The Importance of Value Based Messaging

By Mary Jarvis

george-lakoff-260Simply stated, messaging is communication that describes how we talk about who we are and what is important to us.  Value based messaging helps communicate significant key points about our organization and what it stands for.

Public conversations need to challenge and change public discussions, currently public debate is dominated by conservative dialog. A network of citizens need to speak out about values, their commitment to respect, fairness and community, why they are important and critical to American values, quality of life, and Democracy.

Human thought is physical, 97% unconscious and directly influences our behavior. Cognitive science has discovered that humans think and make irrational decisions based on emotion, experience, and the images created in the mind’s eye.   We need to make our thinking and the thinking of others more conscious through effective communication.

Communications consultant, George Lakoff (Berkley), and protégé Scott Wittkopf (Wisconsin), are leading the way with this new research in the Cognitive Neural Sciences. This cognitive science of messaging helps us understand how vital “framing” and communicating values, visions and beliefs of people are to the political process. How we “frame” an issues is of vital importance of how it is interpreted.

We need to empower people who can effectively promote a vision for the future that supports our communities and the needs of the people.  It’s the only way to counter the corporate, conservative self-interest frame of fear and divisiveness.  Learning and implementing “framing” is like a cognitive vaccine against the conservative epidemic!  It is essential in communicating effectively via the media as well as neighbor to neighbor.

Through an effective cognitive framing process, we can start connecting people and communities who will lead the necessary shift for positive change. It is vital that leaders and regular citizens learn how to make good use of framing and communicating. This is a long-term strategy, but it must start now.

For more information read, “Don’t Think of an Elephant” 2014 printing, by George Lakoff.

Jim Rosenberg: Weakening the Wausau mayor’s office will leave voters with less power

December 20, the Wausau Daily Herald ran an editorial saying that that Wausau needs to have a debate about the structure of its city government but there has been little public discussion of the referendum to take place April 7 and the editorial generated only one reader comment.

When the city council had the opportunity to ask separate questions about the idea of a city administrator and the role of the mayor, they instead rolled it all together into one:

“Shall the City of Wausau establish the position of City Administrator, reduce the Mayor’s position to part time, and transfer administrative and operational responsibilities from the Mayor to the City Administrator? The city will retain the Mayor-Council form of government under chapter 62 of the Wisconsin State Statutes.”

The Herald’s opinion piece uses terms like “cheerleader” and “ceremonial” to describe a future mayor’s role. It says the administrator would be able to “enact reforms” that would help to make city government more efficient and effective. But enacting reforms is a policy role. An administrator should be implementing reforms that are enacted by elected officials. It makes it an easier  sale to say that most of the money now being used to pay a mayor can be diverted into a new administrator’s salary, but the money involved isn’t enough to be driving the discussion.

What if — instead of accepting that the discussion can only be advanced in terms of trading one thing for another — we thought about permanently enhancing the office of mayor and also the city’s management? It’s not as though we are so awash in depth on the policy side, or that we’re doing so well in the economic development area, or we are so strong in advocacy, or that our communications are so effective or that our image as a community is so compelling that we can afford to give up capacity in those areas. Giving these things 10 hours a week from whoever happens to think they would like to be mayor won’t lead to much gravitas for the city or the mayor’s office, beginning with the ability to draw excellent candidates.

The policy and political power that leaves the mayor’s office can’t go to the administrator, so it goes to the city council. Instead of having 40,000 constituents, the administrator would have 11 people elected in lightly-funded, thinly-voted elections. Keep six of those 11 council members happy and the administrator keeps his or her job.  While the citizenry would still be free to send a message to city hall by tossing the mayor out in a city-wide election, it doesn’t make a lot of difference when you’re buying vision, advocacy and leadership in scant measures of only eight or 10 hours per week. Citizens would have little reason to expect much from someone in such a hollowed-out role.

Beginning with the 2016 elections, Wausau’s citizens will never again have the opportunity to effect sweeping change in the council in a single election. With staggered terms coming, a maximum of six members will be up in any given year and some years, only a minority of the council will be up. In short, making council members more powerful doesn’t just come at the expense of the mayor. It would come at the expense of voters.

A structural change in government is a permanent solution that seems to be largely based on temporary issues. The idea of a city administrator can always be revisited if the referendum fails, but if voters provide a mandate for a change that isn’t an improvement, they may never again have the opportunity to send their elected officials back with instructions to get it right.

By Jim Rosenberg

*Editor’s Note: Read Rosenberg’s full piece on his blog.

Thoughts on the Future

Last week I ran into Mary Robinson at a Christmas Party and we got into a conversation about bringing more fun into the Democratic Party. It was an energizing discussion that led to a few thoughts I am offering for your consideration.

Two key ingredients to success are hard work and fun. You know things are going really well when you can’t tell the difference between the two. This past year I became very involved with the Marathon County Democratic Party and feel that I experienced both the hard work as well as the fun. I spent considerable time with Dorothy in the office, Dan putting up signs, and the Writer’s Group. Beyond that I had many more casual experiences with volunteers that reminded me what great friends people become when they share the same ideals and work shoulder to shoulder for a common purpose. Over time I was impressed with everyone’s level of commitment, their willingness to work hard, and the good spirit they brought to their volunteer activity. I came to look upon my volunteer activity for the Democratic Party like going to meet any of my friends to have a good time.

Right now Party is in the process of assessing the result of the last election to get clear ideas about how to proceed. No doubt about it there is a lot to get done.  However, one thing that we need to do and do now is win. Learning to win, building a winning mentality and having confidence in one another is something that can’t wait. We have spring elections coming up and candidates that need our help. Let’s start having fun right now.

State of the State Rebuttal

Listen to Gov. Walker’s State of the State message Wednesday night January 22nd 7pm, on public television. We are having a SOS Rebuttal event at the Wausau Labor Temple on Friday, January 24th. Take notes! Contact email for information on how to attend.