Project Practitioners > Mapping Your Project Message

Mapping Your Project Message

By Kent McDonald

One of the really enjoyable aspects of project work is the opportunity to apply tools and techniques from other fields to leading projects. The other day I found out about a technique, used frequently in crisis management, known as message mapping. Whether or not your project is in a crisis (or even perceived to be), message mapping provides a helpful way of organizing your communication about a potentially controversial change introduced by your project.

One way to describe a message map is targeted Frequently Asked Questions (that's my simplistic view). Another way to describe message maps 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.” (Message Mapping, Risk and Crisis Communication)

To create a message map (from Message Mapping, Risk and Crisis Communication):

  1. Identify stakeholders who are most affected or interested in the outcome of your project.

  2. Identify a complete list of concerns or questions you expect each stakeholder to have.

  3. Analyze the list of concerns and questions to identify a general list of underlying concerns shared across stakeholder groups.

  4. Develop a list of key messages in response to each underlying concern.

  5. Develop supporting facts and proofs for each key message

  6. Test your message with subject matter experts to ensure the validity of the data in the message map.

  7. Plan for the delivery of the message.

You may not need to follow as rigorous a mind mapping process as crisis management teams do for your next project, but giving some thought to your key stakeholders, their major concerns, and how you will address them will prepare you well for rolling out your next project communication. And hopefully by using this approach to plan ahead, you can actually avoid a project crisis.

Thanks to Heather Hassebroek for introducing me to this technique.

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