One of the most difficult child advocacy communications challenges is making the case for policy change in the aftermath of a horrific child abuse case. At that moment, when we’ve all so plainly failed a child, it’s especially hard to believe that we can do better. But that moment – when the public’s attention is focused – is the best possible time to convey that we can, and therefore must, do better.

Matthew Fraidin, a University of the District of Columbia law professor, does that difficult task very well in his Sunday Indianapolis Star op-ed. I can’t speak to his policy recommendations – that’s not my area of expertise – but from a communications perspective, what I like is that Professor Fraidin:

  1. Acknowledges the horrific abuse endured by the girl whose case prompted calls for reform – if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have taken him seriously at an emotional (and, therefore, more fundamental than intellectual) level
  2. Moves on immediately to assert that we can do better – this sets the tone for his entire commentary
  3. Lays out a concrete and compelling reform agenda – I understand what he wants and (more importantly) why it’ll make a meaningful difference
  4. Avoids a laundry list – nothing says problem-we-can’t-solve like a 22-point-plan, but he lists a manageable 5 items (3 would be even better, but often tough to do) on his policy agenda
  5. Closes with a strong summary and underscores his main message that this tragedy can spur real reform, if we expect and demand better policy for kids.

There’s no reason we all can’t communicate this clearly and effectively, even when it’s difficult. Thanks to Prof. Fraidin for a great example of how powerful circumstances can inspire powerful communication.