On the Power of Words, Labels and Language: Do No Harm

The power of words, labels, language and frames is often a popular topic at the water cooler and lunch table here, but it has been top-of-mind lately. One reason is a recent experience I had when filling out a form to participate in an online forum with people from around the world. The gist of one of the questions was, “How would you describe yourself so other people will like you and want to interact? Explain the social psychology of your response.”  It was a daunting exercise.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/8/18 10:30 AM

Change Strategy: Avoid Bad Words and Message Mistakes


Do you worry about saying bad words? I know sometimes I feel as if I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to avoid bad words and message mistakes. For change strategists, bad words are the ones that trigger bad frames — frames that run counter to the positive social change you want to see.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 9/14/17 10:00 AM

Avoid Sustainability Language Disconnect: Show Don’t Tell

Signs abound of a growing sustainability language disconnect between marketers’ communications and what consumer and business customers understand, or care about. If sustainability is core to your mission, you can ask yourself a few questions to avoid a disconnect in your message framing for sustainability.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 8/1/17 10:04 AM

How to Answer WIIFM or “Do I See Me Now?”

I expect What’s In It For Me (WIIFM), to be crystal clear. And your customers do too.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 7/6/17 10:00 AM

Forget Saying Climate Change: Words activate frames


When you believe in a cause, it becomes your baby, and one of the hardest things to do is let go of its name.

For decades now I have been writing, speaking and working with others to create change on issues — issues with names you’ve heard — like climate change, gender equality, protecting the natural environment, and universal access to educational and economic opportunities.

But just when it seems the pure volume of words will make them all but meaningless, I am struck again by the impact of words and their potential to be counter-productive. The way we talk affects the way people think. If you don’t use words well, then you're denying yourself potential supporters, sponsors, donors, and even values-driven paying customers.

Here’s why I stopped using the names of causes I believe in, and what to do instead.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/9/17 10:00 AM

Change Convos monthly top picks: 5 links we loved in March


Spring has been doggedly stubborn about arriving this year. The rollercoaster weather finds us swapping winter coats for garden rakes within a twenty-four hour period. Our five favorite posts for change makers and communicators reflect the wild swings of the season with a touch of green mixed in with high-voltage transmission lines and an experiment in storytelling. Here, ICYMI, are our top picks from what we were reading in March.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 4/7/16 1:28 PM

Why Your Content Strategy Desperately Needs Serendipity


It is every marketer or writer’s nightmare. After years of carefully planned and executed content strategy, your recipe for creating content is falling flat. Matching mission-driven keywords to audience social media sharing stats and website traffic reports is starting to lead to utterly predictable and b-o-r-i-n-g content.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/10/16 11:00 AM

Change Convos monthly top picks: 5 links we loved in February


It’s just about sugaring season — the annual Vermont ritual when the sweet sap of Sugar Maples warms and runs out of the taps, a time for learning about the sugaring process to see where maple syrup comes from. Our five favorite posts for change makers and communicators taps into a sweet mix of subjects. Here, ICYMI, are our top picks from what we were reading in February.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/3/16 10:00 AM

Change Convos monthly top picks: 5 links we loved in September


Fall in Vermont (or should I say autumn?) is chock full of delightful distractions, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on special treats. Here are our monthly top picks from around the web in September, plus the top five stories from the Change Conversations blog.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 10/1/15 10:00 AM

Is Your Communication Bias-Free and Inclusive?

Think your communication is always bias-free?

Think that you are equally respectful, inclusive and welcoming with a diverse range of people — those similar to you and those who are different — women, men and transgender people, different nationalities and ethnicities, LGBT community members, varying age groups and even socioeconomic levels?

Think again.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 5/18/15 11:45 AM