An ABC of message maps

Get free weekly news by e-mailJohn Salter, Director, Emergency Preparedness Capacity Builders

Message maps support effective communication in a crisis but narrow and rigid message mapping can be a trap in a crisis. The pre-packaged message may be dismissed as a non engaging piece of top down dissemination. CEOs in crisis are often better advised to use a one page sheet (under the pump they will rarely read more) which gives them a quality approach to message mapping - an active application in any context. The following provides an effective one pager developed with this in mind:

A: Stick to a three point structure

In a crisis it is important to focus on:

1. Expressing Empathy Sincerely. In a crisis remember your audience – it is people who are hurt, confused, anxious and possibly angry.

2. Telling the Truth. Stick to the facts as you know them – “Who, What, Where, When, Why, How”.

3. Going Forward with Shared Commitment. Let people know what they can do to help themselves and others – and where, from whom and when they can find out more information.

B: Ensure the message is based on sound intelligence (i.e. validated information)

Do not just roll out a placatory press release – address the issues of the hour. ‘Insertions’ into the above format may be about:
* Flood and major storm,
* Bushfire,
* Infrastructure failure,
* Major traffic accidents, etc
* Or anything that puts members of the community of interest at risk.

For any message, the ‘insertions’ are a function of intelligence – i.e. validated information. Information reduces uncertainty. The source(s) of information may be from the public or from emergency service agencies – whoever the source, the information should be verified before being publicised.

C: Format the message to reflect the three point focus

The following format is suggested:

1. We understand that you are … (insert based on intelligence received and validated e.g. hurt, confused, anxious, frightened).

2. The situation is …what is happening (or has happened); when and where; who is doing or has done what – and why.

3. We are committed to working with (insert lead emergency response organisations) to ensure an effective response to the situation. You can get more information on the situation from (insert) at (location and/or time).

Date: 18th May 2007• Region: Australia/World •Type: Article •Topic: Crisis comms
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