Queensland Stay On Your Feet® - Toolkit Phase 2 Key messages
What are key messages?
Key messages are the messages you want your audience to hear, read, remember, react and relate to [153, 154]. They are the words that you will use in your project/program communication materials including flyers, fact sheets, invitations, media releases, newspaper articles, websites and newsletters [154, 155]. They are linked to your project/program goals, objective and strategies. It is recommended to develop no more than seven key messages and to review these messages as your project /program develops .
Key messages are:
- concise (avoid jargon and acronyms) 
- active (make every sentence active) 
- positive (talk about what people can do, not what they can't) 
- short (one memorable sentence, 10 to15 seconds to say) 
- specific (address a particular challenge and audience) 
- believable (supported by facts or evidence) 
- understood by the target group and key stakeholders 
- focused on benefits 
- relevant to the target group .
Developing key messages
One way to develop a key message is by using the following formula :
Claim (what you want people to believe)
- Claim: Staying active and improving your balance helps you to stay on your feet.
- Fact + example: Research shows that physical activity that includes balance exercises is the most effective falls prevention strategy. For example, falls were significantly reduced in older people who participated in Tai Chi classes twice a week.
Before you can develop key messages, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your target group.
Know your target group
Participation in falls prevention programs and the uptake of the interventions is low [147, 148, 149, 150, 151]. A number of studies have been conducted around the world to gain a better understanding of the best way to communicate information to older people about preventing falls. These studies identified why falls prevention advice is often dismissed and offer suggestions on how to develop messages that will be more acceptable to the target group.
Why falls prevention advice is often dismissed
Studies show the term ‘falls prevention’ is considered to be about reducing hazards and mobility aids [147, 150]. The word ‘falls’ has strong negative connotations and is linked to being old, frail and dependent and possibly having a drinking problem [100, 150].
Other reasons why older people dismiss falls prevention advice include:
- have other key issues of more concern 
- lack of understanding of the personal (intrinsic) risk factors for falls or feel that it is not possible to change these causes 
- focus only on the external (extrinsic) risk factors which they feel they have more control over 
- they believe falls are an inevitable part of growing old and not likely to happen to them 
- information is unsuitable for their situation or incompatible with other important objectives such as convenience and practicality 
- feel that nothing can be done .
How do we persuade people to take up falls prevention?
Messages with the following characteristics are seen as more acceptable to older people:
- choice is offered eg. individual and group activities 
- advice is tailored to the person’s situation and capabilities 
- uses the word ‘trips’ instead of ‘falls’ 
Who can give the message?
The sender of a health message must be acceptable by the target group in order for them to consider adopting the message. Studies have shown that key information sources for older people about falls prevention include:
- other health professionals eg. community nurses and podiatrists 
- government departments, particularly health and aged services 
|"A few years ago, I had some back steps with no rail but it didn’t worry me. I had a friend who rang one day and she said 'I have fallen down the back step'. She was ringing to tell me to get a rail down my back steps straight away. And that was ten years ago. And so, often I think of her and say "thanks" as I pull myself up the rail" - Female, aged 76-85 years. |
Where will older people access messages?
Studies show that older people access falls prevention information from the following people and places:
- doctors surgeries, pharmacies, community meeting places and libraries 
- local newspapers, including the community newspaper and other community newsletters 
- radio, television and current affairs programs 
- talks at various clubs or community centres as older people attend for social interaction outside the home as well as learning 
- preferred communication channels include verbal, handwritten, electronic or demonstration. Ideally available in more than one format .