Frank Luntz — the Republican strategist whose speciality is testing language that will help turn public opinion — knows the power of words.
He’s the expert who encouraged the Bush Administration to reframe global warming as climate change. His research showed that Americans thought climate change sounded natural and less severe.
His recent column in the Washington Post may be a call to arms for the GOP, but all marketers, fundraisers and storytellers regardless of political persuasion should listen up.
Luntz asserts that we we say about our ideas matter. But what people hear and feel matter most.
He believes that the GOP is paying a price for out-of-touch language that has made most voters feel that Republicans are the party of “the wealthy” and “big business” rather than “hardworking taxpayers” and “efficient government.”
When thinking about language he recommends that you:
(1) Take a values-based approach. What does your audience value? Freedom? Personal Accountability? Independence? Justice? Equality? Make sure all of your language reflects those values.
(2) Be empathetic. You must show your audience that you understand them and that you share their values, their hopes and their struggles.
(3) Humanize the issues you are working on. If your language connects intellectually, but not emotionally, it’s the wrong language.
Words are a basic building block of persuasion. What words are you using to promote your cause? And more importantly, how is your audience interpreting those words?