The Message Map: A Tool to Prepare for Media Interviews

The media interview process can be stressful, even for the most seasoned of professionals.

Luckily, there are some tools available that can help you to remember your key points when the camera is turned ‘on.’

One of those tools is a Message Map.

There are several variations of a Message Map that you can see with a quick Google search, but I’ll show you a format that I’ve used in the past with some success.

In this article, we’ll discuss what a Message Map is, how to use it and to make one for yourself.

What is a Message Map?

A message map is a tool that you can use before an interview to help you remember your main talking points.

It can help you stay on point and remember the items you want to communicate when speaking with your interviewer.

It is a one-page document that contains your top-level message and a series of supporting talking points.

Additionally, it should have some additional information such as context, facts or data, and maybe a story to verbally illustrate your point.

The Message Map is especially helpful for visual learners because you should ‘see’ the map and its components in your head when sitting in front of the interviewer trying to remember your main points.

Here is a version I’ve used in the past.

The circle in the center contains the Top Line Message or the one thing you need to communicate.

Your supporting Talking Points are arranged around the sides. In this example, I have space for six Talking Points, but feel free to customize the number of talking points that the interviewee is comfortable with.

How Do I use a Message Map?

You start in the center of the document with your top-level message.

The Top-Level message is the one thing that you want the interviewer to remember about your discussion once the interview is complete.

The goal is to start at Talking Point 1 and eventually work your way clockwise around the map until you’ve hit all of your talking points.

So what happens when you get flustered or off-topic?

You go back to the center of the page and hit your top-level message, and then work back out to one of the other talking points.

Your talking points can either be

a) something you proactively want to communicate during the interview, or

b) something you know will be asked and you want to be prepared for, or reactive.

Feel free to adjust the number of proactive vs reactive talking points depending upon how friendly or unfriendly the interview is expected to be.

How Do I Create a Message Map?

A Message Map can be easily created on a PowerPoint slide, or feel free to get creative and use something like Photoshop to make it look even nicer.

The most important thing about creating the Message Map is not the tool you use to create it, it’s whether or not the content on the page helps the interviewee.

If the interviewee can only remember four talking points, then don’t create a map with eight talking points.

If the interviewee likes to have lots of info a data and can remember that during the interview rehearsal, then by all means add that information into each section.

The bottom line is that the Message Map should be customized to each individual.

Use my version, or any other version, as a starting point and personalize for the individual it every time.


This post may contain affiliate links. Click here for my disclaimer.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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