Message maps are essential tools for spokespeople who need to prepare for media interviews.
Spokespeople do well to carefully prepare the messages they want to convey in their media interviews in advance. If they fail to do so, the success of their media performance becomes dependent on the journalist asking the “right” questions, a strategy that comes with many risks (journalists tend to not care much about asking the right questions). Here is where message maps come in.
Through a message map, all key messages a spokesperson plans to convey in a media interview are laid out in advance. The key messages are selected in function of the communication objectives the spokesperson wants to achieve; those objectives will always pertain to changing how at least one group of stakeholders knows, feels, or acts in relation to the topic at hand.
Let’s use an example of a company that wants its clients, prospects, and potential investors to know that it is growing rapidly and that even more growth is on the horizon. Media messages at the start of the year could consist of one key message on how the company just finished the previous year with strong organic growth, and another key message on how the company has made strategic investments in the past year for continued growth in the coming year.
Because people can only remember a maximum of five things, message maps typically contain up to three to five key messages. Also, for key messages to be perceived as credible, they need to be backed by facts and figures.
To circle back to our example, if an organization is planning to communicate that it has made strategic investments in strong growth, it will have to disclose a minimum of specifics about what type of investments have been made and what the size of the investments looked like. Without specifics, key messages are gratuitous statements.
In conclusion, spokespeople who are armed with a thoughtfully conceived message map will enter media interviews with a crystal clear view of the information they want to convey, and will – for that reason – perform better than less prepared interviewees.
Coming soon, we will discuss how message maps are crucial to helping spokespeople “bridge” questions that offer themselves insufficient opportunities to place key messages or proof points.
This article is based on the media training module Detavernier Strategic Communication has developed in partnership with the Communication Science Group. For more information on the media training, contact us today.