Communication is an art as well as a science; moving hearts and minds requires going beyond what “feels right,” to drawing on qualitative examples of others’ best work as well as on quantitative opinion and media research findings. To make social justice communicators more inspiring artists as well as more rigorous scientists, we pursue research, often in partnership with advocacy leaders, on how key audiences feel about social justice issues, which media sources matter to those audiences, and what stories and messages audiences are hearing in those sources.
Public opinion research is a central tool we use to explore how audiences think about issues. With the understanding that every person is complex and brings a variety of experiences and beliefs to his or her worldview, we use focus groups, surveys, polling, and message testing to gauge where audiences currently stand on issues and identify the values, policies, and messages most likely to drive action and support.
Understanding how our issues are covered and how particular communities are represented is an important component in designing a communication strategy. We use media monitoring and analysis to help partners identify dominant frames and arguments, as well as most prominent spokespeople and storylines in mainstream news and entertainment media. Through use of social listening tools, we also examine how audiences engage with and create online media content, identifying trends in content volume trends, demographics, sentiment shift, and online influence.
The values and priorities of the field of advocates, activists, organizers, allies, and those most directly affected by an issue must inform communications strategy. We should never ask people to say things that their values do not support. Through fieldwork, including interviewing, consultation, and convening, we identify the major points of agreement, disagreement, shared values, and common themes to help our partners better prioritize audiences, narratives, and solutions.