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WEBINAR: American Aspirations: New Insights and Ideas for Narrative Change


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Do you need to “change the narrative” about an issue?

Motivate and mobilize people for your cause?

Bridge political divides?

This webinar is for you.

Making progress on your cause—and moving America forward—begins with offering people new ways to imagine the kind of country America can be.

For this Network webinar, we’ll be joined by Hattaway Communications to explore new tool you can use now: The all-new American Aspirations handbook shares learning from a large body of narrative change research, with new data exploring people’s aspirations for their lives and the country. It’s powerful information for narrative change, movement-building, advocacy, and more

The team at Hattaway surveyed more than 2,000 people about their hopes for their lives and the country. Their answers will help you connect your cause to aspirations that truly motivate people. They also tested new narratives about America itself, which you can use to frame issues in terms that resonate with people across the political spectrum.

We’ll cover:

  • Data about aspirations that shape people’s decisions and behaviors
  • New narratives you can use to frame a wide variety of issues
  • A framing tool to help you map out new narratives for your cause
  • Audience profiles to help you tailor content and activities to expand your reach



Sean Gibbons: Hey everybody. Sean Gibbons from the Communications Network. Welcome to the first network webinar of 2021.

We’re really grateful to have you with us. So I’m going to just yap at you for a quick moment to make sure we have space to come into the Zoom room. You know it takes a minute or two for everybody to make their way in today. We have about 615 people who signed up for this session from Doug and the team from Hattaway Communications.

So a couple of quick things, just to do a little housekeeping. If you get knocked out, we are going to be at capacity so please try not to jump on and jump off. Stick with us if you can because you might find difficulty in getting back into the Zoom room.

Why don’t we go ahead and pick up ‑‑ yes, Renees, this is recorded and we usually have this turned around in about 24 hours. Renee, join me in a habit we had at the network now going back to whenever this horrible pandemic began and that is an idea that we borrowed from professor Brene Brown at the University of Houston and that’s a two word check in.

Two words describe how you’re doing right now. And if you would, just add your name in and where you’re coming in from. What is home or what your work space look like for you right now where you’re at. I pre‑mop lated now. You will be sending that out to everyone or maybe it says all panelists and attendees. Go ahead and fire that one away.

As we’re waiting for everyone to say hello and be in community, Susan, you have a question. You can go ahead and toss that into the chat and I will try to get into it. Susan you’ve raised your hand and raised something. If you would, if you have questions, go ahead and you’re seeing that chat function, it look like a big word cloud, next to that in mine is a Q&A box and that’s where we’re going to go to look for questions as we move through the presentation. So please make a point if you’ve got questions in there.

Hey Barbara in L.A. Feeling optimistic. That’s good way to be. I’m seeing a lot of friends and familiar names in here. Hey Elizabeth Kayhill, Omar, Natalie, how are you had. Going way too fast for me so I will try to say hi for you. Jessica, Carrie, Jennifer, will it, Kiera ‑‑ way too fast for me but suffice it to say we have a lot of folks with you and hopefully everyone is in good health and you can stay that way. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel, a little time before we get to where we need to go.

So with that, my partner in all crime, Tristan is manning the deck. If would you take us forward and as we go to the next slide, I will tell you about this new thing that we built and we have Tonya and Nora West and the fantastic team of other folks as part of our Diversity Equity Inclusion Workgroup. We had this motion a couple years ago, some of the work we’re doing was getting in the wail of the goals and aspirations and values that we all hold.

If you go to ComNetwork DEI, not only will you find report that shows what we learned but also real practical tactical tools, how you might change how you work and operationalize your values. So as we go to the other things, we have, for the last little while tried to be mindful of being accessible to as many folks as we can.

So if you have need there is a closed caption button at the bottom of your screen.

Click that open, and our friend Alan is going to be keeping up. Everybody else is a slower talker than I am and that will be easier on Alan. There’s closed captioning.

And our friend Marva, who you may remember from our webinars, she will offer ASL services. If you need that, figure out how to deal with the Zoom, you can pin her camera so you can see her offering interpretation along the way.

Mr. T, go ahead and take us forward to the next slide. This is the other thing I want to flag. We created a listserv last year in the middle of the pandemic and because of the extraordinary circumstances we found ourselves in, if you’re a longtime network member you know we used to have a listserv, we put it on ice and the wrinkle is that you don’t need to be a network member to participate.that’s up and available and you can find it with the link you can see there and maybe somebody can toss that in to the chat so others can find it.

The other thing to tell you, we had a few emails about this is the network going to Gary in 2021?

You bet. We have been planning for this last year. We know this. We will gather. What we don’t know yet is are we going to be do that in person or go back to a virtual model again this year but either way Bernie Sanders, at least in spirit as you can see from that picture, he will be with us, maybe with the mittens. The dates are October 6‑8 and we will share as much information as you can as we know it. We’re getting together this fall, October 6‑8. What kind of format we will be in will be determined so stay tuned and we will keep you up to date.

Mr. T, bring us forward.

I want to flag for you, as many of you know, we have now 16 local groups operating around the United States. So three of them are going to be gathering just in the next couple of weeks. So on Friday I’m going to catch up with Jack Nank and ComNetwork Detroit and they’re doing a mellow kick back into the year, join your friends in Michigan and Detroit there. The following ‑‑ the second is a Tuesday. Our friends in New York led by Amy Plotch and ComNetwork New York will be joining to talk about DEI project. And our friends in Denver led by Taryn Fort and she is assisted by a fabulous leadership team and they will be gathering February 17th.

If you’re in the Mountain West, check in there. These are free and available to everybody, and all of these are going to be happening, so you can get the detail and the coordinates through in the local button you will see. And Carrie was kind enough to put that into the chat for us.

I think that’s all of the updates and that has everybody that we have with us so far. So let’s go ahead, Mr. T, and I think it’s time for me to pass this over to Doug Hattaway with the team from Hattaway Communications.

Pete, you will be taking over deck. You’re seeing us in the “Brady Bunch” for a minute but we will remedy that as Pete takes over the deck. I will be back for Q&A and see you on the other side. Doug, Carrie, Pete, everybody, thank you very much for being wonderful.

Doug, go ahead and take us away.

Doug Hattaway: For those who don’t know us, Hattaway Communications is the strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C., and scattered all over the place.

Our mission is to use strategy, science and story telling to help visionary leaders and organizations achieve ambitious goals for people on the planet. That’s what we do every day in our own strategy. We draw from communication strategy, marketing, brand strategy and advocacy, socially movement strategies. Science.

We poll from data science. We will talk about social and cognitive and motivational ‑‑ and the science is storytelling. It’s the way to compete with meme. So we do con depend campaigns to help people engage their audiences.

Members of our team ‑‑ Pete, let’s go to the next slide.

Carrie Schum and Pete Tontillo will be joining me. Carrie’s specialty or her generous is linking strategy and creativity and audience engagement. She is going to be talking later about how we’re bringing these research tools that we’re going to share with you down to earth and create different ways to engage people.

Pete is a member of our science team. His background is in linguistics and he is the guy with the words. And he will be talking about the methodologies that are behind this research with insight we’re going to share.

Next slide, a little background on us. We work with organizations of all different kinds on all different issues around this country and the world, national, international, also local level. And narrative change as you all know, there’s a lot of ways to talk about narrative and narrative change, and we work with groups using it in different ways at all kinds of different levels, whether it’s policy change, movement building, the luminous announce, we share links to research we have produced with them on communicating about racial equity and justice in the field of education.

We’re working with the largest civil rights organization, Unidos‑US, and so there are a lot of ways to use this material. I’m going to give you an example from my work with the marriage quality movement.

We thought it would be useful to start here on these two ideas which are very prominent in the political culture and conversation, and I know on many of your minds right now, the idea of unity which was the big theme of president Biden’s speech. He said let’s start fresh and listen to each other.

The Vice President speaking about American aspiration. And we found in our research that, as we automatic to people in focus groups across the country, all over the country, people from all different backgrounds and beliefs, we really did hear a yearning for unity in the country and I think it’s important to point out the way president Biden went on to talk about it. I didn’t hear him talking about that means we are trying to make nice with right wing extremists.

What he was talking about, he mentioned that moving the country forward through big challenges over time has happened when we’ve got enough of us to come together and move the country forward: And I think that’s something you will see as we’re sharing waives that you can talk about causes, you care about issues that you work on in ways that frame them in fresh ways that bring more than enough people along to help you move the country forward. And Kamala Harris is such an inspiration as an aspirational figure.

We are going to talk more about the science of aspiration that informs what we’re thinking.

Here is an example of what you’re going to find in the workbook that we’re making available where we tested narratives about America, the country itself. We call dominant narratives. Ideas that you hear commonly in the political culture and then new narratives. What we did here was give people a choice, which do you agree with more, or you can say neither. This was one we said America is hopelessly divided. And we can be united.

Look how people responded. 21% saying we’re hopelessly divided. 2 out of 3 people in our survey. This was during the home stretch of the election in the fall. A very content issues time. There’s a real yearning for you note in the country. And this idea of bridging divides was a wig part of the ethic and the guiding principle behind this work. Next slide.

After that. John Powell is a real thought leader in this space of narrative change for bridge building and he calls it bridging narratives. And we shared this quote ‑‑ he was somebody we collaborated with in doing this work in finding areas of common ground, how to heal the country and working towards a government that serves people and who we aspire to become.

We thought that was a nice way to capture the approach, which was provided the guiding principle provided by the afford Foundation that founded this work at the beginning to serve organizations that advancing socially just in many ways in the country and they’re the initial funders of this, and this way of thinking really guided us.

So do dig into the science, next slide, if you want to walk out on the science this is an article I wrote for Sanford social in having to guess review. We call this aspirational communication. You can get the article on our website if you google this #, you will see articles and videos on this topic of aspirational‑communication.

Let’s jump for the next slide and cut to the chase.

The big idea is to communicate with maximum motivating and our get team lean in and see that you’re connecting with them and what really matters to them, connect your cause to the aspirations and values of your audience. And we’re going to focus on the idea of aspirations.

Our aspirations are our ideas about the kind of people we want to be. And the kind of world we want to live in. And when you are speaking to that, you’re speaking to people’s personal sense of purpose and what drives them. So connecting with the authentic aspiration is important.

From there we talk about how to connect that to narrative change.

The next slide gets into our example of the marriage quality movement. Here is a dominant narrative to use our term that the movement was contending with. This isn’t to pick on one of my favorite presidents but to emphasize this was a dominant area. This is what was dominating the political conversation.

So we needed to contend with that. Then looking at the movements, gas framing this issue of same‑sex marriage or marriage quality in these terms on the next slide. It of course was an issue of civil rights and having equal rights under the law, legal rights and benefits was how it was framed. And we needed to change that in order to build a durable majority beyond what we had at the time.

So do to have do that we went out with research and asked instead of the research poll centers ask where they say here are do you know who sides of a debate, which one do you agree with, we started with the audience and said when it comes to marriage what is your as celebration.

And the answer is what you see 234 that headline ‑‑ love and commitment is how people talk about their personal aspiration when it came to the topic of marriage. These same‑sex couples looking to get married, that was their as speculation too. So we hit on a shared aspiration. Everybody who cared about this issue could begin to see themselves in that big idea. So we use that literally to frame every communication. And I will break that down for you.

Next slide. Chose to use ideas like that ‑‑ frame it first with a headline like this. Start with the language that expresses your big idea. And then tell us what we call strategic stories that bring that idea to life, stories of real people in real situations. Doing that here, helped us achieve narrative change and norms change.

The next slide shows how we did that and what that look like over time, when the Gallup organization first started serving this issue in 1996 we had about a quarter of the population supporting legal recognition of same‑sex marriages. By 2018 we had 67 percent. And that really ticked up after 2010. We had a really quick incredible spike and you can hit the next bar to show how that number went up over time. We broke 60 percent in 2016 and it has not come down since. This mode is called durable attitude change at a very large scale.

I know a lot of you have heard about that and find that example helpful and as inspiration. What you’re going to see ‑‑ go back to the previous Major image. When you go to our website under insights tab you will see a little form where you can put in your information which will allow you to download this handbook which is going to go deeper into the science and narrative and shire insights and ideas that you can use in your work right away.

So that’s my quick introduction to the approach and I will turn it over to Pete to start dig further into what you will find in this American aspirations handbook.

Pete Tontillo: Thanks Doug and good afternoon everyone. As Doug mentioned through American aspirations we’re really interested in seeking common ground through exploring cultural narratives. When we of when see culture narratives we mean ideas about people in society, about the way things are and the way things should be that have been driven into the culture over time and have come over time to become so common that they come to sound like common sense.

And because of that they’re often easy to overlook. It’s like the matrix where it surrounds all of us, it’s the air that we breathe and just the way we see the world without noticing it. But the minute you are turned on to it and get to notice it you see it everywhere and how these culture narratives are shaping our perceptions and the world starts to look quite different.

So through this work we’re trying to help organizations and people frame issues in terms that resonate with Americans across the political spectrum by building on the cultural narratives and to create new ones about the kind of America that America is and ought to be. This has roots in architectural and social science. The reason we explore narratives shape our identity. They help articulate our ideas, shaping our self image, which can prompt to us act then according to the aspirational identity to live up to the image we created for ourselves.

Through this project we have been exploring over a number of years different cultural narratives you can use to frame communications about a wide range of issues and that can bring people together about etiological divides, and geographic divides. As an example, here is one powerful area in the narrative about America.

The rugged individual, the self‑made man. And when this idea has been so dominant in our discourse, either the only story people hear about America or the first story people hear about America, people are inclined to believe that’s how the country works, people pull their way up by the bootstraps, don’t need any help from others. They’re likely to believe that’s the way it should be, that America would be better off if everybody just took responsibility for themselves or all you need to do to make it in America is just to work hard.

So narratives like these make it harder to advocate for social policies and programs that address income and quality or other forms of in effect in our society because it conflicts with the fundamental idea of what it means to be in America. And the thing is you’re never going to talk someone out of a meaningful narrative like this. It’s too ingrained. So this project has been all about finding alternative narratives that people find in their heads because we all hold multiple narratives that sort of compete, finding another narrative and lifting that up instead so it takes primacy or giving people a new way to look at the world.

As a counter‑example here is our idea of the self‑made American. This image tell us a different story. This is people joining forces to build strong communities working together and the story it tells about America, the lesson it has is, no, we don’t just pull obvious up by the bootstraps, we work together in our communities and that’s who we are as people:

The moral of stories like these drive home the importance of community social responsibility to our identities as individuals and our identity as mention and how it’s working together with all of us doing our part for the common good, that’s what makes opportunity possible.

For us as individuals and those of us who share the country. And pose of these ideas reside in our heads ‑‑ it’s not one or the other. Our survey research shows most Americans want both things. 08 percent of people want a country where people take responsibility for themselves and almost as many want a country where people look out or others.

These are not mutually exclusive although they are perceived as being at odds, and there’s an opportunity to lifted the one on the right up. Because the individual narrative on the left is much more dominant than the collective narrative on the right. People hear it and it’s been driven in the culture for decades and it’s much bigger and stronger. It’s not a fair fight right now.

Some day by nurturing and lifting up narratives like the right, it can be big and strong and fair. So it’s helpful to put in mind and value social policy and programs that create a more level playing field by making sure they hear more stories by America that opened their eyes to the principles. What negative narratives do you need disrupt?

We will let you put a few in the Q&A section and we can put a couple of here for conversation.

Sean Gibbons: You’re also welcome to put that in the chat. Seeing one from Maria. Marcia?


Terry, Anthony, Kirsten?


Jenny and Beth. That you see very, very much. Susan.

And Bob, Seema, Judy, Elizabeth, Alison ‑‑ thank you very much. Sarah.

Pete Tontillo: You find all different issues focused on here. A lot boil down to the core of individual‑versus‑social that we were tapping into other: I would encourage my colleagues, Carrie and Doug, to call out any as well that are interesting.

Doug Hattaway: Some of these are issue narratives, like what is the narrative around Social Security. Others are at ‑‑ as Pete called them cultural narratives, about the country and the way it is, way it works. A lot of them are about people. Much of the narratives about immigrants or narratives about people who are contending with poverty, narratives about older people. And that’s often the days, so the narratives about people often fall in the realm of stereotypes are a part of cultural narratives that really get in the way of social progress.

Carrie Schum: There’s a number here about poverty and austerity, and we actually do have data on that and show how you can talk about it in a way to reach a wide range of people so look out for that later on in the presentation.

Doug Hattaway: I noticed a number of them, too, like what I do won’t matter; we can’t make difference ‑‑ that sort of thing. That is important because when we talk about changing systems, social change, the kind of difficult hard work it takes to make the kind of change that some of you are working on, you do need to ‑‑ you have to counter that narrative, and people agreeing with your worldview that they can’t make a difference.

We found out in research, back to storytelling is the most powerful way of communicating and the way to counter that is to share stories of successful change happening. Young people like the age of my young kids who are too small to remember being part of the movement that helped elect Barack Obama and just telling that story opens their eyes to the fact that people can come together and achieve something like that. So there is, when we’re talking about narratives, one of the big ideas and what are those strategic stories that bring those ideas to life?

They really work together.

Pete Tontillo: Should we keep it moving?

All right. We will keep it going. But I encourage everyone to continue putting thoughts in the chat. These are really useful. And if you have any questions you’re welcome to follow up with us after the webinar and we will provide all of our contact information so you will be able to get in touch.

For more than five years now, our team has been focused on exploring simple and powerful questions like these. We have done that through ethnographic interviews with people in the country and dozens of focus groups, with people of all demographic and etiological stripes. We have done it through a number of grounds of national surveys.

And questions like these about what kind of person do you want to be, what kind of country do you want to live in ‑‑ it’s our goal to get beyond political questions or questions about current events to try to get a more deeper, Foundational multi‑dimensional American values are that we aspire to. And we feel a nationally represented survey in fall 2020 asking 2,000 American adults across the country about their personal values and goals and about their aspirations for the country.

And those questions were drawn from original quantitative and quantitative research we have done as well as research shared with partners throughout the project and psychological studies of what motivates people, the moral foundations that motivate people and the personality traits that drive people’s behavior. So you will be seeing some data from that survey. Right now.

So one of the important questions that we asked explored the personal values that Americans hold dear. What you’re seeing right now, we give respondents a list of values and asked them to rated on zero to 10 how important each is. The percentage of Americans who rated each value a nine or 10. You’re just seeing the people think being responsible is extremely important to the way I want to see myself as a person. And we’re seeing unity.

Large numbers of American are believing of being responsible is important. And what struck us is not only how widely held these are but how traits that seem in conflict are held simultaneously. Americans want to be self reliant but also want to be compassion natal. They want to be loyal but they also want to be open minded. So there’s a lot of room for unifying values that you can tap into.

So we would like you to look at any of these words that might apply to your work. We have used them in the past and others have used them to craft communications and to re reflect the value and show support of your cause in your organization and making sure it starts from a place of tapping into what people hold most dear.

Another version of this is exploring people’s personal aspiration. The question structure was the same, giving a list on the left drawing from psychology and motivational and science asking them to rate zero to 10. And the chart shows the Americans rating each a nine or 10.

Right at the top we see a majority of people prioritizing wanting to enjoy life every day, which res Nathan with me and certainly a lit more salient for all of us in the last year or so. Looking down the list at the second highest rated, six out of 10 Americans said respected people who were different to them is important had to them. That’s something that is stood out to us and really represents an opportunity to reach out and appeal to.

Other aspirations here show similar opportunities to bring people together. For example the third one, inviting people to live by the moral principles they espouse or feel a sense of purpose or to be part of something bigger than themselves: Again look at the list and note the ones that could have to your audiences. By lifting these up we can increase people’s better interest.

But of course these big ideas were also buzz words. They’re defined in many ways by many different people. Our goal is to try to find a meaningful language that is authentic people and drawn from what is already intuitive and how people think about these concepts that also encourages them to make meaningful change that could make America a better place.

As an example, we have done linguistic studies on how Americans view responsibility, especially social responsibility. Everyone knows the individual responsibility narrative that we talked about earlier but we found very few people have language to refer to that responsibility. We talk about a various of Americans about these ideas of responsibility including businesses responsibility to society. And we found that people all across the political spectrum parroted the narrative that business is about making money. It’s not about being nice, helping the homeless or improving the roads.

This unanimity stood out to us. It’s the narrative driven in the culture so that’s what at first comes to mind when you ask them in an open‑ended way about the project. So we develop a test for that narrative. This is our American survey research where we show people a dominant narrative, for example in this case, the only responsibility of businesses is to maximize profits and shareholder returns. And then compared with the new narrative that businesses have responsibilities to their employees, customers and communities.

Then we asked which they agree with, left, right or neither. And we found on this issue, even though many people maybe haven’t heard the one on the right as much and it’s not as top of mind, when they see it in front of them and when they choose between that one and the dominant, the references are very clear. And the new narrative gets 7 times as much support. It was the best performing narrative the dozens we tested in the entire survey. So there is something here that we can tap into. But to go back and become a realistic rifle to the not that I’m aware of active that needs to be nurtured and lifted up and driven strategically and consistently.

So with that in mind, how can we take narrative ideas like these and use them to inform your daily work?

This is a framing tool we use to drive a new narrative about various topics. It starts by always articulating and being grounded in the meta narrative idea behind the topic if using that to frame communications about whatever issue you may be working on. As well as the key messages and talking points that you’re putting out on a regular basis and the stories you’re telling to bring the topic to life. So in this case, the meta‑narrative about business responsibility could help frame and issue narrative about one way in which businesses have responsibilities, for example ‑‑

Doug Hattaway: Pete we have been getting a number of comments that it’s blurry so it might be a connection issue. Tristan can you take over showing it?

Pete Tontillo: Tristan does have a backup.

Doug Hattaway: We have had that going on in the chat that people were having trouble with it. Tristan is doing that now. Is this clearer to some people?

We will see. Hopefully it will clear it up for those who have been having a problem.

There have been connection issues all over the country this week. Thanks. Tristan, just the next absolutely. Poplate the whole thing. The meta narrative is about business responsibility, our sure narrative is an example of business’ responsibility so in this case we chose living wages.

You can go all the way through this. As well as key messages about the various ways in which leg wages are important. Such as good wages can drive economic growth. And the storytelling that brings that to life on the next slide followed by telling stories that bring the huh to life and are keeping the narrative where people can see it in the caption here. So that’s just one example of how we can take these meta narrative ideas and use them to drive ‑‑ this all tracks back to the place of values and aspirations that make your communications more resonant to people.

So with that I will pass it over to my colleague Carrie Schum and you can take people’s insight and use to it Taylor communications to speak to people’s unique mindsets. Carrie?

Carrie Schum: We have been getting a number of questions in the chat about this topic so it’s a good thing we put it in the presentation. And that’s the key; right?

That’s the approach for a survey. Not just that it’s interesting and it tells you somewhere but you can take it somewhere and it starts to be workable for you in the work that you’re doing to help you talk to people better. And we always think of communications not just words but it’s words, images, stories and that strategic story telling, how do we pull that altogether.

If you can go to the next slide, one posh part of the survey is the segmentation. Somebody asked about clustering and there are seven demographic ‑‑ seven psycho graphic ridiculous first, and all of us fall into one of these. I think you need click to populate the slide. All of us fit into one of these and the people in each of these clusters have values and aspirations in common and those guide how they deal with the world.

There are some similarities but the key defining characteristic is the defined characteristics and inspiration. And where you see there’s widespread agreement but to pull them along you are have to speak in the language they find most motivating. Here is what a couple of segments look like. You can go to the next slide.

Our benevolent idealists are united by the shared value of responsibility, open‑mindedness, and being compassionate ‑‑ and equally they are not self reliant and religion. So they’re defined by where they share and things that don’t drive their behavior. And the shared aspiration here is that they respect meme who are different and ethical real estate to make a difference in the world.

It’s an interesting segment, a low hanging fruit segment for a lot of campaigns but they’re not the only segment. In you can keep going, there are about 13 percent of the adult population, and they’re really activatable, and these are the kind of people you can start mobilizing a campaign, really talk about issues in terms of much the effect they will have on people. And if you go to another one of our segments called God and country, as you might expect from the name, they are united by the values of being family‑oriented, patriotic, and religious and don’t see themselves as creative.

And the aspirations that join them interestingly, the top one is wanting to live by moral principles and have a sense of purpose. But just like the previous segment they respect people who are different and they’re open to compromise. So these are not black and white. You can already see there are places where we can reach both of these segments.

But the way we reach them might look a little bit different to really spark what matters most to them. This is a little bit bigger setting. It’s about 22 percent of adults. And really we can reach them by framing things in terms of those moral and religious principles. That’s what is going to cause them to lean in and lean forward and then you can tap into the shared valves of some of these other qualities. And we’re going to show you an example of how this zero could work.

We looked at living wage. There there’s very high agreement that jobs should pay a living wage. But the way you talk about that to reach the sort of flash points for each of these audiences is a little bit different. So with your benevolent idealists you talk about living wage to people can provide for their families. And with the God and country, if you can click ‑‑ you should pay it because it’s wrong for people to work full‑time and not be able to make ends meet.

So the same narrative, but you’re tailoring it for things they will find most motivational to them. You can go to the next slide and show what this look like visually. Visual strategy is a fun part of this. So your benevolent ideal you’re showing this family coming together and throughout God and country you’re showing someone who is wrestling with paying their bills so matching the language with the image.

These are clearly could be part of the same campaign or coming from the same parent organization but they’re telling a unique story to reach these two segments a little differently. And then finally if you take it to its ultimate, this is what ‑‑ a social media post.

For your idealist whose wasn’t to join a cause, we’re saying come together, together we can make a difference and join the movement for living wages, and then if you were trying to speak more directly to your God and country audience are, it’s stand up and speak out, it’s the right thing to do. So you’re trying to get them to join your movement but you’re really referring to what is most motivational for them.

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity in communication these days. This is how you shows authenticity, that you show you deeply understand the people you’re talking to and you’re speaking in language and stories that map in to their values and not just trying to sell them the thing that you want to be part of the H. of.

As we go back, this is all summarized, we have all of the seven segments and detail about all of them and some ideas in the handbook that you can get from our website. And I think that ‑‑ we just have time foster questions

Sean Gibbons: And we have quite a few. We invited you to go in the Q&A to share your I’m not aware if I was. Now, go in the Q&A box and that’s where I will be looking ‑‑ you can also vote for questions to make sure that maybe you had a similar question. Go ahead and voted for it and that will help us get to the ones that are most relevant. Let me crack this open and see where we are. I’m going to start at the bottom and you can start voting and that’s great.

I saw a good question from Keith but it lost it in here. Here it is. Keith asks, and whoever from Team Hattaway that wants to answer: Do you attack sub narratives ‑‑ and that may not be the same term ‑‑ in the same way as meta narratives. Keeping people in place with the caste system in America is the meta narrative but we focus on debating racism. Doug, do you want to take a swing at that

Doug Hattaway: Sorry. I was gathering my thoughts to answer another question. Could you repeat that one?

Sean Gibbons: Keith asked about: Do we need to attack sub narratives. He’s not sure is if that is the right Lang to be using but he says do you talk sub narrative in the same way as meta narratives. An example he offers is keeping people in their place with the caste system in America is the meta narrative but we focus on debating racism

Doug Hattaway: That’s interesting: That’s great question. And I wouldn’t worry about the categorization of the different levels and types of narratives because ultimately you’re going to be contending with big ideas that work together at different levels.

As Pete shows and you will see in the handbook we have given you a tool to help you sort that out around a particular issue that you’re working on and thinking about, okay, what are higher level narratives that we would call meta narratives or perhaps cultural narratives that affect this issue. That’s really the place to start. And think about what are the other big ideas that help or hinder making the progress we need to make. So, for example, we have a lot of examples early under negative narratives like changing this isn’t possible or it’s for a hard to change the system, that sort of thing.

You might call that a sub‑related negative. And I put that on the board as yes something we need to contend with if we’re going to make this kind of progress that you want to make. So yeah, absolutely we talked about there’s a lot of ways to give you a toolkit to sort it out. And think at those multiple levels. So hopefully this will help you started to parse that out.

Okay. Now, we’re going to go to Lori and Minal. Lorrie says when we use values and overused word like hard working to describe people, do we reinforce the negative counter negative that some people prosecute lazy or don’t want to work?

that’s a great question. That has come up in a lot of work we have con around programs that help people in poverty. And as you saw, I think ‑‑ that is always one of the questions, like how are we doing this, are we doing this in a way that supports and reinforces a narrative or a dominant or negative narrative?

You see that a lot. Premium intentionally doing that. Or are you challenging one?

Manufacture we found in work funded by the afford Foundation with the goal of getting the general public to support anti poverty programs, and to counter what is the negative narrative which is a stereotype that people are in poverty because they don’t work hard is obviously false.

And there’s a couple of ways to counter that. You can counter it with data that shows that people we lot poverty level actually have more than one job often and it’s like countering it with a fact. You can counter with it stories of real people who are working in many ways to ‑‑ even though they’re under the poverty level and get help from poverty programs. So that is a merit of, if you’re not challenging that idea with stories and narrative frames like this and data, you’re not going to be challenging the dominant narrative.

And what we found here, you saw in asking people about their own aspirations and values, hard working is one of ‑‑ and that comes out all the time in asking person Americans about their self image and what they value, comes to off the top of the list all the time so it’s an important idea for many, many, many people that they see themselves that way and they respect others. They see that way.

When we talked with folks about what that meant to them and that other research, we saw that people saw work in lots of different ways. The mother who drops off her kid at the head start program is doing her job, for example. They saw people making effort and doing things, all kinds of things, as work, as effort, as taking initiative. So that is a theme because it’s a dominant idea, an aspiration, it’s something you need to contend with to figure out how to make it work in your context.

My next question comes from our friend Minal. And if we could go back, Carrie showed a custom slides ‑‑ I think it was from the Minnesota campaign. There’s one ‑‑ let’s sit on this one. Should we be reading into the skin color of these photos, if we can only appeal to God and country by centering on whiteness we’re going to run into our problems so both a question and a comment there.

That’s a great question. Choosing your images, I wouldn’t read into the examples here as representative of the segment because as you look at the demographic information about that setting you will see there are people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in it so that’s a really good pointed.

And our task you’re communicating is selecting images that reflect the particular audience that you’re communicating with. But that’s good point. And others asked questions about the demographics behind the narratives and behind these segments. You will see in the handbook we have given you that information.

We have given you a sense of the range of different racial and ethnic groups or unites that show up in these different settings. And it is an interesting point, find common ground against what you might consider as a stereotypical God and country person and surprise people, that there’s a wide variety of people who share those sorts of as separations and values.

Sean Gibbons: How do you do digital targeting according to psycho graphic types as opposed to Facebook times using demography or interest area, all of the fans of Metalica out there, you can target with an ad on Facebook or whatever it might be.

There are a lot of ways to find media than we can get to in this but the key is knowing who you’re going to reach and why. I think a great example, we have done a lot of work on the earned income tax country. They have already been doing outreach.

We looked at their keywords and the imagery and it was about tax preparation. And one of the thinks things is they’re disassociated from the tax system.

They are not generally required to file taxes so if you talk to them about taxes you’re missing them. We targeted ‑‑ we changed the imagery to be about paying your bills, and we change the Lang to be about trying to make ends meet or looking for your stimulus check which has been linked to filing your taxes and saw people get pooled through the resources because we are thinking the way they thought and target the way they were framing the issue so we were able to ‑‑ without increasing or changing where we were buying make a much better return by having words and images that matched what where the audience was not the topic we were talking about.

To my friend Keith in Atlanta, I’m not hating on Metalica. But their last albums were not on par with their earlier stuff. We can take that offline.

Other questions?

We had a cool picture of the Rock and a baby. If you can find your way back to that in the deck and fire that up because I think Debbie, you were speaking of this and I think it’s the idea of what is the challenge that we’re facing when we’re frying to disrupt dominant narratives and it’s a nice metaphor for the challenge in front of us. Maybe a couple of people were asking what does impact look like?

Maybe that’s a nice visual to show folks while we talk about that.

Can you pull that back up?

So the visual gag here, gang, is the Rock and the baby get into a fight. Who wins?

I think we probably know despite how delightful and maybe ‑‑ the baby might be the Rock is probably going to overpower the baby. For a lot of us the work that we have to do ‑‑ Doug I won’t put words in your mouth but what’s our job if we’re frying to raise up the baby to eventually take on the Rock?

Doug Hattaway: This is a fun way to talk about a dominant narrative versus a new narrative. Dominant narratives are driven into the culture, usually intentionally. And a lot of the narrative folks are talking about, absolutely, like this idea of individual responsibility and it’s all about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is then driven into our political culture for decades. That’s a dominant narrative.

And you have to ‑‑ to counter that you have to relentlessly drive a counter narrative in the culture as well. And I think that takes a lot of time and effort and a lot of voice, and that’s definitely happening on a lot of important fronts, which is great. We’re definitely ‑‑ as you awe knoll we’re seeing this and everybody on this webinar is part of driving that sort of change.

What a lot of the numbers show in this research we’re sharing is that a lot of people in this country are ready for those new I’m not aware this was and we have more of a ready audience which is great news too. So it’s ‑‑ it’s a lot. It’s a lot of work. But I think the context is there for it.

Carrie Schum: To me, when I look at these pictures the difference I see ‑‑ in addition to size, is swagger. To Doug’s point, people are much more aligned than we think they are because we’re not hearing about them. But if you’re out there with memorable messaging that is reaching people it gives them permission to say, actually I thought that already. So I think the more we can have that kind of swagger and courage in our communication, the more you will see people follow it. That’s a way ‑‑ so you have your many axis of communication, you have message, resources and you have your spokespeople. If you don’t have a lot of money, be louder with your message, take some risks there. Appropriately; right?

You don’t want to be crazy. But I think that’s what can be missing especially knowing when you see these numbers ‑‑ we were not surprised, for example, that Florida passed a $15 minimum wage. We saw it in our American aspiration stage. Most meme believe you should be able to live on a minimum wage.

The next question is from our friend will I describe in CERNA in New York. You mentioned narratives about uniting and healing the country resonate with the audience. How do you unite around antiblack racism as part of that narrative?

Doug Hattaway: That’s great point. And I want to reference work that I mentioned, there’s a lot of great work around the race class narratives. Work we have done with the Lumina Foundation about talking about racial equity and justice.

And either way, I think about it is about unity with accountability. That we could only move in order when we recognize the barriers that people face, the barriers that people have faced for a long time. And what research says is be specific about what those barriers are and focus on solving those problems and having a solutions orientation is an important part of it.

Ultimately, the social science says you get past social divides, the quickest path is to bring people together to work in common purpose which is to say find a specific barrier to remove, injustice to solve, specific, something you can do and achieve. And that’s how it fits into a narrative, I think, of unity to bring the country together, let’s solve these problems over here.

That’s how I think of it. And as somebody else I spoke to or mentioned earlier in a comment, narrative is about the way we talk about and communicate about big ideas and issues that we need to contend with. But it’s the talking part. It’s the communicating part. It needs to 3D action. If you want to drive narrative change part of it is the action, the stories that we tell about real people coming together to solve these problems.

That’s part of narrative change. It’s not just the messaging level which we have been talking about here. They really go together obviously and the messaging is obviously important. But those actions that people take is absolutely critical.

Sean Gibbons: Cindy asks: What’s a ballpark estimate of the kinds of resources that you might need to invest in shifting a narrative?

Maybe a better way to think of it, rather than dollars, what are some of the essential ingredients to shifting narrative?

Doug Hattaway: I put that ball in Carrie court

Carrie Schum: I had a feeling it was coming my way. You need have a credible story. Is from some belief and proof you can give people that there’s a reason for this, that you have an upstart that matches with where people R I think the other one is knowing who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do, to Doug’s point about taking action. It’s one thing to just say things but it’s another ‑‑ I always ask to what end?

How will we know if we did this?

And giving yourself away to measure that and a way for people to engage in it, you know?

That’s the only thing you will see if what you’re doing is working. Do you start to see other people pick it up really naturally?

Does it make sense with the kind of outlets and the kind of people that you need to work with?

I always say when you hit the work gets very easy, and you’re full of ideas because it just works, and I know that’s a little bit ‑‑ a mushy answer, but I think that’s a big part of it. You know, you start to hear people repeat it when you didn’t say it to them in the first place

Doug Hattaway: The way you can use these segment profiles or personas in organic way where we took the personas and the content team just made, for the same purpose, to drive people to the same action, they created different pieces of content for each persona and put them out there on a regular and consistent basis and got the most responses around four of them.

So, then, they started focusing on that four. So they were using the whole toolkit. And then following their analytic questions and seeing who responded and several rose to the top so they started focusing more effort there. That’s something Anthony put a question in, too, I wanted to jump too, Sean, about the overarching narratives bust then in different communities somebody might have used the terms some narratives before. And are we frying to understand the different psycho graphic narratives in the community before addressing it?

What I would say there is I would experiment with all of them. That’s what you can do with this toolkit. Go ahead and start. Say, okay, Monday I’m going to talk to these ‑‑ print out content for these two and Tuesday do those. That sort of thing. And try to do your own experimentation. That’s the beauty of our channels is that we can do that at a low cost.

And the second one, should we design our messaging to appeal to as many as possible. And that is the age old tension, if you put it sort of in the marketing framework of the brand idea versus sort of the segmented sales that you do. You kind of want to do both.

Like Pete showed with the example of trying to reframe the issue of living wages using a big narrative that two out of three people agree with, that businesses have responsibilities, that’s the big idea, yes. You want to frame around that big idea. And then he showed early ways that you can bring enough other themes, images of different people for example, back to the idea of using imagery, different messages that specific members of your audience would find important. And if we pay living wages that’s going to drive economic activity in our community; right?

Sean Gibbons: We will make this the last question.

It’s always tough for us in the comm shop. How do you measure impact ‑‑ how do you measure narrative shifts? How do you know when things have changed?

Doug Hattaway: I will give the high level answer and there are a couple of ways to think about it. Because what you’re communicating, your output measures, are we getting new narratives out there or not. Then you outcome measures. Those will changes in awareness, attitudes and actions.

So as Carrie will counsel, you always are to start there with who is our audience, what do we need them to know, feel, and do. We call those your communication objectives, what do they need to know they don’t know, who do they need to be aware of and that is going to be some kind of research that you do. Obviously attitude change is really what a lot of this is about, and then of course actions.

Ultimately, all of this needs to lead to behaviors that make change possible in the world. So you need to start there with specificity about what awareness attitudes and actions you want to see as a way to start measuring them. Then there’s will the qualitative and quantitative tools out there you can use.

Carrie Schum: I think the way to answer that question is what did you set out to do in the first place. You should always start there, have a goal in mind in the first place X there’s ‑‑ yeah, all of these things, surveys, focus groups, reach ‑‑ all that matters.

But the problem is if you set up to change attitudes and you get a hundred thousand Twitter followers, that’s a measure that doesn’t match with what you set out to do so you have to make sure ‑‑ whatever you’re tracking matches with what you have to do in the first place

Sean Gibbons: One other component, it’s just time; right?

You know, that it goes back to that baby, since the Rock, it takes times to shape pines. Like marriage quality, there was massive shift that’s possible starting with where Obama was and where he was when he ended office

Doug Hattaway: The think is that with narratives you feel like you’re boiling the ocean. You have to break it down to achievable milestones. And then realize you’re part of a journey; right?

You saw the time frame on that data that we showed was 1996 to 2018. It was that time frame. We got a shift after 2010 when we changed the conversation. That was a specific milestone. We were asked to change the narrative that America was not ready for this. It was part of the political strategy to get more collisions to support the issue and part of their legal strategy.

They wanted the members of the Supreme Court to believe that America was ready for fist. So that was within a three‑month time frame, we broke the news that we had broken 50 percent support through a metanalysis of public opinion data. So that was an example boiling that part of the ocean. That helps move things along. And the article that we mentioned before which is available on our website, gives you other ways to look at how to focus on your audience, through more of attitudinal or psychological lens

Sean Gibbons: On behalf of everybody and we had a lot of people with us, Marva and Alan, thank you for the support to make this available to everybody who might want it. For those interested in the story that Doug is referenced around Evan Wilson and the work at freedom to marry, we are fortune enough to have Evan Wilson, the founder and executive director of freedom to marry, join us at V+, I guess in November, just before Thanksgiving.

We just posted those up on the America’s YouTube channel to Carrie maybe before we go we can toss a link in our YouTube channel or find it at, or Google us on YouTube and find that session where he gave us an hour of his time with the deep dive into the strategy and the communications that led to marriage quality and went all wait back to Stonewall and all of that.

We will be back very soon with another series of webinars this year. In the meantime, again, just be safe and well. Hopefully, you’re in line for a shot. If not, continue to do what you need to do to stay safe and well.

If you need anything at all we’re on the other side of an email, we will be back soon. In the meantime, be well. See you.


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