At least to me. So try it. See if you can get some unexpected results because you have clarified your message and focused it to a specific person or group. I’d love to hear what results you get!  Use the “Reply” function on this blog – other readers will also appreciate your applications of the grid idea. Really -yes, you!




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