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Community Conversation #3 Take Aways: What did you think?
Anat Shenker-Osorio on How to Persuade + Mobilize Voters



Duncan Hollomon, Gloucester, MA

Take Away — Don’t look for common ground, which just dumbs things down; look for shared values, that energize and move things forward. What got me thinking — So often the Democrats are naive, and sometimes downright stupid, in their messaging.  Why is that? What is it about the science of messaging that seems antithetical to the progressive perspective? 

I should also say that I read with interest Anand Giridharadas’s terrific book The Persuaders, which features the work of Shenker-Osorio, among others.  I was most impressed with her segment of the book. 


Carol Monteleoni, Olivebridge, NY

Thanks for asking for feedback.  I think she made a couple of good points about the importance of making a contrast between what the Democrats offer and what the Republicans offer, and the value of presenting a positive, forward-looking agenda. The candidates I supported in the midterms utilized both of these techniques successfully in their campaigns. I have to say, sadly, that I was offended by the speaker's constant characterization of Democrats as weak worry-warts, which FM and other groups I participated in proved untrue.


Deb Friedman, Easthampton, MA

I was glad to hear about how taking back the word "freedom" can be especially useful in messaging, and I also learned how it can be done (from watching the sample ads). I also learned what to do when someone repeats a lie, ie, say it isn't true (without repeating it), and sandwich that between statements about two things that are true (plus why we value and support those things).


Susan Romans,  Stowe, VT

Remember the famously-attributed-to-many-famous-people statement, “I would have written you a short letter but I did not have time…”? A friend attending the event asked me whether I like it, and I was transported back to the classroom. I am copying and pasting what I said to her.  I very much liked the message and the speaker. The messaging formula Anat described is based on a heavily supported organization patten called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence that emerged in the 70s when I started grad school….A major innovation over refutation of opposition's points. Her analysis of why and how NY elections failed (where campaigns did not reflect the messaging she advocates) is totally in sync with analyses I read in The NYT, The New Republic, and the Economist. I love ideas corroborated by others. Her comment that an org has to be attractive to gain support and membership reminds me of a watershed message that HRC (org working on same sex marriage) sent donors in January a decade (or two??) ago about the fabulous accomplishments of the previous year my tiny donation had made. I tripled the previous amount and did not wait until Dec to send it. Such a rare message to get when people are asking for money; why do so many campaigns make one feel like all previous donations were 1) unnoticed and 2) ineffective.


I do not know if you saw the session from last week (video supposed to be on the FM website), but one of its principle points is not using terms like “saving” people but instead saying “legislating so they get rewards and rights they work so hard for” ….:  No white-savior messages. That granular work with phrasing also syncs with Anat’s approach…

I love her manner: energetic, direct, honest. I admire her flexible, capable collegiality: she can hold two truths (creeping fascism and leading change effectively) and know which one to use with which audiences and why.


Maria, Andover, MA and Sarasota, FL

Stop all the policy talk and just say FREEDOM over and over again!! Paint the campaigns as Freedom to do blah blah blah versus restriction/treason/anarchy/chaos. The local Dem club in Sarasota needs to hear her presentation...I will be sharing the link.


Doug Weinstock, Cambridge MA

Such an engaging presentation/event — seemed to reinforce what was shared in Jan 25 comm’y conversation about the impact of specific language/words used in messaging. Was intrigued by Anat saying not to use the content of fake misinformation when refuting what person said, since using/repeating the actual words (e.g. "covid vaccines can result in death”) reinforces what the person has said.


Anne White, Chevy Chase, MD

We need to totally change how we think about messaging and learn more from Anat. 


Blair Hines, Chestnut Hill, MA

I thought among many interesting explanations and examples, Anat’s comment regarding covid vaccines was especially illustrative of her positive approach: ‘Don’t argue with someone about alternative facts; don’t even mention the misinformation in your response; state how other people in the community are benefiting from vaccination.  In other words: emphasize the positive impact of what is being denied.  Keep messaging positive and “joining”.  Many people are persuadable if given new information rather than told that their information is wrong. 


Lyn Yexley

The most important takeaway for me was the reminder to sandwich a negative between two positives without naming the negative in response to a negative like "vaccines are dangerous."


Judy Kincaid, Durham, NC

Last night’s conversation with Anat was terrific! I had never before heard of her or her organization or these Community Conversations on Zoom. I am trying to design monthly leaflets to be dropped off on every doorstep in my precinct starting in April, and I am searching for the exact messaging that would be most effective in building the Democratic brand. The focus on freedom, plus the values - villain - vision framing were particularly useful points. I think our model of persistent Democratic messaging left on the doorstep by neighbors can be used anywhere in the country, and we would welcome help in honing this monthly messaging to be most effective. Please contact me if you can help develop this model!


Beth Greely, Roslindale, MA

Values. Villains. Vision! Love that.


Sally I Bowie, Seattle, WA

I would say that the takeaway for me was about the order in which one delivers the message - Values, Villain, Vision.  Where one puts the emphasis.  Do not engage with trying to answer the lies, one by one.  Say what you are FOR, before saying what you are against.  That, and make your message “attractive”, as in, make it “attract” others to your vision.

Reminds me of the takeaway from the prior community conversation - emphasize empowerment over helping hand.


Carol Galaty, Washington, DC

I did attend the presentation and I had mixed reactions. I believe that the Democrats have been terrible at communicating using long complex messages, while the Republicans have delivered simple catchy messages.  I was pleased that she has succeeded in successfully developing positive messages in the past that I could see grabbed people's attention and I liked her idea that you don't let the opposition program your message by reacting to their lies and claims.  However, I was concerned with her message that America means personal freedom as I think it could easily backfire and be used by the gun lobby to say they agree with us and they have the constitutional right to choose to carry any type of gun that they want, and to say what they want in the media!


Jenny Geer

Big takeaways:Repetition repetition repetition 

Don’t say what they’re doing wrong, say what you’re doing right Focus on the benefits (seeing your child at night) not the features (how to design childcare benefit)


kturner, Warsaw,

I was on the zoom last night and am SO GLAD that I was.  It was tremendous. Went out and purchased Anat’s book today (also review past pod casts, website, etc).   Put the 2/22 Multiplier call on my calendar. I am facilitating a strategy planning session for my local county Dem Party (Union County) in deep red North Carolina in 2 weeks.  One of the topics will be around marketing & communications.  The zoom you hosted was perfect timing.  We need help! 😉 

Here is the note I sent to the UCDP chair who I am working with: 

I sat in on the Force Multiplier Community Conversation: with Anat Shenker-Osorio and it was brilliant!  

There was a lot of conversation, research and examples about messaging.   

Anat (speaker) seems amazing, steeped in the democratic process and marketing vision.  I’m hoping to get the ppt and videos she used. 

Some key takeaways … 

1. Don’t let MAGA/Republicans own those terms.

2. Talk about freedom in EVERY discussion. How does this topic support our individual freedoms?  

How to combat lies … don’t repeat the lie, three steps: 

1. share the truth

2. negate the lie

3. reiterate the truth

Repetition = retention.  

“sell the brownie, not the recipe” – start with the big picture not the ingredients.   

So much more … too tired to recount everything.  Digging deeper to determine what and how to integrate this for our meeting.  


Mariann Stephens, LaGrange Park, IL

Thank you so much. I LOVE your webinars. Last night went South on me in a number of ways and I only half-heard what was clearly a great program. I'm looking forward to the post and will reply after I see it. Please put me on every mailing list  you have!!

Lisa Levey, Ithaca, NY

The importance of a positive vision, something compelling to want to support rather than the litany of problems or specifics of policies (the Family Leave policy is not your message but rather being with your family which it enables.)


Philip Moss, Brookline, MA

The critical importance of working on the content of the messages for mobilizing voter participation.  FM should perhaps try to help the grassroots organizations it funds with advice and funding to get effective messages for their organizing efforts.


Cezanne Garcia, Seattle, WA

Need to practice and think about many issues important to me and that I routinely engage with and how to reframe and focus my words, my language, my emotional expression.

Kathryn Rawle, Seattle, WA

Vision over policy, especially “Freedom.”


Beverly Cooper-Wiele, Jamaica Plain, MA

Craft your own positive message that has a "universal" message. Do not repeat the message of your opponent. 


bslayter, Lincoln, MA

There were several valuable “take-aways” from last night’s talk by Anat.  Immediately I think of the value “freedom” being identified by 42  Percent of those polled with items such as justice or equality not even a close second.  For me personally, I think  freedom might not have been so far out in front of some other important values..  Perhaps it was paired with accountability.  We don’t know how the questions were asked.


I was also quite surprised that for most voters the key question is not for whom to vote but whether to vote.  I guess I live in a Blue Bubble.  I am reminded how important the postcards and phone calls are to get out the vote in poorer especially Black and Brown communities as organized by Common Ground or the Swing Blue Alliance.


Last, framing an approach with the three “V” was interesting:  values, villains, vision and probably very useful.  Don’t talk about reproductive rights or voting rights by themselves, for example,  but link first to a value, preferably “freedom.”

This morning I looked at a couple of The Lincoln Project’s videos to see how well they followed that format.  Most of their ads are very compelling; I need to think more about the techniques they use.

 I look forwards to continuing this conversation about effective communication with your next speaker.

Thanks for arranging and hosting them.


Joan Garvin,  Berkeley, CA

I will remember her advice to "say what you're for" (rather than what you're against).

Also, her advice to "talk about the outcome of our policies, not about the policies themselves".     I think this is what Democrats tend to talk about: "what are democratic policies?"  But her videos clearly showed it's important to talk about the outcomes - what will the policies do for people, for our country?


Alison Lankenau, Tivoli, NY

Do campaigns access her thinking?  How widespread?  Could the candidates in NYS get a chance to work with her.


Mary C. Peckham, Morrison, Colorado

My most favorite thing, and most important take away - If you want people to come to your cause, you need to be attractive. Not gloom and doom, that is not attractive.

It got me thinking that it is similar to gratitude - for example, it’s a cold, snowy day, oh I’m so grateful that I have warm clothes. Same facts, different emphasis.

Thanks for a wonderful presentation.


Lynn Gerlinger, Williamsburg, MA

That “ persuasion” can increase turnout and that there are many more nonvoters than undecideds. That there is a method for producing “persuasion.” That getting nonvoters to the polls is half the battle. How to answer lies and misinformation if one must. Message what you are for but do not use the language of policy.

That said, I was not very impressed with the videos.

Very glad I attended and thank you.

Anat is also featured in this book The Pursuaders click here

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