A message is a statement or set of statements that describes your work and why it is important. It should be easily understood by a wide range of people. Developing a clear message involves taking your complex practice change project or research and pulling out the one or two key points you want people to know and remember. Simple, clear and jargon-free language is best.  Imagine you’re talking to your next door neighbor or your Aunt Martha. How can you describe your work and efforts briefly, and in an easy to understand and compelling way?

Think Big Picture

  • Why is your work important? Who does it affect and how? The more people, the more far-reaching the better.
  • Next, what are the benefits of your work? Without diving into the details, what are the basics about what you are doing? You can likely write a grant proposal about it, but how can you capture its most important elements in a sentence or two?
  • What do you hope others (or the audience you are talking to) will do?  What is the call to action?
  • What is the most compelling evidence you have to back up your message?  Is there a single, scintillating data point or factoid?  Is it a patient anecdote or story that perfectly captures the emotional seriousness of the issue?  This evidence may change depending on your audience, but you will want to have these at the ready.
  • Can you make it memorable?  Once you have your message described in clear, concise language, see if you can make it sing.  Can you use rhyme, rhythm, contrast, metaphor, or other rhetorical/poetic devices to help make your message stick?

More Help: Tools to Help Create Effective Messages

Message What You Preach (Webinar recording) You've done the research, now it's time to tell people about it. Are you sure you're sending the message you want via your presentations, posters, and media interviews? This John A. Hartford Foundation webinar from January 2010 focuses on how to frame your message effectively and make it truly memorable or "sticky."

Framing Public Issues Toolkit and the Five-Minute Refresher Course in Framing, both from the Frameworks Institute, are excellent resources on framing concepts and messaging.

The Heath Brothers, authors of Made to Stick and Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, two top-selling books that offer best practices to develop sticky messages and successful ways to get your ideas across, have a variety of free resources available on their websiteNote: Free registration is required to download these resources.

Center For Storybased Strategy, an organization dedicated to developing and using story-based strategies to change the frames on serious social issues, has numerous resources available (both no-cost and donation requested) for nonprofits and social change organizations.