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Message mapping can help you construct the right message during a critical event

    Technology is advancing every day – people expect data and information to be available and ready when needed. Having an emergency notification system that simply blasts out messages is not acceptable anymore, nor is it acceptable to “wing it” when creating messages. It is key to have a process in place well in advance to avoid any hurdles that could, and will, arise.
    Did you know, during a stressful situation, most people’s reading comprehension drops four grade levels, to typically around a 6th grade level? It is vital to take this into consideration when crafting messages.  As the sender, you have to do your very best to ensure your audience is not just receiving the message, but understanding it. Crafting clear, concise messages is key, and make sure to watch your tone. Some phrases can have a double meaning, or sound sarcastic without being intentional.
    Remember who you’re talking to – while templates are important, don’t just have generic messages for everyone. DR. Vincent T. Covello emphasizes the importance of different messages for different individuals in his paper, Message Mapping, Risk and Crisis Communication. For example, stakeholders in an emergency might include:

    • Victims

    • Victim families

    • Government agencies (all levels)

    • Emergency response personnel

    These different groups and individuals need to be delivered information different ways. During the Boston bombings, for example, EMTs were given messages of where to pick up and deliver patients, while law enforcement was notified of the situation and sought possible suspects in order to protect other civilians.  These groups and individuals were also updated as the situation progressed with information that mattered and was relevant to them. Don’t forget people don’t respond or receive messages the same way either. Someone who works on the road is more likely to answer his/her cell than check an email, while the opposite might be true for a secretary. The key is to get the right message to the right person at the right time and elicit the right response.

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