5 Crafting a Message

Section Outcomes

In this section you will craft effective messages for the stakeholder groups you identified in your last section.

Introduction

Once you have identified project stakeholders, and have defined their needs and wants, it is time to begin to craft messages that will help to communicate with each stakeholder group. Remember, you don’t always have to craft a message for each stakeholder group, but you should craft messages for the stakeholders who are rated as highly important in your stakeholder analysis. If you have a clear description of your project, and a clear strategy for discussing it with multiple audiences, your message will flow more easily when you are asked about it. Also, if you carefully consider your messages in advance, you are more likely to be prepared to talk to almost anyone about your project.

Step One: Begin by Defining Your Goals

It is necessary to understand the overall project goals, before you can clearly message what you want to achieve with open education. Begin by defining what you want to achieve by introducing OE at your institution. The more clear your goals are, the easier it is for people to engage with your activities. “We are adopting open education in ten of our most enrolled classes in order to save students a collective $1 million in two years,” is much more effective as a message than, “We hope OE will help us to save some money for students.” You can’t always be totally specific, but if you are honest with what you want the outcome to be, and you are clear with yourself and your constituents, you have a better chance of sharing a clear vision of your goals. At early stages your goal might be to generate interest, and develop a project with more specific goals. It might help to have some suggestions for goals or project ideas that will help define what can be done in OE. This list of summaries is a description of OE incentive projects that have happened at many institutions in the US.

Step Two: Choose Your Audience

While the message is often generic, because there is a centralized theme, you should consider each audience – or stakeholder group – before you approach people with your message. It is best to craft different advocacy campaigns for each of your stakeholder groups. When you start to consider arguments for each stakeholder, consider the stakeholder analysis you did in the previous section, and try to consider what will help to support your project for each group. If it helps, consider the tenets of argumentative writing, and be sure to include appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.

Step Three: Write the Hook

The hook, for any message, is the piece that is going to make the audience want to pay attention. The hook should be short, factual, honest, direct, but compelling. The most obvious hook for students is the cost of textbooks, but that hook might not work for faculty who might consider the cost of textbooks as part of the cost of education. In your hook, try to avoid overtly provocative language that will make your audience need to argue with you. A hook that often works with faculty is reminding them of students who don’t have the textbook for the first weeks of the quarter. Hooks that work with administrators could be access to education, institutional costs for textbooks (how much are departments spending on textbooks at your institution), student satisfaction, and student persistence. Whatever hook you arrive at, be sure that you have facts that back the hook up, and make sure the hook is relatable for your audience.

Step Four: Define the Problem

What problem(s) are you trying to address with OE? Describe the problem(s) clearly and concisely. Sometimes OE can meet several needs at your institution, so try to include all of the needs that OE can fill that will interest the audience you have targeted. Be clear that OE isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, but that it can help to address some concerns that the audience faces. Be honest about challenges that will be faced when adopting OE, but also be positive that addressing these challenges can be enriching. Don’t work overly hard to address the challenges in your initial message, but try to consider all of the arguments that people might make against your definition of the problem, because you should be ready to support your argument.

Step Five: Present the Solution

Clearly define how OE will meet the problem(s) that you have outlined. Draw a map from where we are now, to how OE will change the institution/class/situation for the better. This is where you get to spell out your big plan, make it clear, but be visionary. The better your vision, and the more apparent your thoughtfulness about the steps to take toward meeting the need, the better people will respond to your version of a solution.

Step Six: Ask for What You Want

The “ask” or call to action is your chance to tell your audience what you want them to do. Try to make your call to action simple, and try to provide a “do right now” as well as a “in the long term” presentation. For example, for faculty you could ask people to share one thing about their teaching, but in the long term ask them to adopt open materials. The ask needs to be specific and your audience needs to see how their investment in your project will enrich their or their constituent’s lives. Again, the call to action part of your message will be different depending on your audience, but be ready to clarify with all of your audiences what you have asked for with other audiences.

Step Seven: Revise and Revise and Revise

Like any type of writing, revision is necessary in crafting an OE message. Ask colleagues and supporters to provide feedback on your message; be ready for the message to change as you grow your project. Finally, remember that your message should always be honest, clear, concise, and organized. The message you craft will contain elements of your overall goal, but it will also be a reflection of you and your credibility is on the line when you share this message. Consider how you want to be received by your constituents before you take your message out for the first spin. As you revise and refine your message, ask yourself, “Is this a true reflection of what I want? Will people see the real intentions behind this message?” The best messages are the ones that carry a piece of your personal passion for the topic. Audiences respond well to your well-placed passion.


 

This page was written by Quill West for Library as Open Education Leader, it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license and contains content from a variety of sources published under a variety of open licenses, including:

  • Content created by Nicole Allen and SPARC, originally published at “SPARC Resources” (CC-BY 4.0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *