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Developing a new language of persuasion: Counterpoint’s workshops on framing

With public distrust of expertise at an all-time high, and an increasing demand for transparency, the messages of carefully constructed campaigns can easily fail to deliver, and even backfire. They might resonate with a loyal audience, but fail to reach beyond it. In our work with public and private sector decision-makers we often hear about the challenges they face in reaching new audiences, or even existing ones.

At Counterpoint we run workshops to help our clients and funders communicate more effectively with their target audiences – be it the public, their customers or their own members, stakeholders and shareholders. A nuanced understanding of your audience is crucial, but it is equally crucial to reflect on the worldview you are communication about your organisation: that needs to be understood and spelt out authentically to help an audience relate to your stories. To communicate effectively, you need to know how you, as a communicator, are perceived and what you stand for.

How does framing help? 

Framing is an approach that builds on the interconnections between language, thinking and feeling. As a technique it examines the different ways in which we see the world (through ‘frames’) and how we evoke and transmit values. Its starting point is that messages fail unless they connect with our deeply held values and sentiments—both as communicators and as audiences. To connect with an audience it is therefore critical to spell out the worldviews that underpin your own values and positions in a way that is relatable—and understand how your own frames of reference will connect with those of your audience.

Our framing workshops explore how language and thinking are intimately linked and they build the capacity in our participants to systematically detect these links. We use the workshops to explore which values participants want to put forward, which worldviews underpin them and how they can use language more effectively to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.

In these sessions we work with three building blocks: We provide research-based input on the links between language, thinking and behaviour change. We then encourage participants to reflect on their worldviews and provide feedback on the frames that could capture these. Finally, we explore how to shift them when they communicate with others. Together, we analyse their existing mode of communication, working through concrete examples. It is therefore a combination of self-understanding and adapting to an audience. Our workshop format uses a mix of crisp input and applied work.

What are the outcomes for participants?

Participants benefit on several levels:

  • They reflect on their organisations’ values and worldviews and gain a clearer understanding of what these values actually mean.
  • They develop improved sensitivity to the language they use and how it is linked to how their audiences see the world.
  • They take away tangible insights on their own communication frames: Which ones should they put forward, which ones should they develop further, which ones are less helpful?
  • They gain a new perspective on their audiences and those audiences they currently fail to convince. They develop techniques to integrate those audience’s doubts and concerns and explore different ways to take them on board.

We have been running workshops with a number of organisations, for example with Plan International, to work on their language across European offices, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Swedish Ministry of Justice. We have also worked with a range of other NGOs and governments as well as corporate clients from a range of sectors. We just ran a training session with UPS’s European management focusing on how to speak engagingly about diversity and inclusion.

You can contact our Director of Projects, Ulrike Grassinger to find out more: Ulrike.grassinger@counterpoint.uk.com

 

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With public distrust of expertise at an all-time high, and an increasing demand for transparency, the messages of carefully constructed campaigns can easily fail...