Plan Element #3: Preparing Messages and Talking Points
Shaping and Framing Issues
By shaping its own messages, a local health department can control much of the conversation about itself and its activities. Clear, well-constructed messages help people break through information overload and choose among many different sources of information.
In general, a message consisting of approximately two sentences should convey a complete idea and satisfy the following criteria:
The message helps frame the issue for the audience. Framing an issue suggests a cause and effect—either the harmful force that endangers health (such as asbestos or risky agricultural practices), or the beneficial force that can improve health (such as nutrition education or substance abuse treatment). Framing also can depict the magnitude of a problem. Often metaphors are useful in framing.
Those tips also apply to developing talking points for a high-level presenter or spokesperson. It’s especially important to avoid jargon; use plain language that will be understandable and interesting to a health reporter, elected official, consumer, or colleague from another field. Research shows that audiences give greater credence and respect to experts who express ideas in simple terms than to those who indulge in a lot of technical terminology.
Tip: Choose your Messenger Carefully
The public listens to individual people who bring persuasive messages, not organizations.
Consider these examples of relatively powerful and weak messages: