Framing: it's not what you say - it's what people hear

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Intermediate
April 03, 2019
2
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Average: 5 (3 votes)
Effective advocacy is about persuasion – influencing an individual, organisation or government to achieve action or change. It means going in to bat for a cause, and effective communications are critical to getting the outcomes you want. In this course Strategist Sam Butcher takes you through an introduction to advocacy covering empathy mapping, public narrative and campaign timing.
Hi and welcome to Lumin.

Effective advocacy is about persuasion – influencing an individual, organisation or government to achieve action or change. It means going in to bat for a cause, and effective communications are critical to getting the outcomes you want.

I’m Sam and I’m a strategist with Think HQ. I have extensive experience with a range of advocacy campaigns and advertising strategies, including political campaigns, climate and anti-poverty communications roles and I’ve worked with some of Australia’s biggest organisations and causes, including World Vision and Marriage Equality.

Let’s start with framing, or presenting your communication so certain interpretations are encouraged through the words, images, metaphors and comparisons you use, and how they influence people’s responses.
Here’s a simple example – consider these two sentences.

"So far, of the 1200 asylum claims assessed in Nauru and Manus Island, around 80 per cent have been found to be genuine refugees."

"More than 200 people held in Nauru and Manus Island who falsely claimed to be asylum seekers were found not to be refugees."

See how each statement is framed? Both are true but the first one encourages the perception that amidst all the controversy surrounding Australia’s harsh offshore detention program, the overwhelming majority of people seeking asylum are genuinely fleeing oppression. The second one however, uses a figure without any context, and by including the word ‘falsely’, invokes a perception that large numbers are trying to get to Australia under false pretences, presumably implying that the immigration detention laws are justified.

But framing isn’t simply spin, which puts things in a positive or negative light. In both examples here, the statements are designed to elicit emotional responses – and that’s what framing does. It recognises humans are emotional beings and that emotion isn’t separate from reason, it’s how we reason.

Here’s another example – in the lead-up to the November 2017 plebiscite in Australia that ultimately saw people of the same gender permitted to legally marry, the issue was typically referred to as either the ‘same-sex marriage debate’ or the ‘marriage equality debate’. Both are accurate terms, but the latter is framed in such a way that the perception of fairness is highlighted.

So the takeaway from this is to choose words that provoke an emotional response from your audience, which can be a powerful way to influence and change thinking to align with the side you’re taking or the cause you’re pomoting

Next lesson we’ll look at empathy.