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Finding a workable messaging frame

Friday, May 20, 2016

* I was somehow included in a group e-mail message about human services funding. But a very interesting e-mail was included in the back and forth and I asked permission to post an edited version here. It was granted…

The ongoing coverage of the human toll has not generated the kind of response from the general public that we would have liked to have seen, such as empathy, outrage, and the sense that we are all in this together.

I think that is wishful thinking on our part, meaning on the part of those of us who work in human services. We are not swaying the general public with our horrifying stories of human suffering. We are met, largely, with indifference or even harsh judgement (remember the debate last fall about why we should be providing child care support for low-income parents - Why should we take care of their children? They should not have had kids in the first place, etc. etc.).

The Frameworks research on this is pretty clear, and I am sorry to see it confirmed here in Illinois in such a stark way. The National Human Services Assembly has commissioned this research and is disseminating it.

We are having far more success with our messaging about honoring contracts, and that paying people for the work they have done under legal contracts is just good business. I get media calls every single day now, from print, broadcast, radio, local, statewide, even national media.

The message that people should be paid for work done under legal contracts is a sticky message, and a non-controversial one. It is even a conservative one, if you think about it. And it resonates with people.

More info about that national reframing research is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:22 pm:


    Messaging and getting the proper framing out into the media as an important message is tough too.

    I’m sure many would pitch in.

  2. - Johnny Pyle Driver - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:25 pm:

    yep, all the carnage wrought on the state over the last year is meaningless to most. My Facebook page has only seemed to notice there was some problem in Illinois in the last couple weeks as high schools begin talking about not opening in the fall.

    Elderly going hungry? Yawn
    Vulnerable children tossed out in the cold? Meh
    Johnny maybe can’t go to school in 6 months? DOOMSDAY!!!

  3. - illinoised - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:26 pm:

    I applaud this effort. A member of my family is disabled and has lived a productive life (including holding a job from a young age until retirement) due to having received human services, I used to work for a large human service agency, and I am on a state board which addresses human service issues. As an advocate for such services, I meet too many people who tell me that such help is not needed because folks need to try harder, get help from their church, not have kids, etc.

  4. - anony - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:28 pm:

    Paying bills used to be a conservative priority. Now many prefer bankruptcy.

  5. - Been There - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:29 pm:

    ===The ongoing coverage of the human toll has not generated the kind of response from the general public that we would have liked to have seen, such as empathy, outrage, and the sense that we are all in this together. ====
    Sometimes when you get that proud feeling about how great America is, its items like this that should put you back into the reality of how flawed we can also be.

  6. - Big Joe - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:30 pm:

    In my mind it is simple. Pay the people for the services rendered under contract. Don’t try to weasel out of contracts agreed to before the work was done.

  7. - Liberty - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:31 pm:

    Conservatives today favor bankruptcy over contracts and don’t believe people in the public or not-for-profit sector work and earn for a living instead believing it all to be illegitimate anyway. It is a very leftist position when you think about it.

  8. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:38 pm:

    The apparent lack of empathy from the “general public” is a sad commentary. Many people don’t distinguish between the able-bodied folks who choose to play the system and the ones who truly need social services to survive. They focus on the ones who don’t work but somehow manage to have nicer things than they do. But I’m for whatever message works. If we have to take the scenic route to arrive at the destination so be it.

  9. - Jerry - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:48 pm:

    The lack of empathy is result of the Democratic party changing platforms to a pro-business corporation-sponsored one. Is Rahm supposed to be the poster boy for caring about people? Because he’s typical of the kind of Democrats we choose these days.

  10. - Markus - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:48 pm:

    A very sad State that we are in. Message re-framing is short-sighted on this issue; albeit necessary to get people paid what they are owed. It seems the real message is that “taxpayers” anymore, just don’t give a damn about those less fortunate than themselves.

    The current governor understands that and is using it to his advantage. K-12 is so much more important than human services because it affects “taxpayers” directly.

    The process of individual budget appropriations by its very nature, creates winners and losers. Until No appropriation is final until all budget appropriations are enacted, the Hunger Games- Illinois Edition will continue. A really sad State we live in.

  11. - James Knell - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 12:51 pm:

    Liberty, can you explain why today’s conservatives view on people who work in the public or not-for-profit sector is “very leftist”? No flaming or disrespect intended. Just trying to understand that one. Best I can do is imagine Stalin or Mao regarding them band-aid providers. Is that what you mean?

  12. - Downstate - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:00 pm:

    Sadly, the humans services work has gotten lumped into the entitlement programs, even though they are two completely different things.

  13. - Earnest - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:08 pm:

    This would be no surprise to Rauner. He chose his hostages well.

  14. - olddog - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:14 pm:

    Once upon a time, we had an effective messaging framework for human services:

    – “Do unto others …”

    – “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

    Somehow as a society, we’ve lost our way. Especially in the aftermath of Citizens United, I’m not optimistic we’ll ever find it again.

  15. - Oswego Willy - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:15 pm:

    It would be helpful to use the framing but have Emily Miller get a Crew together and breakout her lay of the land, a come up with a media strategy.

    You start anything with Ms. Miller, you’re starting off really strong.

  16. - illini97 - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:20 pm:

    If the minority leader wants to “squeeze the beast” then maybe the correct response is indeed, “Well, you made a deal with the beast. Better pay that beast.”

  17. - Union Man - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:27 pm:

    Americans are more selfish now than ever, and Libertarians are doing their darkest best to institutionalize it across the nation.

  18. - JS Mill - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:27 pm:

    =Johnny maybe can’t go to school in 6 months? DOOMSDAY!!!=

    More like “Johnny won’t be able to play football Friday Night?!!! DOOMSDSAY!!!


  19. - Belle - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:28 pm:

    Everyone makes a weird choice now and then. Sometimes it is not a choice but something goes wrong and one is rendered disabled.

    Our society used to be set up to help others. We had programs (like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Bluebirds, etc) that helped kids understand the positives of giving your time, raising money, achieving, and learning.

    Now, we look away when someone is pan-handling and wonder why people are digging thru our trash.

    I have no answers how we became so cold-hearted but I suspect it began in the 80’s when we were told that ‘greed was good.’

    The number of people who need has grown and there are fewer people in the position to help. Unfortunately, some people will give money to a political campaign before a charitable org. The charity is far more likely to use your money in a responsible fashion.

  20. - Fairness and Fairness Only - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:32 pm:

    Kudos to the social services advocacy group for spending time and resources to identify effective messaging methods. Far too often, people who are passionate to their cause are unable to see other perspectives, let alone go looking for them. I wish the human, empathetic cause would carry the day. But, if it’s not, then I’m glad that they’re identifying this issue and pursuing messages that get attention. The end certainly justifies the means here.

    I’d agree with the sentiment that many (far too many!) Illinoisans are only realizing that the budget impasse might impact them now due to the school funding, license plate renewals or soda taxes.

    Thanks for keeping up the good fight to educate people and raise the level of discourse on this blog.

  21. - Left Leaner - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:36 pm:

    So what’s stopping the leaders from using some ‘Turn Around Agenda’ tactics and tying passage of a K-12 education approp to the passage of a human services approp or, better yet, a FY16 AND FY17 budget?

    Yes, it’s cynical, but starting closing schools and everyone gets a budget!

  22. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:46 pm:

    Agree that there’s a social/moral problem with people prioritizing contracts above human need.

    But when was this golden yesteryear when we genuinely cared for all of the poor and sick?

    I remember social programs being very popular when they were directed at white people. As they’ve expanded to become more equal, their popularity has sunk like a stone.

    Ignoring that facet of our ethos is how we end up with you-know-who as a presidential candidate.

  23. - In a Minute - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 1:49 pm:

    There have been some posts here lately about the squeeze on the middle class and how they don’t have sufficient savings to weather an emergency. It may be that those folks hear “messaging” on how bad the poor and disabled have it and they think taxes are going to get raised and make it even harder on the middle class.
    Illinois has been horrible at funding human services for the last decade, so its not like the current budget impasse took the state from number 2 or 3 to number 49. Illinois was already at the bottom and people know that too.
    Illinois and its units of local government can continue to pay for the exponential growth of public sector retiree pensions and healthcare. Or it can pay to provide dignity and human services to those who truly need them. But it can’t do both without taxing at a level those people able to do it would just avoid by leaving the state.

  24. - Dan Johnson - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 2:09 pm:

    That is really depressing to be reminded of our lack of solidarity.

  25. - burbanite - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 2:19 pm:

    Very disturbing. Pictures, people are —– they need to have pictures flashed in their faces. Words clearly are not enough.

  26. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 2:27 pm:

    It’s no fair, but many people hear about human service providers and public $ only when there is bad news of waste or corruption.

    Pat Quinn’s NRI $ to service providers, DCFS grant fraud during Erwin McEwen, IDPH grant fraud during Eric Whitaker and other cases muddle with reports of Medicaid fraud, patient abuse, political cronyism and an anger with government that leaves people tapped out and suspicious of anything tied to Springfield.

    Human service providers are the best of the publicly supported =good apples=, but politics, corruption and $140 Bill. in debts are now spoiling the =whole barrel=.

  27. - Mama - Friday, May 20, 16 @ 3:29 pm:

    “The ongoing coverage of the human toll has not generated the kind of response from the general public that we would have liked to have seen, such as empathy, outrage, and the sense that we are all in this together.’

    The Republican Tea Party has made social services a bad word. I have found if one describes what social services provide to the public, people’s tone changes.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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