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Key Messages

Key messages are the priority ideas, based on organizational goals, that organizations hope their target audiences will remember. These messages should be clear and written in language the target audience relates to and understands.

This is why understanding the level of knowledge about nuclear issues is important, and why it should be illustrated through stakeholder mapping exercises undertaken early in the planning process (Stakeholder Analysis). Key messages allow all those involved in the communication effort to be on the same page by issue, reducing the possibility of sending out mixed messages that can confuse the listener, or worse, create conflicting messages that make the organization seem poorly managed effecting credibility.

Follow these basic guidelines when developing key messages:

  • Determine the audience’s current awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards the issue.
  • Determine the response wanted from the target audiences:
    • Is it educating or informing people, or
    • Is it trying to change attitudes or behaviour?
  • There is a limit to the number of messages which can be communicated successfully. Limit the number (between three and five) and complexity of your key messages, and vary the message depending on the nature and level of knowledge of the target audience and the aim relative to the questions above.
  • Keep messages consistent. Make sure everyone is communicating the same message.
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms, and keep the message concise, using everyday language.
  • Keep the message short, with one memorable sentence that takes 10-15 seconds to say if delivered verbally, or if written, to read.
  • Make the message specific to the target audience.
  • Be clear on what not to say!

It is advisable to test messages with intended audiences to ensure that they are understandable and effective.

Key messages assert the viewpoint of the organization. They are opinions that should be able to be backed up with proof. The only way to find these key messages is to repeatedly ask “Why? How?", etc.

For example:

  • Why is nuclear power needed?”- Talk about climate change, energy security, etc.
  • How will use of nuclear benefit society?” – Talk about jobs, energy security, quality of life, etc.
  • Why is a repository needed?” – Talk about the existence of wastes from both energy generation and medical uses, responsibility to future generations
  • Why here?” – Talk about safety, suitable geological conditions, community benefits

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