Building A Message

Introducing people to a new way of thinking about an issue means carefully considering the our messages—and particularly how they begin. We suggest building messages with the following structure.

Value, Problem, Solution, Action! 

  • Lead with values and vision. Starting with shared values helps audiences to “hear” our messages more effectively than do dry facts or emotional rhetoric.  
  • Then introduce the problem. Frame problems as a threat to our vision and values. This is the place to pull out stories and statistics that are likely to resonate with the target audience. Where possible, include the cause of the problem, as well as who is responsible for fixing it.
    • Frame problems as threats to shared values. For example, limiting voting rights is a threat to equality and voice. Our flawed immigration policies are threats to opportunity, equality, and community. Eliminating affirmative action policies is a threat to equal opportunity.
    • Choose facts carefully. We all have a lot of evidence to support our claims. However, facts do not tend to change minds if the facts are not couched in values. After priming audiences with values, present one or two pieces of evidence that make your case. Break facts and statistics down to manageable pieces of information, into stories that people can digest.
  • Pivot quickly to solutions. Positive solutions leave people with choices, ideas, and motivation. Assign responsibility—who can enact this solution?
    • Make sure your solution fits the problem you have posed. For example, if you have painted a picture of harsh conditions on the U.S.–Mexico border and the resulting migrant deaths that occur there, federal immigration policy reform may not sound like the right solution to your audiences. You will need to connect more dots to get your audiences to your policy solutions.
  • Assign an action. What can this specific target audience do? Try to give them something concrete, that they can even picture themselves doing: making a phone call, sending an email. Steer clear of vague “learn more” messages, when possible.

Build Your Own Message here!