The Obama presidency has created new political realities that were difficult to even imagine a year ago. How can we adapt our framing of issues and progressive change messaging in response?
In late spring thirty-three communicators from around the country came together for PCN’s tenth national gathering to meet each other, exchange skills and assess the larger political context in which grassroots justice movements are now working. In a Saturday session, a dozen PCNers working in diverse issues such as economic justice, reproductive rights, climate change, and international peace came together to talk about the possibilities and challenges of this new political reality.
The New Rhetoric
New beliefs permeate the changed atmosphere in which we are working:
There are some issues where people are feeling particularly challenged around developing messages because while the rhetoric has changed, the action has not. Groups working on the war in Afghanistan and climate justice, for example, are still working to find the right frames and messages.
Tone is Important When Talking About Obama
As the group shifted to look at how to capitalize on positive trends and address negative ones, they talked about what happened to talk show host Tavis Smiley when he sought to highlight the on-going existence of racism and its effects. He tried to hold Obama accountable in his State of the Black Union forum and people reacted negatively.
Tone seems to be an important factor when talking about Obama, and Tavis Smiley’s tone got in the way of people listening to important ideas he was raising. How do we set the proper tone and create messages that people will be able to hear?
Framing for Justice During the Obama Presidency
To advance new approaches to the work, we need a strategy so that frame and message development can happen in timely and responsive ways. We can:
In wrapping up their conversation, the group talked about the need and ways to continue work on this, including the need to work collaboratively, identify trends and opportunities, formulate key questions to explore, and plan to engage with broader audiences. PCN will work to support these ideas through continued networking and convening of communicators on the regional and national level so that we can make good use of the opportunities of the Obama presidency.