Between September and January 2018, I give 6 workshops Science journalism and communication at the Radboud University Nijmegen. In such workshops, I show how crucial a key message is to organizing a story. A key-message is the take-home-message, the sentence you find at the top of the stories in newspapers and journals, the key information you want your audience remember from your article or your speech. The Economist is excellent in developing clear and appealing key messages.
In my case, the key message type from most of my stories is news, for instance the news: ‘Dutch researchers cultivate pork from stem cells’, or Institute X has developed a model to improve Y. But sometimes there is no news. So what should we do?
A few months ago I found nice information about an alternative key message type at the AAAS site with tips for science communicators:. The American research organization AAAS calls this key message type a ‘3-point message’. According to the accompanying video, the 3-point message is a great way to structure our stories. For each story, we should simply choose the points that are most relevant for our audience: three important aspects of our project, three interesting research results, three questions that remain unanswered, three reasons why someone should work at your laboratory and so on.
Step one is telling the audience why these three points are important to them, which answers on their question they solve. Accordingly, you elaborate on each point, step by step, using appealing details and images. Coincidentally, I had employed this approach without knowing the term 3-point message in my former blog ‘Excellent talkers are self-confident and choose one key message’ – I had elaborated on three characteristics of excellent talkers.
Once you are aware of the existence of the x-point message, you will see them ‘everywhere’. Here is a good example of a ‘5-point message’, used in a plea for more investments in agriculture.
A ‘6-point message’ is employed by Shell to communicate its research into cities and their energy needs.
So next time when you are struggling with a lot of information, try it! The x-point message will definitely make it easier to comment on your story. ‘Concerning point one….’, ‘Concerning point 2….’