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How to Reach A Larger Audience

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Headlined to H3 2/23/10

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Stop preaching to the choir!

Start reaching a larger audience!

The people you talk with and the websites which publish what you write might think you're great, but the vast majority of people out there aren't hearing it.

You're Reaching a Very Small Audience

Communications experts like George Lakoff (who I recently interviewed) and Frank Luntz say that most people don't make political decisions based on fact and logic. Instead, they make decisions based on their ideas of morality and pre-existing "frames" of reference.

So if you are just reciting facts, you are not going to persuade anyone except the minority of people who reason and make decisions based on logic. (You may say "but all of the websites I read and people I talk to make decisions based on logic". Okay, but that only means that you don't read the overwhelming majority of websites or talk to the overwhelming majority of people who make decisions based on other factors. See this and this).

Associating an issue or person with an emotion is called "anchoring".

Some words convey strong positive or negative emotions, and act as powerful anchor words. For example, in 1995, Newt Gingrich pushed the following positive words for use by politicians:

share... change... opportunity... legacy... challenge... control... truth... moral... courage... reform... prosperity... crusade... movement... children... family... debate... compete... active(ly)... we/us/our... candid(ly)... humane... pristine... provide...

liberty... commitment... principle(d)... unique... duty... precious... premise... care(ing)... tough... listen... learn... help... lead... vision... success... empower(ment)... citizen... activist... mobilize... conflict... light... dream... freedom...

peace... rights... pioneer... proud/pride... building... preserve... pro-(issue): flag, children, environment... reform... workfare... eliminate good-time in prison... strength... choice/choose... fair... protect... confident... incentive... hard work... initiative... common sense... passionate
"National security" is also, obviously, a very powerful anchor. Just using these some of these words to describe one's position helps to persuade people towards that position.

Gingrich urged the following negative words be describe one's opponent:
decay... failure (fail)... collapse(ing)... deeper... crisis... urgent(cy)... destructive... destroy... sick... pathetic... lie... liberal... they/them... unionized bureaucracy... "compassion" is not enough... betray... consequences... limit(s)... shallow... traitors... sensationalists...

endanger... coercion... hypocrisy... radical... threaten... devour... waste... corruption... incompetent... permissive attitudes... destructive... impose... self-serving... greed... ideological... insecure... anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs... pessimistic... excuses... intolerant...

stagnation... welfare... corrupt... selfish... insensitive... status quo... mandate(s)... taxes... spend(ing)... shame... disgrace... punish (poor...)... bizarre... cynicism... cheat... steal... abuse of power... machine... bosses... obsolete... criminal rights... red tape... patronage
(Gingrich's buzzwords came from Luntz)

Lakoff and Luntz periodically release updated lists of anchors and frames concerning specific issues. For example, Lakoff writes today that Democrats promoting health care reform should use the words "freedom" and "life". And Luntz recently wrote that those fighting financial reform should focus on phrases such as "lobbyist loopholes", "agent of change", "government accountability", "bloated government bureaucracy". (Lakoff is on the left, and Luntz on the right. But everyone should look beyond their partisan biases to their scientific communications insights. They are, after all, two of the leading experts in field of communication).

Let's take the example of economic policy. You can write about the bailouts, credit default swaps and oligarchy until the cows come home. But you won't reach anyone who doesn't already know about those issues.

Instead, start out by framing the issue in terms the majority can understand. For example:

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George Washington


As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)
 
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People who are on the forefront of the progressive... by Kahukugirl on Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 4:56:58 PM
Facts and logic are all we've got. Joining the pro... by Michael David Morrissey on Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 9:42:48 AM
The propaganda war is between those trying to spre... by George Washington on Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 10:43:08 AM
I find this article enlightening if not disingenuo... by Nick van Nes on Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:39:25 PM
George Lakoff and Thom Hartmann are trying to wake... by George Washington on Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:43:04 PM