Developing and Using Key Messages About Your Public Report: Strategic
You can approach discussions about your public report in a
number of ways when it is released to the community. But building agreement
before the report is public regarding the best way to talk about the report
will yield several benefits. Using agreed-upon key messages will clarify and reduce
the white noise of different and potentially conflicting messages. This is essential
when releasing your first public report, as you only have one chance to make a
good first impression.
- Clarify important
issues by developing key messages. Without a specific discussion, leaders
in your Collaborative will likely have different answers to basic questions
such as "why are we producing this
report?" and "how exactly do we
expect this report to be used once it is public?" These questions will be asked
when your report is public, so developing simple, straightforward, and honest
answers to these questions is important. Your Collaborative has one chance
make a good first impression, so this discussion is best done with stakeholder
leaders before the report is public.
When developing key messages, consider your long-term vision, but focus
primarily on a realistic assessment of the report content as it stands now.
- Reduce white
noise. With key messages developed or approved by a multistakeholder group
of communication experts and other leaders within your Collaborative, you and
your stakeholder partners can be more consistent in the content of the various
communications from each organization (Toolkit Resource 3a). Without key
messages, the likelihood of conflicting messages increases and the resulting "white
noise" will confuse the public or cause them to miss the entire event.
- Avoid unnecessary
controversy. Without shared key messages, stakeholder groups will avoid
saying anything or will develop their own ways to talk about the report. The
different and possibly conflicting perspectives about the purpose, value, and
use of the report could be used by reporters looking for controversy and
conflict for their stories. You are more likely to have a smooth and effective
rollout of your report if you take the time to develop clear, agreed-upon key
messages in advance.
- Keep key
messages simple. Key messages make communication easier. If people have
three or four simple points to focus on—whether in media interviews, press
releases, newsletter articles, or presentations—they are far more likely to get
the main points across when communicating about the public report. Key messages
will help a wide range of people become better and more effective communicators
about the public report.
With some advance work done by stakeholder leaders and
communication experts along with your Collaborative, you can create a path
forward with key messages that makes a wide range of communication efforts more
effective and, as a side benefit, much easier. Go to Toolkit Resource 4b for a
potential template for your key messages, based on work done by the Puget Sound
Health Alliance for their first public report in 2009.
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