Controlling the Messaging to Get Through

March 7, 2011
by Bruce Preville

We have spoken in RESULTS at times of the power of a compelling narrative and larger context to empower our issues in the community and in Congress.  Our task is creating narratives or stories that speak powerfully to people’s hearts and minds.  

 The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
 ~ Harold Goddard
To have our message be more compelling, we need narratives that are rooted people’s experience more than in their intellect. This doesn’t mean telling our truth louder or more stridently; it means creating a message that will change hearts and minds away from the predominant messaging frame being used right now, to a new one.
The battle to determine which story lives inside people will determine whose stories are told, how they are framed, how widely these stories are heard, and how deeply they impact the dominant discourse. When we communicate the why—the interpretation and relevance of actions and issues—we help our social change message reach a broader section of the public. To succeed in changing the dominant culture’s framing of an issue, we must win the battle of the story.

For example, I offer the following article by UC linguist, George Lakoff, called “What Conservatives Really Want.”

In the article Lakoff says:
Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. 

What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.

Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.

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