When you have an important message to communicate—especially one that might be controversial or unpopular—you need more than just the message itself. You wouldn't set out to remodel a house with just a sledgehammer, even though that might be the most "important" tool you'll be using; just so, you should equip yourself with a "messaging toolkit" that will help you effectively deliver (and justify) your message in various formats to various media.
The Boston Bar Association employed this mindset in the wake of the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. In the PR News Media Training Guidebook, Vol. 6, BBA director of communications Kerry Crisley writes about communicating their message of opposition to the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a message strongly disputed by many Bostonians (some BBA members among them). In that article, Crisley reveals the components of the messaging toolkit:
- Position statement
- Reasons behind your position
- Proof points
- Your statement in op-ed or letter to the editor form if needed quickly
- Your statement and core messages in tweet format
- FAQ: Counterpoints to questions you’re likely to get
- Tips to help your spokesperson bridge back to core messages
- If applicable, a history or timeline of the issue at hand and your organization’s involvement
Such a list of resources is useful in itself, but the thinking and research required to put it together will also be a good exercise for helping your team more fully realize the implications of, and motivations behind, the message. It could also serve as an early warning: If you have more trouble than you expect finding proof points, counterpoints to questions and a historical basis for your stance on the issue, perhaps it's not the right message for your organization after all.
Read more about the BBA's handling of a delicate issue in the PR News Media Training Guidebook
Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianwright0101