Agriculture Communication


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Creating Key Messages

Key messages are at the heart of your educational efforts. These clear, concise messages directly communicate with your audience, telling them not what you want them to learn, but what you want them to do. Keep asking yourself what you want your audience to do to achieve the long-term goals of your program and how you want them to go about doing it. Your key messages should answer those questions.

In Extension, we’re famous for information overload, so for your key messages, you should narrow down your educational focus. Here is an example.

Topic: USDA MyPlate
Goal: "improving the health of our country through diet and in many cases reversing childhood obesity."  - Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Bad Key Messages

  1. Eat healthier
  2. Eat a little more than 25% vegetables, a little less than 25% fruits, a little more than 25% grains and a little less than 25% proteins at each meal
  3. Learn more about food and nutrition

Message 1 is not an effective key message because it is vague. It tells people what you want them to do, but it does not tell them how.

Message 2 is ineffective because it is too complex. There are simply too many things that you are asking people to do. Even if each of those actions items were broken into it's own key message, people would view the change as too hard or too complicated and take no action at all.

Message 3 is not an effective key message because it does not result in any change. It will do little or nothing to improve health or reduce childhood obesity.

Better Key Messages

  • Eat 50% fruits and vegetables
  • Use smaller plates to help you eat less

These messages are better because:

  • they focus on what to do and how to do it
  • they give people one thing to do, making the change seem easier
  • they will have a direct impact on the program goals
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