Message box

The message box method helps you formulate a message based on the problem as experienced and articulated by the target audience. Use it to check that the way you formulate your message, your solution and the proposed benefits of that solution do indeed correspond to the problem the target audience is experiencing.

The message box method, which has its roots in scientific communication, has been adapted for use in government communication by Carola de Vree.

Five steps

  1. Put the target audience’s problem into words. If, for example, you’re working on improving care for the elderly, the main problem for nursing home staff may be a heavy workload.
  2. Why is the problem important or pressing for the target audience?
  3. How can you help? What do you plan to do? 
  4. What will be the benefit of your actions?
  5. The test: Will what you plan to do solve the other party’s problem? Or will it at least have a positive impact?


  • Try to use the target audience’s words.
  • In step 3, be sure not to give more arguments than necessary. Arguments or solutions that don’t correspond to what the target audience views as the problem will not connect with them and may even cause new problems.

How to use a message box

  • If the answer to the question in step 5 is negative, you will need to discuss whether the actions and/or solutions you propose are the right ones. Obviously this is a question that must be answered by those parties who are substantively involved in the project.
  • What you learn from the message box can be used as the basis for a message aimed at a particular target audience, perhaps at a specific time. Keep in mind that there may be different messages for different target audiences.
  • You can use various messages to build a message house.