Connections Lab Knowledge Center
Tools for activists, candidates and organizations
Tools for activists, candidates and organizations
Did you seek out this opportunity or were you asked? Were you drawn in by a friend or relative? Why did you step up?
You’ll be meeting a lot of folks now that you are active. Just who are you likely to meet?
Just how do I fit into all this?
“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
– Will Rogers
Having party power means being the party.
Things progressives care about won’t happen if we don’t elect candidates to office who share our values.
Voter Contact Audio
Rallies and protests do two things very well; they bring attention to an issue and build community among activists. However they are not very effective in getting people to vote for our candidates. The fact is that we must contact voters person-to-person.
But voter contact can be intimidating -You’re pushed out the door with an invariably bad script and told to talk to people you don’t know about candidates you may know little about.
You also know you don’t know all the facts about every issue. You fear you’ll be embarrassed if the voter asks you about something you don’t know. Now of course the voter thinks the same thing. Not a great way to start a conversation.
As it turns out, conversations about facts and logic are far less effective than conversations about values and emotions. That’s good news; everyone can have a values conversation!
Politics is all about right and wrong. Is it right to pollute the environment just because you stand to benefit financially? Is it wrong to deny health care to people who cannot afford to pay for it? Isn’t it right to make sure every child gets quality pre-K education so they are prepared to learn?
Moral frames determine how we think and feel about issues.
With a little practice, you’ll find that keeping your voter contact in a moral dimension is far easier and more effective than memorizing everything about every issue. And voters will feel relieved because they can join you in a substantive conversation.
OK, you’re in. Now what?
Introducing: The Voters!
The four phases of voter contact.
More detailed below.
A good walk, pleasant conversation -what’s not to like! Here’s a checklist for a successful doorknock.
Intro audio, more detailed below.
You can’t see them, they can’t see you. How do you have a conversation?
Short audio; more detailed below.
Candidates and others will be doing a lot of distance interviews. It’s more important than ever to know how to look and sound your best online.
Your WIN number is the number of votes required to win your district which will, of course be 50%+1 of the number of voters turning out to vote in your election.
How will you know how many voters will vote if they haven’t even voted yet!? Calculating a win number is both a science and an art.
Your state’s Secretary of State will have vote totals from previous elections for the specific office you are running for. Take a look at the last four races and consider these factors:
Knowing your win number helps track your efforts during the campaign as you knock on doors and make phone calls. Knowing the factors that got you to that number will help if a factor changes significantly during the campaign.
Lastly you’ll be asked for this number when you’re talking with big donors and endorsing organizations. Delegates and donors like to support candidates who do their homework!
Thanks to Deb Pitzrick for her insight on win numbers!
Many first time candidates have a great deal of drive and passion to run, but not enough knowledge about what it really takes to run for office. It will take hard work and most of your time. You’ll ask for a good deal of help and patience from friends and family. You will need to identify supporters and turn them into delegates for your endorsement. You will need to door knock thousands of doors and spend a great deal of your time begging for donations. It will take a knowledge of the way your chosen party works and how to work it. If you are not willing to do that much work, you shouldn’t run. Running for office is a big deal and not for the unprepared; you’ll need to go into this with a lot more than a sincere desire to make a difference.
Conventional wisdom says that it takes three campaigns before you win anything. Think carefully before you shoot for an up-ballot race. School board, city council or parks commissioner races (down-ballot) are great for first time candidates. There is, however, an insiders name for unknown first time candidates with no money or experience whose very first campaign is a run for Congress: “sacrificial lamb”. You need experienced volunteers and they’re unlikely to give up weekends and evenings for someone who has not gained the experience to win. Talk to candidates, leaders and activists with experience campaigning for the office you seek to be sure you are really right for it this time around.
Successful races generally need three things: campaign experience, name recognition and sufficient funds. Or any two of the above as long as one is sufficient funds. It’s a sad fact that it takes money to win. Do you know how much money you’ll need? Party people can help with that number. Can you come into the race with commitments for a third to half of what you’ll need before you ask for an endorsement? Lastly, if you are counting on the party to give you money, understand that there are legal limits on how much they can give you -and that number is surprisingly small.
This process will/should eat up almost all of your time during the election cycle. You and your staff and the volunteers you recruit for your campaign will do virtually all the work and there will be a lot of it. The party can help with money, but the amount is limited by law. It will be a drop in the bucket compared to the money you’ll need, which means you will need to raise the vast majority on your own.
The party can help with volunteers, but be aware that those volunteers are spread among all the campaigns, each with their own agenda; you’ll need to recruit the majority of your volunteers. If you believe you can rely on the party or on lawn signs to win, you are by definition not prepared to run. We’re being forceful about all this on purpose; in every election cycle there are a significant number of candidates who have no experience, start very late, run for high office in their first ever campaign without enough money and who have spent little to no time finding out how the complex and extensive process works and who the people are they need to meet and cultivate if they are to win. If people sense you are this person, they will not be willing to give up their own time or money to elect you.
If there is one overarching piece of advice for first time candidates it would be to start early. Believe it or not, the day of a congressional district endorsing convention is not a good time to announce your run for Congress (this actually happens!). There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do. Here’s a general guide to prep time:
2 or more years: Governor, US Senator, US Representative, some statewide offices
1-2 years: State House and Senate, big city Mayor, some statewide offices
Up to 1 year: all other “down ballot” races
Once you’ve started, you’ll need to let party people know of your interest.
Start your journey with party leaders and activists early (referencing the times above) before your election. They’ll help you get a realistic idea of your chances and what needs to be done in your district to win. Make your official (legal) announcement anywhere up to the filing deadline. Note that sometimes an unofficial early notice of your intention to party people is all it takes to keep others out of the race! This also gives you a better chance to line up enough delegates who will endorse you the following spring.
Beginning in January, parties begin to elect delegates at caucuses or party meetings (depending on your state). Well before that you should have gotten to know activists on your district; they are most likely to become delegates to your endorsing convention. You’ll be seeking their vote long before you seek votes from voters. You need to know exactly how delegates get from being just regular folks to being delegates. The process can be quite involved, but it’s very important. The party has three things to offer you: people, money and endorsement. Start early and the people will be plentiful. Do not expect your money to come from the party; there are legal limits to how much money a party can give you. An endorsement is valuable in that it gives you recognition, focuses party resources and usually causes un-endorsed candidates to drop out.
You can’t rely solely on your belief in winning. If you have no experience, hiring an experienced campaign manager can help. Candidate training from Wellstone, your party and other organizations can also prepare you for the realities of campaigning. As a rule of thumb, the higher the office (“upballot”), the more campaign experience you’ll need to win.
If you have never volunteered on a campaign, you don’t know how it really works. The best way to get that experience is to actively volunteer on a campaign. And if you’ve helped someone, they may help you; you’re getting into politics -you’ll need friends!
Are you active in the party you seek endorsement from?
Have you gotten to know potential delegates to the endorsing convention?
Will you support the party’s other endorsed candidates?
Will you abide by the endorsement and drop out if you don’t get it? That’s not an absolute requirement, but seriously consider your chances of actually getting elected without endorsement. If they are low, staying in will help the opposition party and may reduce your chances of being endorsed in the future by delegates you dismissed at the endorsing convention by running anyway.
Have you run against any endorsed or incumbent candidate in the party you seek endorsement from, run for office in another party or are you supporting any members of an opposing political party during this election? If so, your chances for endorsement are slim.
Your announcement is one thing, but well before that you should be getting to know the existing, experienced party activists. These people are very likely to become delegates to your endorsing convention and they’ll have a good deal of influence over newer delegates. Local leaders are also actively seeking potential candidates, so getting to know them early gives you a leg up. Party Leaders and local activists know the nitty-gritty of voter contact in your district, they’ve been organizing volunteers long before you arrived and they may very well know more than you do about running a campaign. Get to know these folks at party unit meetings at least a year before you intend to run. By the time the race begins you’ll have a huge advantage. Bottom line, asking people to give up their time and money to endorse and canvass for you is much more likely if they already know you and see you doing what it takes to win.
Have you had any candidate training?
Are you comfortable asking people for money? Family? Friends? Strangers?
Will you ask for money as often as it takes to get what you need to run your campaign? (This may mean many hours each night.)
Do you know a lot of people in your community?
Are you comfortable walking up to people you don’t know and talking to them about yourself?
Are you comfortable talking to large groups of people?
Are you skilled at public speaking?
Are you able to promote a positive self image?
Are you able to sell yourself and your positions?
Are you able to calmly listen to people who disagree with you?
Are you open to new ideas and ways of doing things?
Are you able -physically and emotionally- to walk several hours a day for many months? If you are not, how will you compensate?
Do you have a strong personal support network to help you through the emotional ups and downs of a campaign?
Families and spouses suffer a great deal when mom or dad run for office. You will be gone most nights and weekends. When you are home you’ll be dialing for dollars. Do you have very young children? If so, this may not be the time. Is your spouse all in? Campaigns are stressful on marriages. Is the extended family ready to step in to watch the kids? Be certain everyone’s completely OK with this and eager to support you.
Have you identified a competent and experienced campaign manager who will commit the time necessary?
Can you pull together a team of volunteers who’ll work with you to win your race?
Will you pick the best people for the job even if it means hurting a friend or family member’s feelings?
Do you have a skilled treasurer you can trust? Have they been trained? This person must file federal and state reports that must, by law, be accurate and complete. You can be fined if they’re not.
Do you know how much money you need to raise?
Can you get commitments for a third of that amount by the day you announce?
Can you personally fund 25% or more of your campaign if necessary?
Do you know your win number?
Who is the incumbent? How much support do they have? Are they in your party?
How have other candidates fared against the incumbent in past elections? What has been the historical spread?
How have voters split on candidates for this seat over time? What’s the trend?
Who are your voters? What are the demographics?
Do you understand the endorsement process? Do you know who to talk with to find out?
Do you understand “the way things are done” in your district?
Have you met with activists and leadersat the party level who will endorse you?
Are you willing to start one or two years in advance to get to know the people who may become the delegates who endorse you?
Have you met with your party’s House or Senate caucus leaders (if a legislative race)?
Do you understand you can’t “educate” people into supporting your positions?
Have you studied framing? Do you know the difference between framing and messaging?
Do you know what an “elevator speech” is and why it’s important?
The earlier and more completely you have all this figured out the better chance you’ll have of winning!
(Thanks to Deb Pitzrick and Cheryl Poling for their campaign and party leadership experience and their contributions to this article.)
There’s a lot to know before you step into a studio.
If you can’t be heard, you won’t be listened to!
In decreasing order of effective voter contact:
Do not overestimate what your website will do for you. It is a not a shining beacon luring people from around the internet with shiny objects and the smell of bacon. Few people besides your opponent or reporters will bother to look for it. You do need one though; think of your website as a reference work.
Do not spend a great deal of time or money; you only need:
E-mails are another tool campaigns overestimate. Again, they are a treat reference —when was that picnic? They’re great for followup and for keeping in touch with your volunteers and somewhat useful for fundraising if accompanied by phone calls or person to person asks.
Emails about events will NOT drive people to the event; it will only help them drive there. Getting people to events requires one on one on the phone or in person with e-mail as followup confirmation.
More on emails in the Effective Emails tab at left.
Social Media has the advantage that it can be shared. Write short share-worthy posts!
Social media is only as good as the effort put into it. If you are not going to post everyday; if you are not going to monitor it continually; if you are not going to respond quickly, then don’t do it. If you have a staffer or volunteer do it, be sure they do it everyday in their private life (so they are adept) and that you trust that person’s discretion. Facebook and Twitter are best.
Campaign e-mails can be a useful way to motivate volunteers, solicit donors and inform voters. There are a lot of things to think about before sending one!
“Connections Lab offers an excellent introduction to framing for progressives.”
—George Lakoff, author of THE ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!
Liberals need to change the way we communicate —because what we’re doing isn’t working. While facts and logic—our go-to methods of persuasion—are important, unfortunately they’re not as effective as values and emotions.
Built on the work of linguist and cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, and current science in psychology, this course compares how liberals and conservatives see the world and how those worldviews determine and explain our differing policy positions.
We offer a method we call Stop, Drop and Roll that teaches you to craft effective messages with honesty and integrity based on sound science. Win today and in the long run.
Get a solid grounding in the basics of framing with How to Frame Winning Liberal Messages.
OK, not everyone has time for an online course or workshop. Here’s a crash course in message framing to get you started.
We need to learn a new way of communicating because what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.
Just our opinion here, but active liberals give up time, money and sweat to get candidates elected, legislation passed and advocate for change. When our messaging is poor —and it often is— we are not as effective as we could be. In short we waste time; time we can ill afford to waste with Republicans hell bent on taking the citizen out of citizen government.
To make matters worse, Conservative strategists know something we don’t and have been winning the communications war for four decades. Conservatives now dominate the national narrative. So much so that it’s as if liberals and conservatives are playing baseball, but the game’s always on the conservatives home field!
How did this happen!? What do they know that we don’t?
Here’s a great irony for you: it turns out that when it comes to political persuasion, liberals are the science deniers and, doubly ironic, conservatives aren’t.
There is a half century or more of solid science that shows people don’t think the way we think they think. How do we think they think? We think people, most of the time, weigh facts and then reason their way to a conclusion, so we spend most of our time presenting facts and showing how we reasoned our way to our conclusions expecting the voter to smack their foreheads and say “Gee, I guess you’re right, I’ll change my mind.”
Not a shred of science supports this notion. In fact Nobel Prizes have been won proving that neither the “rational actor” in economics nor the rational actor next door think this way. Humans can reason their way to great things if properly trained, but few of us are formally trained in logic or science. Few of us -of any political view- are anywhere near as rational as we’d like to believe. Don’t beat yourself up; it’s not your fault – we evolved this way.
If people aren’t going to listen to reason, why are we trying to reason with them?
What conservative strategists know —because they study and apply the science— is that facts and reason are way down on the list of effective persuaders. They know that people base their political decisions on feelings and moral values built up over time in their brains.
How do we learn the science of communicating effectively with voters? And, unlike Republican politicians and media, can we use this knowledge with honesty and integrity?
That’s what our ConnectionsLab workshops, online course and this website are dedicated to. We base our content on the science of how people really think -most centrally the work of George Lakoff– and we ground it in field work. We want any and every volunteer and every candidate at any level and in every community to have the skills they need to be persuasive.
Let’s make all that time and effort we put in, worth the time and effort we put in.
Liberals have largely ignored cognitive science in political messaging. We’ve picked up up a few tricks here and there, but we’ve missed the big picture. We’ll need to apply concepts from the field of cognitive psychology -how the brain works in real people- to make our communication more effective.
To add insult to self inflicted injury, the GOP is way out ahead of us. So let’s start now, shall we?
Below are some suggestions for using the tools on this site to make your organization, candidate, staff and volunteers as skilled as possible in effective framing and messaging.
There is simply not enough time during an election cycle to get all new volunteers trained in framing in any substantive way. However, everyone can have a moral conversation -a conversation about right and wrong. Using the values list below new vols can communicate more effectively at the door or on the phone. Talking about right and wrong and staying off facts will both relieve their anxiety (and the voter’s) and make them more effective, whether the values are explicitly stated or evoked by stories they tell.
Why do liberals take the positions we do? They are rooted in the following values
I CARE ABOUT (VALUE):
Empowerment & Protection
Common Good & Investment
Excellence & Fullfillment
Decency & Dignity
Equity & Opportunity
Empathy & Social Responsibility
Public Support For Private Success
AND THEREFORE (POLICY)
Talk about our view using these words to frame the issue.
The experienced volunteer, who does the daily grind of voter contact, knows from experience that the methods we’ve used to persuade voters have been ineffective. You will find resources in this tab and on this site to learn more about framing including our Online Course. We also recommend George Lakoff’s books and other books about cognitive science in our Workshop Resources section. also look for our in-person workshops. Make it a goal to keep reading and practicing and you will will get more skilled.
Candidates can benefit from the advice above, but have the additional task of determining how to speak about each issue affecting voters in their district. They’ll need to have a higher level of knowledge and framing skill. The Online Course takes an hour or so and should be required viewing very early in the campaign and we do in-person workshops usually the year before an election year. We also have a framing and messaging process you can use for every issue. And yes, we do campaign consulting.
Obviously the communications staff and volunteer coordinators should learn as much as they can about framing and messaging. They’ll need the Values list above to hand out to vols and they should know enough to answer questions and give guidance. Again the Online Course gets them knowledgeable, and the other resources on this site will help.
Issue organizations will want to do a deep dive into their issue. Besides the Online Course and consulting, The Stop, Drop and Roll Message Builder will lead you through the process of not only determining an effective message, but avoiding common mistakes that help your opponent.
Parties and activist organizations need to be very knowledgeable because their mission is strategic -to strengthen the liberal worldview in voters brains over time. The best way to offer guidance for members and candidates by example. The communications director should know framing inside and out, so they do not make the fairly common communication mistakes liberals tend to make. Emails, printed pieces and speeches should reflect good framing.
Parties and organizations have an additional goal: they must make sure that tactical framing (i.e., in this cycle) is never (as it is now) at odds with our strategic goal of making the liberal worldview dominant once again. This cannot be accomplished without a deep understanding of the science around framing. There should be an expectation that HQs staff and party sub units/local chapters will learn and practice framing. Framing needs to be part of our culture and that needs to be led from the top.
The Online Course will provide a foundation. You can find all the resources mentioned above elsewhere on this site.
You may use, print and distribute the free materials on this site for use in your campaign or organization as long as ©2018 ConnectionsLab.org appears on the printouts.
Why Change the Way We Communicate?
We begin our study of how people really think with “frames”.
Frames are clusters of neurons in your brain that understand something. You have frames for things like cars and potatoes and also for abstract concepts like love and democracy.
You can think of frames as little stories or plays. The stories can be simple and straightforward like instruction manuals or recipes, others are emotional and deep like novels. You may or may not notice the story behind a message, but brain cells for those frames are lighting up anyway.
Stories have scenes, actors and roles. Predictable things can happen in these stories, and there are things that are unlikely. In the frame of “a trip by air”, the setting is a plane. The actors are passengers, pilots and the flight crew. The pilot flies the plane, the flight crew serves and protects the passengers and the passengers have the role of sitting simultaneously annoyed, uncomfortable and bored out of their skulls until the plane lands.
There are things that should not exist in the story: free roaming snakes, say. Passengers do not fly the plane; the plane will not land on the moon. Frames have possibilities and boundaries (Linguists say entailments and constraints ).
Politically, consider the frame Republicans use to describe immigration: crime. In the crime frame, immigrants are criminals committing illegal acts and are even called”illegals” to drive the point home. Criminals deserve punishment. Border patrol agents capture the criminals and courts administer justice and pass sentence. Immigrants are separated from their children and deported to their home countries as punishment. Republicans become heroes protecting us from criminals and Democrats, of course, are the villains protecting the criminals.
If you’re with me so far, I think you’ll see the value of framing in just a second. Consider that a simple change of frame changes the story and it’s boundaries. What if we were to tell a moral story of people escaping the brutal violence of drug wars and the grinding poverty of non-functional economies where parents cannot provide for or protect their children. People crossing borders to escape war or economic hardship are called “refugees”. In the refugee frame Democrats play the role of empathetic heroes rescuing and protecting people who’ve been through terrible trauma. Trump and Republicans are the villains refusing aid and taking children from their parents with no method and apparently no intention of reuniting them (this, by the way, is the definition of “kidnapping”).
Our story allows the question of why immigrants are coming, exposes the administration for the immoral things they have done and asks if there’s anything we can do to help either people and families or perhaps aid the countries that are falling apart to solve the refugee’s problem at its source. The refugee frame tells a far different story than the criminal frame and opens the conversation to liberal values of right and wrong.
Note that there is no role in the criminal frame for empathy but also no role in the refugee frame for punishment. Change the frame, change the story.
I know what you’re thinking: If I say “refugee” conservative strategists will just say “criminal”. So what? They’ll attack you if you say the sun is shining because attacking you furthers their frame (and they know we’ll take the bait and say that the sun is indeed shining!). In any case, you are rarely face to face with Republicans and if you are, you are under no obligation to respond to what they say. The point here is not winning at debate club, it’s that using the refugee frame gives voters a chance to try out a new way of looking at immigrants. If we do this enough over time, the frame of “refugee” no longer seems alien (pardon the pun) and becomes commonplace and familiar.
Here’s where this has worked in spectacular fashion: the change of the frame “sin against God” to “love” on the issue of marriage rights. The gay community and supporters made the effort over many years to use the love frame at every opportunity and “love” eventually replaced “sin” in enough voters brains —including most young conservatives! That’s the end game: changing brain cells.
And isn’t this a better way to approach messaging than breaking out a litany of facts and figures* and laying your reasoning out in excruciating detail? Can you see how people might be more moved by the feeling of compassion than pages of statistics and carefully reasoned logic? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable if you could stop staying up late before a doorknock studying the issues and getting all your facts memorized? Because you do that, right?
Behold the power of framing.
*OK, we’re not saying you should never use facts and logic. See Post Workshop Meditation.
Let’s explore more examples of how frames both expand and limit discussion.
When used with integrity, our frames gives the a listener a broader and more cohesive understanding of an issue grounded in Liberal moral values. However, frames also create boundaries or constraints around a discussion.
For example, the Conservative frame of “voter ID” limits discussion to a legal/crime frame. There are actors and elements: poll workers, voters and legislators as well as IDs, polling places and voter rolls. There are scenarios: would-be voters must present IDs that will be checked; legislators introduce legislation to “protect the integrity of the ballot”; there are victims whose vote is diluted by fraudulent voters and there are villains (us, if you haven’t guessed) who want to destroy the integrity of the ballot box by allowing anyone at all to vote. This clever constraint is, of course a smokescreen for voter suppression, but it still dominates the national discussion. (We help that constraint persist every time we mention the words “voter ID” or counter Conservative arguments about it.)
Another very common conservative framing constraint is to force discussions into transactional or free market frames. For example, conservative framing on healthcare almost always forces discussion into transactional or free market frames. The focus is on the transaction between buyer and sellers of insurance or medical services, the taxes that pay for Medicare and Medicaid and the responsibility of the person buying medical services or insurance to be a “wise health care consumer”. Even the word healthcare focuses on the act of providing care.
Here’s the danger: we’re human. When a frame constrains discussion, we don’t always notice it.
Conservative framing of healthcare has so successfully limited discussion to the market frame that we unconsciously limit our own discussion to the constraint. When we hear it said that consumers should have a choice of insurance plans, we immediately note that many of those plans provide almost no coverage. When we hear about the rising cost of healthcare, we talk about insurance company and Big Pharma profits. Great points, but in both cases we stayed within the constraint of market transactions.
It is not wrong to consider or talk about the financial realities of healthcare in the US -and it is important to know your facts. However the most important thing in any discussion of healthcare is people’s health. There are nowhere near enough messages about how our broken system imperils the health and well-being of real people.
If our messages fail to break through the market constraint, a number of damaging things happen: we don’t lead with the real issue of people’s health; we spend less time on our messages; we strengthen the conservative frame simply by staying in it and we unwittingly let the conservative strategists control the agenda.
The point of the Stop portion of Stop Drop and Roll is to take that step back; unlearn the habit of jumping in and responding and, instead, learning to stop and think about things like frame constraint and how we can break out of conservative frames. The more we practice it, the easier it gets. Remember, framing is a skill.
Frame constraints can work for us. When marriage rights activists chose the frame of love, the discussion became constrained to frames about family, bonding, care, commitment and the right to love who you choose. This frame gradually replaced the conservative “sin” frame until the freedom to marry the person you love became the law of the land.
Stop, know the constraints of your opponent’s frame and find a frame that puts the discussion squarely where you want it.
In Short: Frames can become literally built into our brains are highly resistant to change, so the best approach is to change the frame.
All frames and the stories that define their boundaries literally exist as networks of neurons.
The more the stories are repeated, the more burned in the neural pathways become. By burned in I mean that connections between neurons physically and electro-chemically get stronger. We acquire frames from a lifetime of personal experience, from family, schools, churches, etc, and from our culture.
The more a network is burned in the more easily it comes to mind —consciously or unconsciously. Think of the brain going down pathways in a forest to get the information it needs. The pathways that are most familiar and that are well worn -the burned in pathways- are the easiest to use.
In other words your brain is more likely to consult things it already knows (whether you are aware of it at the time or not). This is no doubt evolutionary. Not only humans, but animals need to react in ways that keep them alive without conscious deliberation. This mechanism evolved long before humans did and it is a deep process of brain development and thinking.
What comes from this are some inescapable conclusions:
From what we now know there are a number of conclusions we can draw about political messaging:
Changing the frame to one that evokes our values that the other person happens to share in their lives (just perhaps not politically) is the only way to move their thinking on an issue in our direction.
Every message you hear has a story —a frame— behind it. And like most stories, they interconnect with other stories.
When you hear a song that reminds you of your childhood, you not only remember how the song goes, you also remember places, events and people associated with that song. Those frames connect to others and still others eventually diminishing like ripples across a mental sea (we’ll talk about metaphors later).
So here’s an idea: if we use our core value frames to construct all our messages, all our messages will reinforce our core values across all issues in people’s brains. To use our immigration example, people who may buy the conservative criminal frame might use an empathy frame in other parts of their lives; empathy is not a new concept to them. And empathy -a core Liberal value- is important on many issues, so using empathy to talk about many issues makes it stronger. If we do that for all our values, we strengthen our entire worldview in voters brains. See how that works?
Put another way, if you are proactively framing with our core values, rather than defensively arguing against conservative messages, you strengthen our values in voters brains and you strengthen our worldview. This is what Republicans have done for forty years and it’s so powerful that they have people believing the most absurd conspiracy theories.
Your primary goal is our strategic goal -to strengthen our worldview in voter’s brains. Not to put too much on you.
As important as what we need to do right is dropping the things we do wrong.
Conservative strategists know how to keep us off message, hurting our message and helping theirs. Part 1.
Conservative strategists know how to keep us off message, hurting our message and helping theirs. Part 2.
Learn the art of re-framing so voters hear our frame and not our opponents’.
It feels wrong not to be focusing on facts and logic. Are we really laying down a blanket prohibition on facts and logic? This post workshop debrief that we give to online and in person workshop participants will answer a lot of questions about our approach.