Blog | Jun 12, 2013 | 1 Comment

A Simple but Powerful Framework for Messaging

Last week, I attended a webinar by SpitFire Strategies about communications planning for nonprofits. One section was devoted to messaging, and it was by far the simplest and most powerful framework I’ve seen yet.

Quick reminder: there is much work to be done before you start composing messages. You first have to set objectives, define your positions on the issues that affect your work, identify your audiences and decision makers, and really understand their core concerns. Then you’re ready for messaging.

Here is the framework – and you can start anywhere in this list. You’ll need separate frameworks for each audience segment. THERE IS NO GENERAL PUBLIC. You must segment.

Value – This is what makes them nod in agreement when they hear it. It taps into a core concern.

Barrier – Your response when someone says “Yes, but…” to the value statement. Here’s a hot tip: The message should take the objection into account but never repeat it in your message. That’s why the “Myths and Facts” approach fails; the myth is what gets embedded in the reader’s brain.

Ask – One specific thing you want them to do. Remember that sometimes you will have to be very narrow in your ambitions. But actions build on each other over time.

Vision – Think of this as the answer to “So what?” It’s what the community or the world will look like after the change you ask for has been made.

Here is a great example. This came from SpitFire’s work with an organization opposed to the death penalty.

Value – Innocent people shouldn’t be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die.

Barrier – More than 100 have since 1976.

Ask – Provide DNA testing to everyone accused of a capital crime.

Vision – We will have a more fair justice system.

Another reason I love this framework? It lends itself so well to infographics; simple visual statements could be paired with each message set.

What messaging framework do you use? What do you think of this one?



Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

One Comment

Very helpful, Claire! So simple to follow. How about you keep attending webinars and give us the take-aways 🙂


Suzanne Oehler


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