How the Key Message Triangle Can Help You Communicate Purpose

The time to start communicating with purpose is now. Be compelling, be concise and be credible.

Sylvie Harton

April 11, 2023

I recently learned about the key message triangle from Pat Heffernan, and it got me thinking about how this framework could be used as a foundation for communicating with purpose.

According to Pat: “The message triangle is a tool designed to help you speak to your audience successfully by getting across your key messages in a compelling, concise and credible manner. It is based on the principle that it is easier to visualize an image than it is to memorize a lot of words.”

With this in mind, keep reading to learn how the key message triangle can help you better communicate purpose.

What Does Communicating With Purpose Mean?

First, a reminder of what I mean by communicating with purpose. There has been no shortage of conversation over the past two years about the need for companies and organizations to make their purpose clear to their employees, and to their publics: customers, investors and the media.

Leading companies offer something worthy and communicate their purpose. Communicating with purpose is to answer the question, “What would the world lose if your company disappeared?” It defines a company’s core reason for being and its resulting positive impact on the world.

It is becoming more important than ever as stakeholders want to make sure you have what it takes to be successful long term.

This last piece is important given the business focus on ESG and DEI and the regulatory discussion under way to regulate how publicly traded companies will communicate their ESG posture.

Organizations that do this well align their portfolio strategy and products, their people and culture, supported by processes and systems, and performance metrics, which ultimately leads to a purpose-built position and messaging.

So how can the key message triangle help?

The Key Message Triangle

One of the most important aspects of communicating with purpose is that the messaging should be consistent. You must do what you say, and what you say must be believable, credible and sustainable.

Image via Marketing Partners

There are many current catalysts that are changing the way organizations engage with their stakeholders around the world. They are moving us to communicate with more empathy and transparency as we move towards a focus on stakeholder’s engagement versus solely shareholder’s engagement.

The time to start communicating with purpose is now. Be compelling, be concise, and be credible. Make it easy for your audiences to visualize your message.

So how do you get started with the message triangle?

Think of the center of the triangle first; come up with the statement that speaks to the core of your organization’s purpose – the foundation of what your company aims to deliver to the world.

Then work out and fill in the three sides of the triangle. The sides of the triangle demonstrate the three most important manifestations of your ESG or purpose strategy.

Using the triangle will help create a more emotionally resonant messaging that could communicate that value to inspire action among key audiences and make a real difference for your stakeholders.

Thanks for reading!

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