How issues framing can help you deliver a sticky message


“The literature of social movements suggests that the prudent choice of frames, and the ability to effectively contest the opposition’s frames [re-frame], lie at the heart of successful policy advocacy.Framing Public Issues Toolkit

Have you ever noticed how the mainstream media frames people with mental health issues as violent and unpredictable? A common media myth: people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence; and are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others.


8 useful things to know about issues framing

  • It’s a way of structuring or presenting information into messages (words, metaphors and images) that can influence how people think about an issue. The infamous War on Terror is a classic example.
  • It aims to simplify reality by shaping people’s assumptions and perceptions.
  • A good frame engages the listeners’ values and emotions and it’s easy to remember.
  • It’s packaged to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others.
  • For political purposes, framing often presents facts in such a way that implicates a problem that is in need of a solution.
  • In a political context issue framing means presenting an issue in a way that’s going to get the biggest buy-in.
  • Frames are powerful because most of us have internalized them from the media so they’re second nature to us.
  • Some people call it spin.

If you’ve found this post valuable, please do share it with others.

How to create powerful key messages

how to create powerful key messagesKey messages capture the essence of something that you want to communicate. They’re bits of information that people/organisations want their target audiences to know. They articulate what you do, what you believe in and how your work benefits people’s lives, the planet. . .

Here’s a couple of key messages to chew on:

“The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.” Greenpeace 

“Speaking openly about our mental health is an essential element in breaking down the stigma surrounding it.” Rethink 

Key messages are normally sprinkled into communications – website pages, newspaper articles, press releases, presentations, media interviews, MP meetings etc.

When creating strong key messages for your public affairs and media work remember the 10 steps:

  1. Short and simple – no more than a couple of sentences.
  2. Easy to understand.
  3. Conversational and is easy to say aloud.
  4. Jargon and acronym free.
  5. Has emotional punch.
  6. Captures the spirit of what you want to achieve.
  7. Uses a tone that will connect with your audience.
  8. Expresses your brand.
  9. Focuses on one broad idea.
  10. Is easy for people to remember.

So time to get out there. As Amelia Earhart once said: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” 

If you liked this blog then you might find these helpful too:

Key message development 

How to make your key messages interesting 

Good luck with your messaging. If you need any help just give us a call on 07966 369579 or contact me @businesses4 good or sofija@ creative public affairs.

How to create good social policy: 10 tips

adopt a policy

1.  Be realistic. We’d all like to have a magic wand but only the fairy queen has one.

2.  Be clear about your outcomes. An outcome is not the activity itself (serving lunch to a group of older people who currently live at home) but the impact it has on their lives (it might increase their confidence eg ). 

3.  Be aware outcomes come in three shapes:

Individual: Frank feels much more confident.

Service level: 10 people are able to stay independent at home.

Strategic: More people can live the life they want.

4.  Be rigorous about how you’re going to measure success.

5.  Be careful to get buy-in from all relevant departments.

6.  Be open. You might have to change your mind.

7.  Be respectful of evidence. Experiment. Do a pilot.

8.  Be clear about who’s meant to be doing what.

9.  Be sure to encourage constructive feedback from all staff.

10.Be honest. Will this really make people’s lives better?

If you want to know more about outcomes-based policy development helpful reads are:

NCVO’s Measuring and Commissioning Outcomes and Social Value and The experience of the use of outcomes-based commissioning in Camden.

Hope this has been useful. Why not give me a shout if there’s a policy issue that’s keeping you awake at night. Please follow me on twitter @businesses4good. 

What’s going on? The autumn statement

Money-001 (1)Quick answers to someone confused by Autumn statement.

What is it? The autumn statement is an update on the government’s plans based on the latest forecasts from the Office of Budget Responsibility.

How can I get on top of the main points quickly? BBC news

And if I need a bit more detail? Treasury documents and regional map.

Or you could try out and the Guardian’s autumn statement charts

Hope this helps. If it did why not leave a comment. Oh and please do follow me on twitter @busineses4good.

Oh let me in: social media and policy development

Painting by Bella Opacic

Lively discussion at recent Hansard Society event (11.09.12) around whether social media could be effectively used to develop public policy. General feel was yes – but be careful. A distinguished panel shared some of their thoughts:

  • One fit doesn’t fit all: think about both the audience you want to reach and the output you want (Nick Jones).
  • Twitter has huge potential as a policy making tool. A simple thing you can do is set up issues and link to information so people have time to think (Deborah Mattinson).
  • You can easily source, promote and communicate with twitter. But you need to learn to talk in that space. There’s lots of social media fora that can help (Rory Cellan-Jones).
  • Trust is key. People will disconnect as soon as trust is abused (Nick Pickles).
  • Twitter gives us an emotional connection as human beings (Kevin Brennan MP).

What’s your hunch? Is social media going to help us develop public policy in the future or is it puff? Please do leave a comment and follow me on twitter @businesses4good.



Social Policy Insight/3: Making a good first impression

Communicating policy ideas simply to people is part of a public affair professional’s everyday business. Let’s imagine – for instance – that you’ve got a meeting with your local MP next week; and you want to “sell” them one of your ideas.

What kinds of questions would you be asking yourself to help you prepare? Here’s three that have always helped me:


  • What practical, innovative project have you got to showcase?
  • How do you know it works – impacting positively on people and the public purse?
  • What attention-grabbing stories have you got to illustrate your case?

Finally, a public affairs secret: MPs are always keen to hear about new, money-saving ideas that independent research shows works.

Keen to know whether this is helpful to you, so please do leave a comment; or you can follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

Social Policy Insight/2: Stress-free policy development

The birthday cake: sketch by Bella Opacic

Given their political and parliamentary know-how, public affairs professionals are often called on to help organisations select policy priorities. Here’s three tips to help you take the stress out of prioritising policy.

• Choose your top policy priority first, then move onto two and three. Once you have one agreed, the others tend to follow more easily. Be careful, a simple mistake you can make here is to be secretive about the selection process.

• Be clear about why you chose those policies. Why are they important? Why’s it an issue now? What financial impact could the proposed government policy change – for instance – have on your current services, your members, the people you support.

• Communicate those messages back to everyone who helped you choose them, and thank them. It’s your chance to connect up and keep people engaged in the policy conversation. It’s always helpful to add a call to action, even if it’s as simple as getting them to express an interest in getting more involved; or asking them to send stories (some people call them case studies) that focus on a policy priority.

Why not e-mail a policy question through to or add a comment.

Social policy insight/1: shaping policy with confidence

Sketch by Bella Opacic

Being able to shape policy is one of the key tools of a public affairs expert.

Put simply policy means what you think or believe around a particular issue, where you stand or position yourself. Do you believe that all older people should pay for their social care? Should volunteers be paid?

Here’s 3 tips to help you shape your policies with confidence.


Be clear about what your organisation’s strategic priorities are and what campaign, marketing and fund-raising is planned for the year ahead.

Listen to the people you support. Have a clear idea about the issues that matter to them and action change that benefits them.

Horizon scan. Ask yourself what the key issues in your sector are likely to be? What launches, consultations, white/green papers, announcements, reviews etc are about to happen? What emerging issues are expected in the medium to long-term? Use your networks and political monitoring services to help you.

If you want to know more about how to shape policy with confidence, then why not give us a call on 07966 369579 for a quick chat.

As a public affairs professional I’m used to shaping policy to influence.