How do you develop an effective communications strategy?

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How do you develop an effective communications strategy?

Welcome to the discussion! Consider these questions below when sharing your comments in this discussion topic:

  • What role does media play in advocacy campaigns?
  • What elements need to be included in a plan to use media for social change?
  • When is it best to focus on traditional media or on producing your own media? How can producing your own media be used to get the attention of traditional media?

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Making communication strategic

Hello everyone, looking forward to a rich conversation on this excellent topic!

Many social and environmental justice campaigns I come across put a lot of effort into getting media attention. This is understandable – the media can be a powerful mode of communication which can have a big impact on the success or failure of our initiatives.

But how do we ensure our communications are strategic and don’t just end up being more noise?

When setting out to change the world we need to consider:

  • What exactly do we want to achieve?
  • What is the problem? What is the solution we want implemented?
  • What will it take to get from the current situation to our implemented solution? What’s the path? What are the steps along the way?
  • Who is the person who can deliver the change we want?
  • What will it take for that person to make that decision?
  • Who are the constituents and allies we need to engage, to build power and influence, and apply pressure where needed? Who are the opponents whose influence we will need to counter or neutralise?

If through clarifying our strategy we identify audiences who are best reached through the media, then it makes sense to seek media coverage. However, we need to remember that there are many ways to communicate – we can research our audience, seek people out directly (knock on their doors!), make contact with them through other messengers, hold events for them to attend, carry out actions for them to witness… and many other ways.

If we go down a path of seeking media coverage we need to be clear about…

  • What we want to communicate
  • What we want to result from the communication 
  • Who we want to communicate with

… and we need to tailor our message and messenger for that particular outcome and audience. Being clear about our audience will also help us figure out which kind of media is the best conduit (Radio? Newspaper? TV? Social media? etc) for our messages.

A range of useful planning tools are identified in this New Tactics conversation on strategy.

What have you done to make sure your communications are strategic? Do you have processes or resources you would recommend to others?

Worksheets for Communications Strategy

Holly et. al.,

Here is the link to the Cornerstones Worksheet - from Center for Story-based Strategy on grounding your communications strategy in four cornerstones:

We have more worksheets available on our website:



re: Cornerstones

Many thanks Christine. I've found the Cornerstones really useful to help a group got on the same page about their strategy. The four corners are:

  • Goals
  • Targets (ie the decision-maker or power-holder who can deliver the change you seek)
  • Constituency (the base that supports your goal, the people most affected)
  • Audiences

The fifth consideration, which isn't quite a corner (unless you're drawing a pentagon!), is strategic opportunities like key dates or openings in public debate. 

Give it a try next time you're planning.

Credibility and influence

I've worked with Peace Brigades International and within numerous international and local (Australian) human rights and social justice campaigns.  I currently work at a community legal centre working on racially discriminatory policing which has been making significant headway over the past year.

One vital thing I have gleaned from Roger Nash and Liam Mahoney's recent book 'Influence on the Ground" ( ) is about the intersecting role of credibility, legitimacy and mutually reinforcing networks in order to build influence.  The book focusses on building influence to protect human rights in conflict zones but I believe it can be applied in most human rights contexts.

By ourselves thsi little community organisations is too small to apply vast communications power but the applied and strategic use of credibility and collaboration has been particulary effective. 


In any strategic communications, the credibility of the source is a key factor in the ability to influence change. This community legal centre’s credibility, legitimacy and  reliability as a source of information on police accountability issues has been built up over decades and the extraordinary level of media interest in our work this year is a testament to that.  At times, we have been inundated with media requests for interviews, Journalists come to us for comment. Our reputation and credibility as a voice in this space and based upon our day to day legal practise is extraordinarily sound.

Growing our Voice

This year we have systematically grown our voice – our ability to reach large numbers of people with key messages around police accountability issues. We have re-doubled our technological tools to contact members and supporters via regular newsletters, we engage daily with up to 3,000 supporters via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms and we have a vast and growing media alert system.  All these tools link us into wider networks which amplifies our messages. Our ability to communicate, mobilise and generate targeted pressure has increased substantially.

Multiplying the impact

As a small community legal centre we cannot do this alone. FKCLC has been able to work within a range of coalitions and networks to enhance our strategic communications. Networks amplify our ability to influence.  On a national level we co-convene and participate in the NPAN, the National Police Accountability Network. In Victoria, Smart Justice and Smart Justice for Young People, and our statewide peak , the Federation of Community Legal Centres have played critical roles in influencing positive change within the criminal justice system at both a policy and practice level.  Locally our involvement in regional forums, our partnership with, local groups and networks and our increasingly solid relationships with community leaders, and agencies has been vital.  Our relationships with our pro-bono partners and local members of parliament lend strength to our voice and are fundamental assets.  All of these networks and collaborations have a multiplying impact, reinforcing our messages and increasing our effectiveness.  In numerous communications - our name is not even present - but we have managed to transmit clear messages where they need to be heard via range of other bodies, organisations and individuals. In some case it has been better that we have not been seen as the lead agent in the message.

All this is the result of hard work on all sides.  Credibility is earned through consistently high-quality legal work, clear reporting, and constant work on our relationships. We value and respect our partners, friends and networks enormously and a great deal, if not most, of our strategic communications has been to these partners and networks - rather than to the 'opponant' directly.

To summerise- I would suggest that ways to enhance or maintain credibility and to increase the multiplying factors are key elements on any strategic comms plan.

What does a communications strategy look like? Is it shareable?

Thanks, Anthony! Great to see you in this discussion.

It is so helpful to read your comment and learn about the communications strategy of the community legal centre you are working with. Congratulations on the headway you've been able to make so far!

I'm curious about how you share this strategy with the team you are working with. More broadly, what does a communications strategy look like? Is it a big piece of paper with post it notes? Is it a 10-page document? How does the team come together to understand it and collaborate on it?

It would be great if participants could share some examples of what a communications strategy actually looks like. Thanks!

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

We do write down our strategy

We do write down our strategy in a document (9 pages, actually) and we've also been working at developing a calendar so we think through what's important for us over the year, important dates (in our case, June 26, the anniversary of the Convention Against Torture, is always important for torture rehabilitaiton centers like us) as well as what messages we want to convey. Our strategy document lays out areas the communications team is responsible for (for example, all social media, website, emails, quarterly newsletter, support for our development staff because we actually work under the development director), a timeline, what we're trying to accomplish. We're trying to develop what I'd call a marketing calendar: how do all the communications outlets (media relations/web/social media) support and reinforce each other, and how are messages tailored for each communications tool (Twitter is a different voice than Facebook; emails or tweets to reporters are different than to an audience that supports your work).

In the beginning, it was hard to map out the year but the more we do it, the better we get at it. Like most groups, we're often just balancing the numerous tasks we need to complete each day/week (updating websites, writing/editing/designing newsletters, the tremendous amount of content that social media requires every week, email outreach, administrative work like time sheets, annual reviews etc) and trying to think strategically about how you focus your time and limited resources. I don't think our communications strategy is shareable, but I know we always get ideas from other groups so some of the tactics can be shared. We're always reading about what people are doing to build their Facebook audience and learning new ideas to improve engagement. We also follow other groups to see how they're using email to get ideas. In fact, there are so many blogs and people offering advice to help improve your outreach and engagement through social media that it can be overwhelming.

Communication Strategy: how to craft it & align your team

Friends -- love these great conversation on how to craft workable, effective strategies!

AND I love how quickly the conversation has turned to how to best align a team around strategy so that it is fully implemented and integrated. Seems to me this is often where the work of effective external communications demands a heavy lift on internal communications across your organization, coalition or network. 

Just wanted to throw some more tools and resources into the mix. LightBox Collaborative offers some free mini-training tutorials here: You'll find quick instructional presentations on communications strategy, messaging, social media and more. 

Another favorite tool is this one-page worksheet we created to help folks create & share their communications strategy in a nutshell:

Hope these are handy/helpful! Looking forward to continuing the conversation, 

Holly Minch 

LightBox Collaborative

Great suggestions

You have done a terrific job outlining the importance of maintaining credibility -- I would add to your comments, the importance of PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, there is no substitute....for reporters, validators, partners, policymakers and others needed for a communications strategy for policy change.  Trust and credibiliity are key.  Smaller groups especially can be effective if they build a reputation for quickly getting back to media and/or policymakers, with accurate information, good individual stories and solutions to reform or change systems.

Strategic and top-down approaches with a consultative ethos?

Hi Holly and all,

After many years of doing strategic-based communications for not-for-profit and community organisations, I'm left with a key dilemma: how can we use strategic and top-down/centralised approaches in ways that open space for a multiplicity of voices and encourage consultation?

It seems to me that if campaigning work is done with certain outcomes in mind, a particular set of key messages, and hopes for how people will engage with 'our' campaign, then we run the risk of closing space for 'bottom-up'/participatory approaches which are both consultative and respectful.

This is not a critique of mainstream approaches to strategic planning or communication design, and I don't really have any answers ... but I think there are some key questions we can ask, including:

  • What might be some of the tensions in working in ways that are based on predeterminded outcomes, and have centralised approaches to communications, if we are wanting to work in ways that are aware of operations of power?
  • What responsibilities do those of us who walk with privilege have in designing campaigns and accessing (or creating) media to open space for others' voices and experiences?
  • Is it possible to have a vision of how we would like the world to be - and campaign for and communicate about that vision - in ways that in themselves are not impositional? 

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, and best wishes for the discussion.



re: Strategic and top-down approaches

Thanks LB for contributing this perspective.

There's that old means-and-ends tension that so often comes up among people who work for change. I must say that although I have worked in community development and I want to see individuals and communities empowered to determine their own lives, I don't see that as incompatible with developing a strategy and implementing a program to achieve a particular outcome. I think having that worldview means ensuring that people most impacted have leadership in a campaign, and that participatory processes are used in developing a strategy. But it shouldn't get in the way of identifying and pursuing wins. 

I found a useful way to think about this in Mike Gecan's Going Public: An Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action. Gecan talks about the difference between the 'world as it is' and the 'world as it should be'. The 'world as it should be' is characterised by collaboration, fairness and mutual respect. In the 'world as it is' those who have the most power get their way. If we operate according to the 'world as it should be' while our opponents build power and play dirty (or frame issues and prosecute their case in the media while we don't), we won't win. This doesn't mean not behaving ethically, but it does require getting clear about where we want to get to (our opponents often have a very clear agenda of their own!) and utilising our resources (people, messages, access to media etc) effectively in pursuit of that goal. 

Saul Alinsky had much to say about means vs ends in Rules for Radicals. Here are a couple of examples:

“The third rule of the ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means.”
“The ninth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.”

Obviously this is very hard-headed approach which is controversial for many people pursuing social change. He also said 'Honour the media, even if it makes you gag'!

the world as it is

Hi this discussion about means and ends and the world as it is is important. I have a maxim. Accept things exactly as they are and then find a resourceful way to bring about change. 

The world as it should be is really nothing more than a hope, a value or a dream. All we have to work with is the world as it is. Its what we do with how it is that matters.

Unfortunately many of us think that not accepting the world the way it is somehow helps change it but on its own it doesn't. I find there is a difference between internal and external resistance. Internal resistance is when we self harm (or moralise) over the way things are. Self ahrm can include rage, anger depression, etc. So if we are in a hurry and reach a red traffic light we might swear and protest to ourselves about how annoying it is, but that doesnt affect the traffic light. But if we accept that we got delayed then develop a strategy for what to do once we are on the road again, that is useful. Internal resistance hurts us and uses up the energy we could devote to being resourceful.

This does affect our strategic communication too. If we are 'in resistance' to the way the world is we may frame our communications in a complaining moralising way, but this is rarely powerful as strategic communication. If we are accepting yet resourceful we are more likely to identify the key opportunities for change and concentrate our communications on those.

Of course all of this accepting things as they are is not at all easy. Whether its in our political or in our personal lives, its a constant struggle against our expectations.

Strategic & inclusive

Great conversation, and lots of food for thought! 

As we work with many organizations, coalitions and networks that seek to elevate and advance the voices of people left out of traditional power structures and/or media conversations, we see this question of who has a say in strategy as a very important one. A suggestion that we often offer is that when it comes time to plan efforts, it can be helpful to take a collaborative approach by creating both a strategy group and a feedback loop

The strategy group can include a cross section of stakeholders, including affected constituents, organizational leaders and allies. They are informed at every stage by the feedback loop, which can include an even larger number and even wider cross section. For example, before setting strategy, the strategy group can interview members of the feedback group to get their opinions and input to carry into the strategy discussions. Then the strategy group can create an informed proposal on how a campaign or communications effort might proceed, and share it out to those in the feedback loop for their reactions and further input. This can be a really important way to surface any blind spots or information gaps that might mean weaknesses in the strategy. 

There's a book I've really enjoyed on collaborative strategy setting, called The New How by Nilofer Merchant. In it, she speaks of the need to "satisfice" to meet the needs of all players in an organization, coalition or network: you won't be able to please everyone with the strategy, so you have to decide what strategic consideration to satisfy and which to sacrafice, particularly when nimbleness and/or time are of the essence. 

Hope that's helpful! 



Messaging top donw and bottom-up -- and a word on values

There are a number of ways to develop and test messages -- especially if you have the funds -- focus groups, polling, ii (individual interview) sessions and more -- but what's we've learned is that it takes one set of skills to develop the right frame and message, regardless if it comes from the top or the bottom.  And, it takes another set of skills to get people to actually use the message and own the frames. 

I agree with an earlier commetn that messages are gernally adopted by those who take part in message development.  The progressive community, especially, has a challenge in that we do want to be democratic and inclusive and show respect to our partners.  We want to win the policy debate, without compromising our own value systems.  When messaging becomes too much of "manipulating or spinning" we can lose our community support.

The suggestions that messaging start with a vlaues-based approach is right on target and the very best way to bring people to consensus -- the Getting to Yes approach.

A good resource for values and messagess is the Frameworks Insittue -- their website has extensive tools and some sample campaigns.

Kathy Bonk




I've found the Centre for Story Based strategy tools really useful. Understanding and pulling apart the dominant framing of an issue is really useful. However it's important to not just create a counter narrative to the dominant one - it's important to frame your position on your own terms (whilst understanding what's more broadly at play in the dominant language around an issue).

I find that with many issues that the strategy is continually refined as you go as events unfold or new stories break in the media, you need to be highly responsive, so the more planning and thought you've put in at the get go the better.

re: CSS

Thanks Alex. I too find the Center for Story-based Strategy tools excellent, and have enjoyed running workshops in this approach for environmental, community and union campaigns in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as short sessions at Global Power Shift in Istanbul. The tools seem to cross cultures well, telling stories is so universal.

Christine from CSS shared one tool, Cornerstones, above and others can be downloaded from the CSS website here. The site also includes some excellent case studies

Join CSS in Oct for a convo on the power of narrative

...and since we're proclaiming our love of CSS, I have to point out that we are partnering with the Center for Story-based Strategy on our October conversation. The topic is Change the Story: Harnessing the Power of Narrative for Social Change. Both conversations are part of a three-part conversation series on building awareness. Hope to see you in all of these discussions!

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

values based framing

Hi, In my strategic communications work i emphasise values (rather than outcomes) as the basis for outreach and communication and aim to deliberately 'frame' communications to appeal to widely held values.

What i mean by this is that in emerging social movements it is much easier to etsablish aggreement and common ground around values (equality, sustainability, freedom, public access to land, clean water etc, much less easy to achieve this if the focus of our communications is outcomes: do we want a ban a moratorium or legislation, do we want to outlaw, decriminalise or legalise etc etc.

You see what i mean, when social movements debate outcomes they tend to splinter whereas they already had common ground about the values underlying the desire for the different outcomes.

So when i work with a new group i first ask them what they want to achieve and when they answer , the next question i ask is "so why are you the kind of people who would want to achieve that?" I find that if i can get groups to articuate the values that motivate them then there is a high chance that these values will also be ones that can resonate and connect with a range of other people out there in the world. Usually i suggest names for groups that encapsulate values rather than outcomes.

I am partly responding to LB's comment too, because i think value based framing leaves a lot more space for multiple voices.

Increasingly i am moving towards a social change model based upon complexity theory rather than rigid planning and so keeping the frames open in a sense allows more diversity to come up from below. Social movements loosley networked around values are likely to harmoniously go about the business of launching multiple social change experiments, some of which fail and some of which suceed. It is more conducive to diversity based resilience.

I notice that social movements and leftists generally are likely to conflict over prescriptions for desired outcomes. Articualtions of outcoems that are premature also tend to reduce the capcity for broad social appeal of a campaign. My journeys in complexity theory are showing me that as social movements we dont control the outcomes , we are just part of a process, a very big process. Outcomes are strategic opportunities that present themselves at particuar times and should be grabbed with both hands, but they only become available as a result of fairly unpredictable journeys as social movements so consequently there is not a lot to be gained by debating which outcome is the best at the start of the process, that usually just leads to internecine conflict. Instead i pefer models that encourage a diversity of bottom up groups to pursue their value missions (often with their own outcomes in mind) but where we accept that we are all pursuing the same values but in different ways, different kinds of campaigns.

Now i know ive drifted away from just talking about communications here, I'm wandering into the idea of diverse resilient social movements but to bring it back a bit to where i started i see framing our communications along the lines of common values as extremely important so that as many people as possible already agree with us simply because we have framed the argument in a way that resonates with them. Its much easier than trying to convince people to change their mind.

To be a bit more concrete when i first started working with the campaigns against coal and gas industries, our local group had the choice of calling ourselves, lock the gate (the name of a tactic); group against gas (a negative) or CSG free northern rivers (an aspiration for how we wanted our region to remain). It has been much easier to mobilise the public around being gasfield free than to mobilise them around any more specific outcome, ( a ban, a moratoroum etc etc. )  Actually as well as a frame it is more open ended and hopeful than any outcome we could name in advance. we dont know if we will ever get this legislation or that, or this moratorium or that, but we do know that we are united to remain gasfield free.

Why are we the kind of people who want to be gasfielf free, because we value our natural landscapes and rural industries and want to preserve them, and not just from gas, hey maybe we just want to preserve them.

Of course this kind of framing is not new, 'marriage equality' is such a more inclusive and value based frame than the outcome of  'legalise gay marriage"  because it resonates with the widely held social value of equality rather than restricting itself to an outcome for an indentifiable group of people.

enough now



re: values based framing

Many thanks Aidan for these great insights. I too have seen groups get hung up on debating the pros and cons of a detailed ask or policy position, losing sight of the values that connect them. 

One of the highest profile proponents of communicating values is George Lakoff. He commented on the recent US presidential election and noted that whenever Obama communicated values in the debates he won, and whenever he got bogged down in policy detail he lost. 

The challenge is to focus on what really needs to be communicated. When we're working with complex issues all the time we can think that our audience needs to understand all the complexity too. In fact, we mostly need to be communicating that we are trustworthy and credible (as Anthony notes), that we share values with our audience, and in simple terms either the problem that needs to be addressed, the solution that needs to be implemented, or the action that the audience can take (depending on the stage of a campaign). 

I like your way of asking people what they want to achieve, and then asking "so why are you the kind of people who would want to achieve that?" as a way to get to the values underneath their goals. In past workshops I've got people to generate a list of values, interrogating this to move towards more widely held values and less niche ones. I've also had pieces of paper with different values written on them, spread out in the middle of the room, for people to pick out the ones that are most important to them, and share what those values mean to them. From there we've trimmed the list to identify the most shared central values to the group. Great conversation starter! 

Trying to find the right frame

Holly and Aiden:

I think the values framework is so important for a strategic communications effort.  But I want to share an experience we’ve had where we used messages that we thought conveyed broadly shared values but did not. Post 9/11 when the United States allowed torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the military and intelligence agents, we used the phrase “Torture is UnAmerican” or “torture doesn’t work” thinking it would resonate with deeply held American values of respect for all human dignity. After President Obama signed the executive order banning most torture and CID (sleep deprivation, isolation and indefinite detention are still being used), a group did focus group testing and found that the moral arguments didn’t resonate with moderate Democrats and Republicans – the people we really needed to support us and voice their concerns to elected officials. What they did respond to was an understanding that if the US used torture, we would not get the cooperation of our allies abroad, which is so vital to combating global terrorism. They also responded to the fact that torture policies were implemented by a small group of individuals without the traditional review of American checks and balances (i.e. the courts and legislative branches of government).

Unfortunately, it’s quite rare to get access to message testing or the funds to do focus groups. Ultimately, a strategic communications plan needs to understand the core messages that will resonate with people and while we can often do a good job of developing messages, as Aiden outlined so well, sometimes we might be using a message that, while not doing any harm, doesn’t move us further along in our efforts to engage people in our work.

value frames

Thanks Holly and Hzeimer, its true that finding the value that resonates can take a bit of guess work. One of the things that fascinates me about peoples values is that they are rarely consistent. Not only is there a giant garments box of 'widely held social values' out there in the community, the fact is that even inside individuals there is often a really diverse and largely unexamined grab bag of value positions. Most interestingly they often are in contest or conflict,  without the person always realising it. The example of marriage equality is a good example, the same person can harbour very traditionalist gender values alongside strong equality values. I know myself i harbour both liberty and ecological values that often come into contest with each other. This adds to complexity because a particular frame will repell some potential supporters whilst it activates others.


In the end though I suppose we need to also remember that the values of the social movement are of great importance and that when faced with a difficult strategic choice about what value frames to emphasise a good rule of thumb is to get back to the values that currently motivate your support base. This works well unless you are at a stage of a campaign where you feel you have saturated your outreach to supporters who share a particualr frame (environmental sustainability) but realise that you need to extend your frame to a new audience (eg. investment risk). When we decide strategically that what we want to do is start to access and switch on 'weak links' (those who would not normally be our supporters) that is when these issues of intuiting values can become of critical importance.

We cant usually afford focus groups, but i suppose strategic questioning is the technique that helps us drill down to what lies beneath peoples positions on issues. Maybe if we can identify the people we want to target, we then need to strategically question some of them to uncover the value positions that can move them.

Once we have chosen our frames our next job is building them into the key words we use all the time so that the message starts to inhabit the medium. A good example from my campaigning is that we are shifting our frame from say coal seam gas to industrial gasfields because what we have realised is that what really speaks to people is the mental image of developed gasfield in their community rather than some isolated image of an individual well, or soem abstract form of gas, so we run our 'gasfield free community' strategy and surveys. I mean there ends up being a real difference between the question 'do you support coal seam gas" and do you want to be a "gasfield free community"


Research for messaging

Thanks for this example Holly. This really shows the difficulties of developing effective messaging when your capacity to research (focus groups, polling, individual interviews as Kathy Bonk mentions) with limited resources. 

I've known many campaigns that use volunteers to undertake community outreach with one-to-one conversations (like phone calls, door-knocking, stalls etc). Sometimes this involves surveys, which could be a useful way to test messages, but it seems tricky to do this in a timely way. You'd also really want to manage data well to ensure you're talking to people who are in your target audience. Direct phone calls and door-knocking where you choose who to contact on the basis of the data available would be a better bet than open situations like stalls, or asking your friends!

Email testing could also be useful - sending out two emails with different messages to half of a list each and guaging open and click-through rates. A-B testing of email was a big part of digital strategy in the Obama campaign, and here's a cautionary note from the New Organising Institute. Obviously, it takes a big email list for this to be statistically rigorous.

Do people have examples of low-cost research to inform messaging?

Research for Message

Thanks Holly. This is a good reminder that we can use our audience to gather information on effective messages. We used Survey Monkey to ask our email list what kinds of emails they wanted to receive. Our goal was to tailor information to the interests of our list. While not message testing specifically, we found some broad categories, including groups that are specifically interested in our international work, groups that wanted to engage in advocacy (in our case, very Washington, D.C. focused) and groups more interested in our local, Minnesota work. With that information, we're setting up interest groups so people can take some control of the information they receive, we we can send specific calls to action to those who really want to engage in campaigns. The free survey tools were robust for what we wanted to do.


more values-based framing & messages

The values question is so vital. My colleague Anat shared these ideas at the most recent Netroots Nation conference (and subsequently on our blog):


great timing, we are in a framing contest today

Hi i thought it was interesting timing for this discussion, we are in a framing contest right now. The industry wants to replace the words coal seam gas (which has the stench of death to it by now)  with 'natural gas  from coal seams' and now have compliant governments acquiessing.  Our alternative frame is invasive industrial gasfields.


if you are interested check out this  article from today's Echo:



Great example of not allowing the industry to reframe and being proactive.

Another resource on story telling strategy
Education vs Motivation

What is the purpose of your media engagement? To raise awareness about something? To motivate someone to do something? To catch the attention of a power-holder?

Chris Rose outlines the difference between communication for the purpose of education and motivation.

‘Education is a broadening exercise. It uses examples to reveal layers of complexity, leading to lower certainty but higher understanding.

(By contrast) Campaigning maximises the motivation of the audience, not their knowledge. Try using education to campaign, and you will end up circling and exploring your issue but not changing it.’

Campaign communication still needs an element of education in it. At the early stages of a campaign we’re often trying to raise awareness of a problem and get people to care about it. Further along we may be educating people about the range of solutions to the problem, to show them that it doesn’t have to be that way. But this process is about narrowing the field until our desired outcome is the only acceptable response to the problem, and that action is urgent. (Such an approach is 'impositional' which LB problematises in his comment).

Rose compares a campaign model with an education model:


Problem -> Awareness -> Concern -> Urgency -> Anger -> Action


Problem -> Awareness -> Knowledge -> Understanding -> Reflection -> Confusion

What do you think of these models? Which approach are you utilising in your media work?

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