Step 1 – Key Message Development

Politicians in particular tend to know a little about a number of things (that’s the nature of their job), so this requires you to take an array of information and break it down to its simplest form.

One way to quickly and succinctly communicate is through the development and delivery of key messages that explain the core points of each issue in easy to understand language. Key messages represent the essence of what you want a decision-maker to remember and respond to around the issues presented to them. Don’t forget, this person is hearing from you and many others all the time, so your words need to stand out.

Here are some hints for writing out your key messages:

1. Identification:

  • Decide what issues you want to advocate for, and then craft corresponding key messages to support your position. This requires you to take an array of information and distill it down to its simplest form.
  • If you’re doing this as a group, consensus on the issues will be important, because people may have varying perspectives.
  • Remember to separate fact from fiction or opinions.

2. Framing:

  • Write out 3 key messages that explain the salient points of your issue in simple language (each issue will have 3 corresponding key messages).
  • Each key message should be 25 words or less.
  • They must be clear, compelling, concise and consistent.
  • Practice presenting your key messages to someone with no knowledge of your issues to ensure that you’ve simplified them enough.
  • Your first key message should contain who you are, what your issue is and explain your link to the issue. An example would be ‘I am Mary Smith, a kidney cancer patient from Ottawa who is concerned about access to medications for myself and others’. With that basic content established, you can then go on to develop two subsequent messages that suit whichever issue you’ve decided to highlight.

3. Knowing Who to Advocate to:

  • Understand if your issues fall within federal, provincial or local jurisdiction, or some combination.
  • If you’re advocating to government and you do not already have existing relationships with your local representatives, contact them and introduce yourself.
  • Do the same with any locally-based bureaucrats (including municipal/regional government staff people) and political staffers that may have an impact on your issues.
  • Create a written contact plan, listing all of the decision-makers to whom you need to deliver your 3 key messages.

4. Knowing When to Advocate:

  • Timing is everything – if your issues are in the media and top of mind for decision-makers, that is the moment you should make your views known.
  • Newly elected politicians often look for issues to run with – try to position your issues as ones they should consider taking on as their own.
  • At election time, make sure you approach all of your local candidates with your issues if you’re advocating to government, not just the person seeking re-election.

Step 2 – Advocacy Tools

Kidney Cancer Canada