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Key messages and message integrity as concepts and metrics in communication evaluation

Craig E. Carroll (Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, NY, USA)
Nell C. Huang-Horowitz (Department of Communication, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, USA)
Brooke Weberling McKeever (School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)
Natalie Williams (School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to introduce the concepts of key messages and key message integrity, and examines their viability for communication management scholars and practitioners in evaluating media relations activities. Key message integrity addresses not only what messages transfer, but also how well.


The authors analyzed 18 nonprofit organizations’ key messages and the messages’ integrity levels using content analysis on one month of their news coverage. In-depth interviews with eight of their media relations practitioners helped validate the concepts and the results.


The authors found five unique categories and functions of key messages: information concerned with dissemination, raison d’être concerned with purpose, categories concerned with positioning, resource management concerned with accounting for resources, and social relevance concerned with legitimacy. Findings also revealed varying levels of transmission and message integrity across the categories. Interviews revealed insights into challenges for communicating organizational key messages to the news media.


This study lays the foundation for additional research on key messages and key message integrity as useful metrics for communication management scholars and practitioners.



E. Carroll, C., C. Huang-Horowitz, N., Weberling McKeever, B. and Williams, N. (2014), "Key messages and message integrity as concepts and metrics in communication evaluation", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 386-401.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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