Message Mapping Reference Card

Answers the
question
Key messages must answer your
problem statement/question.
No unnecessary
absolutes
Avoid unnecessary absolutes.
Eliminate use of words such as “all,”
“always,” and “every.”
No unnecessary
negatives
Use positive words and phrases.
Eliminate unnecessary words and
phrases with negative connotations.
Stand alone
Make your key message stand on its
own without any other messages or
supporting information.
AGL-4
During times of high stress, individuals retain only key messages written 4 grade levels below
the average reading grade level. Supporting information is more effective when written 2
grade levels below the average reading grade level. Write your key message at 4 reading
grade levels below that of the stakeholder. In the United States, the average Reading Grade
Level is 10th Grade.
Primacy/Recency
In terms of ease of recall, individuals remember the first message they hear, followed by the
last message they hear. The hardest message for individuals to remember is the middle
message. Key Message 3 should be your second most important message.
P=(R)+(E) (Perception =
Reality + Emotion)
Perceptions of risk are equal to the reality of the situation, plus the emotional factors of the
stakeholder (i.e., Perception = Reality + Emotion). Factors other than the risk can influence
people’s perception of the risk. Risks are more feared when perceived as: Involuntary or
imposed, unfair, inescapable, unfamiliar, man-made, threatening children, or controlled by
those perceived to be untrustworthy.
Basic 27/9/3 Template
The Basic 27/9/3 template works well in nearly all situations. The majority of templates are
based on the Basic 27/9/3. Strive to limit Key Messages to 9 words. The combined word
count of Key Messages 1, 2, and 3 should be 27 words. A proper name counts as 1 word.
1N=3P
When you use a negative word, phrase, or connotation, follow it with three positive messages.
Negative messages carry more weight that positive messages. Thus, it takes three positive
messages to equal one negative message.
27/9/3
Rule 27/9/3 states that the combination of the supporting information for a key message
should equal a total of 27 words, 9 seconds spoken aloud, and 3 key messages. Each
supporting information should average 9 words. Proper names count as one word.
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