The Message Box

Get Started Using
the Message Box

Download Your Own
Message Box Workbook

Join a Message Box Workshop

What is the Message Box?

A tool for crafting your message

Based in science

Iterate, distill, and practice

A versatile tool for everyone

Getting Started

Who’s Your Audience?

The Message Box

After you’ve identified your audience, you’re ready to start drafting your Message Box! You can begin anywhere. Click on the sections below to learn more about each, and download a blank Message Box to print and fill out as you go.

The Solutions Section

What can be done to address the problem?

The Solution section outlines the options for solving the problem you identified. When presenting possible solutions, consider whether they are things your audience can influence or act upon. And remind yourself of your communication goals: Why are you communicating with this audience? What are you hoping they will do?

The Benefits Section

Who does this help and how?

In the Benefit section, you list the benefits of addressing the Problem — all the good things that could happen if your Solution section is implemented. This ties into the So What of why your audience cares, but focuses on the positive results of taking action (the So What may also be a negative thing—for example, inaction could lead to consequences that your audience cares about). It’s helpful to be specific here, since concrete examples are more compelling than abstract ones.

The So What? Section

How does this impact something your audience cares about?

The crux of the Message Box, and the critical question COMPASS helps scientists answer, is “So what?” Why should your audience care about your research? The answer to this question changes from audience to audience, and you’ll need to adjust accordingly. We use the analogy of putting a message through a prism that clarifies the importance to different audiences. Each audience will be interested in different facets of your work, and you want your messages to reflect their interests and meet their needs.

The Problems Section

What specific dimension of the issue are you addressing?

The Problem is the chunk of the broader Issue that you’re addressing with your work. It’s your piece of the pie, reflecting your knowledge and area of expertise. Think about your research questions: what aspect of the specific situation you’re studying would matter to your audience? The Problem is also where you describe what you’re observing and want to address (which sets up the So What section as well).

The Issue Section

What’s the big picture?

The Issue section in the center of the box identifies the overarching issue or topic that you’re addressing. This should be very concise and clear; no more than a couple of words or a short phrase, something you’d type into a search engine. It’s the broad-strokes term for your work.


See how researchers from different fields use the Message Box to communicate with a variety of audiences


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Got your Message Box filled out? Ready to level up?


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Upcoming workshops

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Do you have more questions about the Message Box?

I’ve done a Message Box, but how can I communicate better? 

The best way to improve your communication skills is through practice—ideally with us! We offer the Message Box for free because we want every scientist to be able to communicate more effectively, but there’s no substitute for participating in one of our workshops and getting personalized, expert feedback from our team.

How do I know when my Message Box is done?

A Message Box is never really finished; it just keeps evolving as you use it. The Message Box principles may be simple, but it takes time to develop messages that will work for you and your audiences. Ultimately, you want to pare down your ideas so that each section is a few clear sentences. If you still have a paragraph, keep working to refine your messages. Remember, the “So what?” can vary depending on what each audience cares about. This can influence the problems you identify, the solutions you highlight and the benefits you emphasize. Once you feel you have distilled your research down to its essence, it’s time to practice your messages with someone else and get feedback on how they’re landing.

How many Message Boxes do I need to do?

One for each audience! Different audiences have different interests, needs, and values. You’ll want to reflect that in your messages.

How do I know if I’m doing it right? How long do people typically spend crafting their Message Boxes?

There isn’t a right or a wrong way to fill out the Message Box—it’s a tool, not a product. If it’s helping you hone in on what you need to say and how to say it in a way that is relevant for your audience, then you’re doing it right!  Crafting your messages is an iterative process. Revisions often come from feedback when you practice with others, or conversations with your intended audience—what are you learning about their interests and values? Which messages are sticking for them (and which aren’t)?  Each person’s experience is unique and changes depending on what they hope to accomplish by communicating their science and who they’re trying to share it with.

Can I share the Message Box with my colleagues?

Absolutely! We hope you will  The Message Box Workbook is provided free of charge for personal and educational use only. COMPASS retains intellectual rights to all materials; please contact us at if you seek to use the Workbook commercially.

Share Your Message Box With Us

We invite you to share your work with your community and ours! Share on social media using the hashtag #MessageBox and don’t forget to tag @COMPASSscicomm in your post.