Advocacy Guide

Using the Media:  What is Your Message?

Every successful media campaign has one central component: a compelling message. Big organizations hire high-priced media consultants and pollsters to determine which messages work the best with the public. Most small groups don't have the time or the resources to hire consultants. Therefore, it is up to you and your organization to determine what your group's message will be.

A message is not an issue. A message is not a slogan. A message is not a strategy. A message is not two pages long. A message is specific information presented as a comparison to a part of the general public who:

  • Need to be mobilized or energized.
  • Haven't made up their minds on an issue.


Play devil's advocate when building your message. Try to imagine what the average person, who doesn't follow United Nations issues, would think about what you are trying to convey. Always keep the message simple and easy to understand. Convey the message by themes. And, most important, keep your message short enough to fit into a fifteen-second "sound-bite." This is a concise way to encapsulate your message so the press easily reports it.

The following is an example of a simple and effective message:

We should honor our commitments. (In reference to US financial commitments to the UN.)

A theme is the building block for an effective message. Themes help prove your message to the public. An example is the following:

The US government, through the Helms-Biden agreement, has agreed to pay 25% of UN Peacekeeping costs. Now, some Members of Congress are advocating that we don't pay our agreed share of peacekeeping costs. (This theme builds on our message "We should honor our commitments.")

A message should fit on a 3x5-inch card and be no longer than a couple of sentences. It shouldn't be a page long, nor should it be one word. Be as creative as possible with themes, but your message should remain constant, always keeping your target audience in mind.

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