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The Science of Messaging: Take back the public debate with strategic framing.

Professional development workshop for political communications professionals and other progressive stakeholders.

If you would like to be notified when the training becomes available, please leave me a note here.

This training won’t just tell you what to say, it will change how you think. You will get the tools you need to figure out for yourself what to say, every day, to wrestle control of the public debate back from your opposition.

The conservative movement has dominated the public debate. They effectively communicate a common set of values and beliefs, and they are willing to use any psychological tactic that works to spread disinformation, sow fear and divide people.

We need to understand how they do it, so we can regain control. We need to learn effective reframing tactics and use them to promote the truth, inspire hope and bring people back together.

I have spent many years gathering the wisdom of experts across disciplines, from cognitive science and behavioral psychology to marketing and advertising, political history and moral philosophy. I also worked for more than a year with progressive messaging guru George Lakoff, renowned cognitive linguistics expert and best-selling author of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

My mission is to make all of this material accessible for busy professionals and activists by giving you just what you really need to know and showing you how to apply it in your day-to-day work.

We’re all tired of being beaten up in a game where we either don’t understand the rules or don’t even know we’re playing. If you go through this training, you will come out the other side feeling like you are in control, have a game plan and are ready to dominate the field.

101 – How Language Influences Thinking

  • Learn how to win the debate over individual issues by changing the dominant frame in the conversation including: what frames are and how they work on a neurological level, how they influence judgment of right and wrong, and how we use narratives to promote them.
  • Learn how our country developed a political culture around two highly contrasting worldviews. Learn who is persuadable and how they can be persuaded.
  • Learn why moving the entire public debate (and the country) toward the Left requires repeatedly using frames that illustrate our belief system. Learn why exposure, repetition, controversy and agenda setting are so critical.

102 – What We Believe

  • Learn the dominant narratives of conservative and progressive belief systems, our core values and how to contrast them with conservative values.
  • Learn how to debunk dominant conservative myths and provide a better vision of the relationship between society, government and our economic system.
  • Learn how to articulate our beliefs in the proper role of government and how to get people to understand and support our policy positions by placing them in the context of those beliefs.

103 – Take Back the Debate

  • Learn how to analyze the current public debate and identify the prominent frames and how they are being used to influence people’s perception.
  • Learn how to develop our own frames, ones that will get people to see situations from our point of view and judge our actions to be morally right.
  • Learn how to develop and execute our own reframing strategy. Learn practical tools and tactics we can use to regain control of the debate, set or change the agenda and get people to think using our frames.

Anatomy of a Message


How do you develop a core message strategy? You need to figure out the one message you want to sink in over the course of the entire campaign. What is the relationship between that core message and the content you produce? Everything your campaign communicates and everything your supporters say have to illustrate and reinforce that one core message. 

Continue reading

It’s not about policy positions. Emotion moves swing voters.

We say, “Public Option.”   They say, “Death Panels.”
We say, “Government Programs.”   They say, “Socialism.”
We say, “Cap and Trade.”   They say, “Job Killing Energy Tax”.

They use emotions to connect with people and create negative feelings toward us. We use logic to try to convince people that we’re right. Obama gave people hope in 2008, but we failed miserably by trying to sell the Affordable Care Act as a list of poll tested policies instead of as a moral imperative. It took 10 years for people’s lived experience with “ObamaCare” to show them why it mattered. Continue reading

Learning from Lakoff

In 2011, I spent a semester at Berkeley studying cognitive linguistics with Professor Lakoff whose work I have admired since I read Moral politics in 1996. I was so convinced of the importance of his work that I returned in 2015 to spend a year working directly with George to develop a training program to help people put his work into practice. I am only now finishing this project, and the end result is the LeftWords training program you can learn more about here!

Quintessential George Lakoff at the Berkeley coffee shop. (BAP photos)

I had the privilege of working with the brilliant and delightful Professor George Lakoff at University of California, Berkeley. I went to study framing. I learned far more than I ever imagined about how our minds actually work.

These discoveries in cognitive science elevate Lakoff’s work on political framing from “good advice” to “critical truths we ignore at our own peril”. We have to understand the foundation of our competing moral systems if we are to succeed in reaching people and overturning the Right’s dominance over our public debate. Continue reading