Vincent T. Covello, Ph.D.
One of the most important tools available to a risk communicator is the "message map." A message
map is a roadmap for displaying detailed, hierarchically organized responses to anticipated questions
or concerns. It is a visual aid that provides at a glance the organization's messages for high concern or
controversial issues. Developing and using message maps achieves several important risk
(1) identifying stakeholders early in the communication process
(2) anticipating stakeholder questions and concerns before they are raised
(3) organizing our thinking and developing prepared messages in response to anticipated
stakeholder questions and concerns
(4) developing key messages and supporting information within a clear, concise, transparent, and
(5) promoting open dialogue about messages both inside and outside the organization
(6) providing user friendly guidance to spokespersons
(7) ensuring that the organization has a central repository of consistent messages
(8) encouraging the organization to speak with one voice.
• Developing a limited number of key messages:
ideally 3 key messages or one key message with three parts for each underlying concern or
specific question (conciseness)
• Keeping individual key messages brief: ideally less than 3 seconds or less than 9 words for
each key message and less than 9 seconds and 27 words for the entire set of three key
• Developing messages that are clearly understandable by the target audience: typically at the
6th to 8th grade readability level for communications to the general public (clarity).
Module 7: Risk Communication