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Tool 3

Issue Mapping

Tool_3_Issue mapping
Pfannenberg/Tessmer/Wecker: JP KOM Toolbox EN

Guiding question

How are the issues related in the minds of stakeholders?


  • Identify topic hierarchies and prioritize TARGET topics
  • Determine semantic relationships between topics
  • Recognize opportunities and risks in topics and topic connections
  • Identify starting points for the storyline


Current topics in the communication field are collected via Internet research and/or media response analysis (cf. Tool 83). Market studies can also be consulted. Guided interviews with experts and stakeholders deepen the results of the desk research.

The issue map or issue structure graphic connects terms with each other so that a semantic network is created (cf. Tool 98, Mind Mapping). The Issue Map is created from the stakeholder perspective. It hierarchizes the themes, orders them, and shows positive and negative correlations between the themes. The thickness of the dashes illustrates the correlation or frequency of common mention of topics. Plus signs indicate themes that reinforce each other positively, lightning bolts indicate conflict/contradiction potential.

The steps for debriefing are:

  1. The main theme is written in the center.
  2. The superordinate topics are arranged around the main topic and – according to the strength of the semantic connection – linked to the main topic.
  3.  The subtopics matching each of the top topics are added.
  4. Additional links between parent topics and subtopics, and between parent topics and subtopics, are noted.
  5. The theme connections are rated according to their spin (plus signs, lightning bolts).