Here’s the deal.

Welcome to segment four, out of eight (nine, if you include the intro), in the short series about the creative brief, a tool that can be used to bridge a perceived gap that gets in the way of cooperative, holistic enterprise, both in business and in life. Bonus for today’s post? Recipe links at the end. If you’re just here for the food (glorious food), then hop down to that part.

Refresher: I’m writing this series to work through an update to a two-part creative strategy workshop I used to teach for event managers. The way I have used, and continue to use, this particular framework has evolved over time. If you’re following along with the series, you’ll get to see that evolution and perhaps pick up a helpful tip or two.

I’m writing all of this during a war in Ukraine, dire news about climate change, a never-ending pandemic, and crumbling democracy in the U.S. I accept reality and am pushing on anyway.

So far, we’ve covered an introduction to the creative brief, along with an expanded review of the first three items: Objective, Target Audience, and Action Desired. Today’s work is Key Message/Claim. We’ll see how my weekly dinner example holds up to this test and how this step might prompt a review or edit to the first three.

Let’s do it.

The Key Message is the main point of the campaign, promotion, or project. It is not a slogan or catchphrase but rather a straightforward statement of the essential sales pitch. The key message, or claim, might not be an elegant sentence. A solid key message might even be long and wordy.

Think of it as what you might say, exactly, to get someone (your target audience) to do something specific (action desired) that helps you achieve what you want to achieve (objective).

Keep in mind that the creative brief is an internal, working document. It’s not for publication, and this key message/claim is not a public-facing statement. The less flowery, the better. Avoid hyperbole and preening when writing a key message. Think instead about a statement that can be supported with facts and evidence, which will be the next step in the creative brief process.

Using my weekly dinner example:

NO: My Sunday dinner will be the best meal you ever eat, so you should never miss it.

YES: The time you spend at the table eating dinner as a family, one night a week, will help everyone in the house know what you need and want in the week ahead, and the dinner will include food you like, prepared and served the way you like it.

Here’s another, very different, example from my work-work:

NO: Our four-hour co-parenting seminar is the best on the market.

YES: Our four-hour co-parenting seminar, led by experienced family therapists, will help you ensure your children’s well-being while also giving you proven approaches to manage your own well-being during the challenge of divorce.

Starting to get the idea? Great.

Note that getting to this stage, key message, might prompt you to change your objective or action desired segments. You’ll see, because I highlighted the differences in bold text, where I made adjustments to mine.

So, here’s where we are, then, on my (silly, I know) weekly dinner example:

Objective/Purpose Statement: The goal of this work is to create a special dinner, one night every week, that will be enjoyable and that will feed us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. If this project is successful, then my family and I will have a fun, stress-free, creative, weekly dinner routine that nourishes in every way, from start to finish, and gets us ready for the week ahead.

Target Audience: The humans living in my home right now.

Action Desired: To eat the shared meal with enthusiasm and contribute to stress-free dinner conversation while we’re together.

Key Message/Claim: The time you spend at the table eating dinner as a family, one night a week, will help everyone in the house know what you need and want in the week ahead, and the dinner will include food you like, prepared and served the way you like it.

If thinking about the creative brief process in a professional context is more helpful for you, then here’s another example, again taken from my work-work at Kindred Place:

Objective: To fill to capacity every session of our weekly, four-hour co-parenting seminar for divorcing/separating couples.

Target Audience: Divorcing/separating parents who have children under age 18.

Desired Action: Enroll in the Kindred Place seminar (as opposed to another provider’s program) soon after the decision to divorce/separate is reached, and as early as possible in the formal legal process.

Key Message/Claim: Our four-hour co-parenting seminar, led by experienced family therapists, will help you ensure your children’s well-being during a stressful time while also giving you proven approaches to manage your own well-being during the challenge of divorce.

On deck for tomorrow is the Support section, in which you’ll be backing up this Key Message with facts and figures. See you then.


PostScript: What I Might Cook for My Magical Weekly Dinners

My daughter challenged me to get back to cooking in the way I used to cook, when she and her brother were younger. When she asked why I didn’t do as much cooking as I used to do, I explained that it’s challenging and stressful for me to come up with new and creative ways of preparing the three or four things she likes to eat. Her response? Make something new anyway. “But what will you eat if you don’t like it?” I asked. “I’ll make myself a peanut butter sandwich, just like you used to do when we were little and we tried three bites but didn’t like what you’d made.”

Ah; it worked after all.

Here’s what I’ve clipped for consideration:

Ambitious: Seared Scallops with Pomegranate and Meyer Lemon (Food & Wine)

Less Ambitious: Herby Dutch Baby with Smoked Salmon (bon appetit)

A “Learn to Cook” option: Ultimate Tuna Melts (Barefoot Contessa) (NOTE: a tuna melt was one of the first “meals” I learned to prepare for myself when I was in fourth grade and interested in cooking. I’ve decided it’s not too late to pass that baton to the next generation of family cooks.)

Wildcard: Cauliflower Shawarma with Spicy Tahini (NYT Cooking)

Tried and True, If All Else Fails: Pretty Classic Chicken Pot Pie (Alison Roman)

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