Advocates, Leave the Naysaying to the Naysayers


Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize, so it’s no surprise that he knows a thing or two about communications. His column today was nominally about party politics, but the same lesson is also important for kids’ advocates: if you want to win, drop the pessimism.

Expanding on these themes on today’s Morning Joe, one of the other guests observed that candidates are getting the opposite advice from their advisors. Pollsters and political operatives look at the pessimism reflected in the poll numbers and caution candidates avoid sounding “tone-deaf,” by reflecting that pessimism back to voters. But, as Robinson rightly observes, exceptional communicators like President Ronald Reagan (and FDR and Winston Churchill, and many others) spend at least as much time shaping popular opinion as they do reflecting it.

A great example of the potential of this approach to strengthen children’s issues advocacy is the Narrative Project funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Spitfire Strategies. As a Mathematica Policy Research evaluation details, participating advocates found that consistent use of positive messaging contributed to their policy wins.

That experience validates Eugene Robinson’s fundamental observation: we’re all involved in shaping the conversations around our work, so let’s use our voice to accelerate progress and leave the naysaying to the naysayers.