Master of the house

If you want to present in harmony with the seven C’s, then a message house is a great and simple tool for defining and structuring your messages, synchronizing them with others and making them remembered by your audience. A proper message house ensures that everyone in your company or community communicates with one single voice, tells the same story and emphasizes on the same key messages.

I am aware that there are different methods for building a house, such as the one promoted by, but personally I stick to the Burson-Marsteller one.


It has a three-layered architecture, and looks more like an ancient Greek temple than the homes in the street where I live.

  • The roof of the house contains your overarching message (also called the “umbrella statement”) or the big picture of what the whole story is about.
  • The pillars of the temple stand for your key messages that support the umbrella message (following the rule of three, there should be no more than 3 key messages to push for).
  • The foundation of the building contains value statements and proof points that may be useful for justifying your key messages: market trends, statistics, facts & figures, quotes, anecdotes, best practices, customer references, …

When properly constructed, it is almost straightforward to transform this message house into a skeleton for your presentation. The umbrella statement translates to an opening statement that will trigger interest for your key messages. Use the foundation to add evidence to your story or and prepare for Q&A.

If you don’t like visualizing your message map as a house: a tree-like or a matrix-like representation with a similar, three-layered structure will also do the job. Have a look at Carmine Gallo’s video on “how to pitch anything in 15 seconds.”

Here’s an example of a message house I built for a communication campaign that was promoting an “Economic Response Services Package” (ERSP), which bundled a set of professional services to provide a response to the financial crisis that started hitting telecom operators in 2008.


  • Umbrella statement:

“Our services package lets telecom operators RESPOND to the global financial crisis and PREPARE for new business after the economy recovers.”

  • Key messages:

“We ASSESS your current operations and ADVISE you on how to optimize your network assets, services portfolio and related costs”.

“We ADDRESS your challenges, through a comprehensive offer of network & system integration services.”

“We ANTICIPATE economic recovery, and let you strike the right balance between saving costs, satisfying market demand and preparing for new business.”

  • Foundation (examples):

“The global economic picture remains bleak. Many operators have reduced spending. While new devices and applications push network capacity constraints.”

“We’re all trying to conserve cash, and I think now is a perfect time to look at energy costs.” – quote by a VP of Operator X

“We have already carried out more than 3,000 network optimization and design projects for over 100 service providers and 1,000 for enterprises.”

Operator Y had low budget and no dedicated team to address their network issues. We provided them services to assess their network quality and gave them implementation advice. Our implementation lead to a %% capacity gain and a bottom-line increase of $$$.”

Finally, we made the ERSP messaging different by presenting our services as a set of instruments, medicines and remedies that we put at our customers’ disposal for the purpose of treating these exceptional market conditions. And consequently, we built our visual campaign around medical metaphors …


It takes three to tango

Already in the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle formulated his theory on the three persuasive appeals: ethos, pathos and logos. Since then, Aristotle’s rhetoric has become one of the foundations of public speaking and, as such, an equilibrated mix of the 3 ingredients should be considered a prerequisite for any well told story.

In an article on the GMK10 pages, a fragment from the movie Braveheart illustrates how Scottish hero William Wallace is appealing to Aristotle’s elements.

Humans like structure and lists. But their capability to recall the things you tell them is often limited to a few items. Two points don’t say enough, while four are often too many to remember. So three it should be.

As already stated and illustrated in my November 7th blog post about Obama and the rule of three, series of 3 have been used by famous speakers like Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs and Barack Obama.

In his book about “the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs”, Carmine Gallo attributes a complete chapter to the rule of three, calling it “one of the most powerful principles of persuasion”.

“So few communicators incorporate the rule of three in their presentations that you will stand apart simply by doing so. The rule of three—it works for the marines, it works for Jobs, and it will work for you.”

For more reading about the rule of three, you may also check out blog posts by Brian Clark and Andrew Dlugan.

And finally, there is another three-tuple you should always keep in mind as a presenter. Wise words by American writer, lecturer and public speaking teacher Dale Carnegie:

“There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”