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

We say “Cap and Trade”. They say “Job Killing Energy Tax”.
We say “Public Option”. They say “Government Takeover of Your Health Care”.

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. Continue reading


What Star Trek can teach us about message management.

The television industry has a special problem. Writers and director, and even sometimes actors, change from episode to episode, but the program has to meticulously maintain its unique style and characters. Science fiction shows have an even bigger burden. They have to maintain an entire fictional universe, and their notoriously demanding fans will catch them in even the tiniest slip up.

The Star Trek franchise has been around since 1966, and has managed to keep its fictional world consistent through 6 TV series’ and 12 movies. How? Through the Star Trek Bible. Every TV show has one, but Star Trek’s is probably the most famous and extensive of them all. Continue reading

“What we’ve got here, is a failure to accumulate.”

We work hard to be up to date with the latest innovations in communication technology. We hire the best consultants, pollsters and vendors. We go on talk shows. We “win the news cycle” more often than not. We blog. We tweet. We micro-target. We’ve got content going out through 100 different channels. So why isn’t it adding up to something bigger?

Cognitive science research tells us that no matter how messages are distributed, they are received subconsciously, emotionally and most importantly, cumulatively. Continue reading

Learning from Lakoff

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

I recently 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

A Short History of Field Operations

Jim Broadbent as “Boss” Tweed in the movie Gangs of New York.

It might be romantic to think of modern field operations as having grown organically from the community organizing traditions of people like Saul Alinksy and the Farmworkers, but its origins are actually much closer to the “ward heeler” operations of the likes of Boss Tweed and the Chicago Machine. Continue reading