Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception: don't think of George Lakoff

One of the lines in the movie is, "Don't think of an what are you thinking of?"

The whole premise of the movie is how to plant an idea so deftly, at a deeper level, that the subject takes ownership of the idea, such that it becomes self-sustaining.  That is an "inception."

Could Don't Think of An Elephant by George Lakoff have been on the mind of the writer and director?  Could the importance of getting framing right, so that a person has no choice but to come to their own conclusions in your favor, have been a lesson of this movie?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lakoff derides "disaster messaging"

George Lakoff
This is the start of George Lakoff's recent piece in the Huffington Post, called "Disaster Messaging":
Democrats are constantly resorting to disaster messaging. Here's a description the typical situation.
  • The Republicans outmessage the Democrats. The Democrats, having no effective response, face disaster: They lose politically, either in electoral support or failure on crucial legislation.
  • The Democrats then take polls and do focus groups. The pollsters discover that extremist Republicans control the most common ("mainstream") way of thinking and talking about the given issue.
  • The pollsters recommend that Democrats move to the right: adopt conservative Republican language and a less extreme version of conservative policy, along with weakened versions of some Democratic ideas.
  • The Democrats believe that, if they follow this advice, they can gain enough independent and Republican support to pass legislation that, at least, will be some improvement on the extreme Republican position.
  • Otherwise, the pollsters warn, Democrats will lose popular support -- and elections -- to the Republicans, because "mainstream" thought and language resides with the Republicans.
  • Believing the pollsters, the Democrats change their policy and their messaging, and move to the right.
  • The Republicans demand even more and refuse to support the Democrats.
Read the whole piece here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Corporate polluters

"Us v. the polluters," especially corporate polluters, seems to carry more weight with people than "save the environment."  Ben Smith of Politico has a link to the polling research, here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Titles are tools - your core message belongs there

The Immigration Policy Center sent out an e-mail yesterday promoting birthright citizenship and provided links to an accompanying blog post and fact check.  The body of the e-mail, the body of the post, and the body of the fact check make these points:

  • Citizenship is our birthright
  • Birthright citizenship is a cornerstone of American and Colonial history
  • The Constitution takes birthright citizenship as seriously as free speech, the right to bear arms, and a woman's right to vote
  • Birthright citizenship is simple and straightforward
  • Birthright citizenship recognizes the innocence of children
  • Birthright citizenship always has multiplied, and still does multiply, the number of law-abiding citizens in this country
But none of those points appears in the title of the blog post or the e-mail, or in the title or paragraph headers of the fact check.

Those points go to the core message that the IPC is trying to drive home, so the IPC should have put them in its bullet points, headers, and titles.

Those devices are tools.  Readers who skim your article will pick them up.  Readers who read deeper will be guided by and remember them.

Use your titles to communicate your core message.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rebut like Steve Jobs: don't let their frame on your stage

Steve Jobs on his way into the Oscars
Photo by Zadi Diaz.  Licensed via Creative Commons.

Rebut your opponent with your frame, not theirs.

The experience of hearing you should induce amnesia as to the other frame.  Do not remind your audience of the other frame, and never, ever repeat it verbatim.

To some, this is harder than it sounds.  To rebut, you must first lay out the opposition's argument, right?


Maybe it will help to see someone pull it off.  Take Steve Jobs of Apple, master of the techno sales speech.  Jobs is always pitching his consumer goods as the right choice over other technology, but he does not repeat anybody else's frame but his own.

Take a look at these three rebuttals in Jobs' recent keynote speech in San Francisco:

Rebuttal #1:
Apple supports two platforms: the App Store and HTML5.  The former is "a curated platform with over 225,000 apps - the most vibrant app community on the planet," and the latter is "a fully open, uncontrolled platform forged by widely respected standards bodies." 
Rebuttal #2:
95% of the 15,000 apps submitted to the App Store each week are approved within 7 days, with the unlucky 5% being turned down because their apps don't do what they promise, they flat don't work, or they're built with code that will break the app if we ever upgrade the phone.
Rebuttal #3:
iPhone vs. Android - iPhone has 3 times the smartphone market share of Android, and 2-1/2 times Android's share of U.S. mobile browser usage.
Do you know the opponents' arguments, and their supposed evidence, after having heard Jobs? No, you don't, and that's the sign of a clean re-frame.

FYI, the first rebuttal was to address a very public war about whether Adobe's Flash technology should be supported by the iPhone.  The audience didn't hear Jobs say "Adobe" or "Flash" once, and Jobs didn't set up the Adobe argument to rebut it.  Jobs just said what he needed people to hear so that if their "Apple = reasonable and accessible" heart switch wasn't already turned on, then it was after Jobs spoke.

Sure, Jobs referenced the fact that there are other frames out there besides his.  In the context of the third rebuttal, he said this:
There have been a lot of statistics floating around, market research, market share studies, and some of them are OK, and some of them are questionable, and I'd like to just give you two pieces of data that can help you make your own judgments about market share.
But he didn't repeat the other side's frame.  His slides didn't show their bullet points. Hearing Jobs, you don't know any statistics except the ones that tell Jobs' story.

In contrast, below I give three examples of the unfortunately common practice of repeating the enemy frame, followed by a "fix" - what I think they should have done instead:

Thinking about cardboard now?  Yes.
Fix: sell the "sizzle" of the good taste.

"We interrupt this movie to remind you where the exits are."
Fix: focus on what the law actually does.

"FoxNews makes our ears bleed - here's how you can shove an ice pick in yours."
Fix: create a version with bleeps or another gimmick where the offending words are.

Yes, the opposition may be annoying, they are certainly wrong, and you want to show the world how and why. Fine. Go to town.

Just remember Steve Jobs, and don't let their frame on your stage.

See also: Don't Think of an Elephant, by George Lakoff