The Seven Steps to Developing Message Maps

Well-constructed and accessible message maps are useful tools during an emergency that, if shared with partners and stakeholders, can support harmonized messages. Generally, message maps are designed following seven recommended steps as follows:

  • Step 1: Identify audiences (or stakeholders): Stakeholders include the general public as well as other interested parties who are in some way affected by the emergency. Examples include at-risk individuals, service providers, journalists and authorities. The list of stakeholders for a message map generally includes more parties than the intended audiences of a SBCC strategy. As the emergency evolves, in fact, the communication response becomes more focused through a SBCC strategy in which primary and influencing audiences are identified.
  • Step 2: Identify anticipated questions and/or concerns of stakeholders: A list should be developed of potential questions and concerns relating to the emergency that each major group of stakeholders is likely to have.
  • Step 3: Identify frequent concerns: From the list of questions and concerns produced under point 2, select the most common categories of underlying concerns for each stakeholder. These common concerns will form the first level of the message map. Examples of common categories include health risks, safety, environment, ethics, livestock or pets, religion.
  • Step 4: Develop key messages: For each concern, identify a maximum of three key messages that respond to it. These key messages make up the second layer of the message map. More information about message development is provided later in this Unit.
  • Step 5: Develop supporting information: For each key message identified in step 4, identify key supporting facts.
  • Step 6: Conduct pretesting: The pretest should be conducted both with technical experts to ensure that the information is factually correct, and with representatives of the target stakeholder group to ensure that it is understood and received as intended. 
  • Step 7: Share and deliver the maps: The maps need to be shared and distributed among partners and parties involved in communication to promote delivery of harmonized messages from all sources of information.

Message maps are live documents that need to be reviewed and updated regularly as the emergency evolves. The following link provide more information about message maps: