Framing Equality

Why did a group of people in Russia want to ban LGBTI groups from using the rainbow flag (stolen from nature and the children, apparently), and how have movements like La Manif Pour Tous in France, protesting that sex education must ‘leave my gender stereotypes alone’ (not a joke), gained any serious support?

We think it’s got a lot to do with framing.

#blacklivesmatter Narrative is fractal 5 Why we need more than words to truly face racism

Narrative is more than words

He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle.
Roxie Washington, mother of George Floyd’s daughter

I don’t think many people truly believe the old sticks and stones adage anymore. But working in the world of framing and strategic comms, it’s easy to take it to the other extreme and believe the power of words to be paramount. But words are just one vehicle for the meaning we extract from and use to shape our lives.

What causes my gut to wrench and the grief to wrack my body when I hear of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade is, only in the simplest of senses, caused by the words I read on a screen. The immediate pain lies in the stories themselves, located beyond the words: the brutal events, the violent interplay between the characters, the horror of the ending. The lives taken: the whole, messy, beautiful humans who will never again walk through their front door or laugh or hug their loved ones again.

And each of their stories is another tile in an incomprehensibly vast mosaic of a narrative that taps into a deep well of familiar pain, a dull ache that I’ve held for as long as I remember.  Read more

New Publication Testing Comms Guide A resource to help civil society test communications

Download the guide!

Testing tells you whether your choice of framing—the emphasis you put on particular concepts—is likely to affect the change you were hoping for.

While working on the Framing Equality Toolkit with ILGA-Europe and LGBTI campaigners from across Europe over the past few years, we found that doing any kind of testing was really rare.

Campaign messages are often developed under huge pressure, in a small team, and sent straight out into the world. These messages are based on assumptions rather than evidence of how an audience will react and they are therefore likely to be hit-or-miss.

When messages miss, they can leave a lasting negative impression on how people think about your issue. This can set you back in time and resources, and make it harder to realise your vision.

And when you do test, it can be a useful learning experience for both the short- and longer-term about how people understand your issue and what kind of framing works.

Our aim, then, is to make testing common practice on any budget.

The guide focuses on three methodologies: surveys, focus groups and interviews, and follows the steps illustrated in the example above.

  1. Know what you are looking for: form the right research questions and hypotheses before you begin.
  2. Choose your methodology: decide whether focus groups, interviews or surveys are the best match for your research question.
  3. Prepare your messages to test: follow some basic principles to get your messages ready to test and compare.
  4. Find the right sample: find out about different types of samples and how you can recruit them.
  5. Look for what works: know how to make sense of your results.

You don’t need any expertise to understand this guide.

We hope that this guide will help you work with researchers or agencies to test your messages; or even to have a go at trialling some low-cost methodologies yourself.

Using testing to improve campaigns: an example

Using the process in this guide, we worked closely with an LGBTI organisation in Slovenia called Legebitra. Together we organised some low cost focus groups to test their messages about LGBTI discrimination, and we used the results to develop the final campaign. Testing helped Legebitra to find effective and humorous ways of appealing to shared identities and emphasising the common ground between LGBTI people and non-LGBTI people.

This campaign is already proving successful in Slovenia, with the film getting 50,000 views in the first few days of its release.

Download the guide now

If you want to talk about testing, please get in touch!


New Publication A new framing toolkit for equality activists across Europe

LGBTI Flag and Symbol

Download our new toolkit for Framing Equality here! 

Interested in attending or hosting a workshop in the UK in the new year? Get in touch!

We’re in Poland in the unpredictable summer of 2013. Progressive movements are collectively rolling their eyes at an attack on gender equality from the fringes of the religious right. It looks ridiculous: an attempt to discredit what they call ‘gender ideology’. The gender equality ‘agenda’ is denounced as a threat to social order; sexuality education, they say, is a tool used by paedophiles. Members of the progressive movement—including feminist and LGBTI groups and academics—are writing sneering responses in the media: teaching gender equality in schools is about improving the prospects of young girls; and no, masturbation lessons are not on the agenda. Read more

Pride & Prejudice Six framing lessons from London Pride

This month, people marched across London in the culmination of Pride. But in the lead up to the festivities, the organisers faced some pretty fierce criticism for this year’s Love Happens Here campaign. The PR company behind the campaign apologised after receiving complaints about the centring of straight people’s voices, the use of homophobic slurs and stereotypes, and the exclusion of trans* stories.

Sounds kind of like the opposite of Pride, right?

There are some juicy lessons in this experience for a framing geek like me. And they chime pretty well with a lot of the lessons we’ve learnt over the past couple of years in our Framing Equality project (read more here). Read more