photo: Paul Hamilton. CC BY_SA license. (see about page for links)

Recent News

Events of note in the world of strategic framing and communications – from the Topos perspective










Economy Boosting Jobs + Raising Minimum Wage

(C) flickr user Simon Bak

People all over the nation — the world, even — are talking about federal proposals to raise the minimum wage. How we — and they — talk about it, and how the media covers it, will determine whether or not there are shifts in the way the public understands the impact of wages on their own community.

With renewed focus on raising the federal minimum wage, Topos is releasing a short memo with new information about communication approaches that broaden support for increasing minimum wage.

This memo reviews our recent research findings on how to clarify for people why raising the minimum wage is good for all of us. Our research finds that we can succeed by having a conversation that avoids the current dynamic pitting business against workers.  We need a conversation that is focused not on what businesses need, or on what individuals need, but on what all of us and our economy need.

The most effective organizing idea for this new conversation is that we simply can’t sustain our economy or our communities, with jobs that fail to compensate adequately. These economy-busting jobs are stalling our economy and our communities. Increasing the minimum wage boosts communities and the overall economy by providing more Americans with income to spend on the basics.

A variety of points help to support and flesh out this core idea.

Download the memo or read it online for more details, including information on ideas that fail because they trigger default perspectives that are a barrier to public understanding.

Do You Know Joe?

Yes. This is Rocker Joe Grady.

But, wait, that’s not all you don’t know.

One of the co-founders of Topos Partnership and Cultural Logic, Joe recently added yet another title to his collection.

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University has announced that Joe is a new senior fellow there. We’re excited for Joe and thrilled at this recognition of his (academic) talent!

Joe Grady: Rocker, Topos Team member, and Fellow.

Labor Day Boost

Happy Labor Day! Celebrate economy-boosting jobs with our new video.

This “Simply-Put” video provides a brief illustration of how to make the core points emerging from newly released Topos research on communicating job quality, including minimum wage and paid sick days. We expect this video will be a great tool for sharing the research findings with colleagues, field staff, supporters, and others. It’s a terrific way to start a conversation – or to wrap up a presentation about building support for job quality initiatives. Check it out! And then read more about our findings.

 

New Job Quality Research Findings Build on Recent Success

Advocates and strategists around the country have achieved some recent successes on a range of job quality policies – especially higher minimum wages and guaranteed paid sick days. From one perspective, these successes indicate the potential to “turn the corner” on job quality debates, and achieve long-term improvements.

On the other hand, people involved in these struggles tell us that the battles are often fought “uphill” against stubborn resistance of various kinds – not just from self-interested industry opponents, but also from decision-makers and the public.

In a multi-phase research effort over the past year, the Topos Partnership has explored Americans’ thinking about these aspects of job quality, and ways of creating more support for policies that would improve our labor market.

In the course of this research we identified a set of persistent, broadly shared ideas in public discourse that can derail conversation about job quality policies, and have developed a practical communications framework that helps people think more constructively about the relationship between jobs, people, corporate actions and the economy.

Our intention was to help communicators in a number of ways:

  • Persuade some who are currently not on our side
  • Increase the confidence of people who are on our side
  • Offer decision-makers models of how to talk persuasively
  • Tie a number of issues together
  • Create a new common sense.

The Problem

Research with a diverse group of hundreds of Americans established that a handful of strong, default perspectives – that collectively feel like “the common sense” on the issue – often undermine support for job quality policies, even among progressive audiences. Importantly, each of these perspectives is based on (partial) truth, and is therefore reinforced by experience and can seem undeniable.

Two of the strongest default perspectives related to job quality focus, respectively, on what businesses need, and what individuals need. Opponents of the job quality agenda typically emphasize the former, while supporters often emphasize the latter.

The Topos research found that to succeed at important framing goals – including broadening the base of support and offering sympathetic audiences more compelling ways of thinking and talking about the topic – it is helpful to focus on a different set of needs: namely what we (collectively), our economy and our communities need. Essentially, to counter the argument that economic success depends on giving business what it wants, we need to reframe the idea of how the economy works. Rather than focus on either individuals or business, this focus ties the two together in a helpful way.

The following core story effectively reframes job quality topics in a way that shifts thinking and engages new support.

If jobs don’t pay enough for workers to afford the basics, the economy slows down. Profitable companies could compensate better but choose not to.

The essential contrast boils down to a choice between “economy-boosting” and “economy-busting” jobs. Some advocates have used versions of this organizing idea for a while now. Our research confirms the effectiveness of the frame for building broad support and new understanding among the public, and provides essential new points like the value of explaining that jobs need to provide enough for “the basics” — food, repairs, clothing, and more.

Conclusion – a “Big Idea”

Importantly, we set out to identify framing that can help not just with one or two specific policies, but promotes new attitudes toward the broader idea of improving jobs for all workers in our economy.

The recommendation is effective at this level, but goes even further. In the end, it offers an alternative common sense about how our economy works, what kind of economy we want and need, and how to achieve it.

If communicators succeed in conveying this vision – of a society that thrives when everyone has the means and the security to maintain spending on the basics – a lot of our policy debates will be less difficult in the future.

Interested in more details about the research? Add your name to our list to receive a toolkit for advocates and communicators.