The Power of Labels for Framing, Naming & Shaming

If you want to have control over something, you need to name it. Naming effectively empowers the namer.  It is an important principle in facilitating.  It is an important principle in protest. It is an important principle in self-awareness.

Image:Gene Hunt

Naming gives something significance. When we label the experiences, feelings and perceptions that come into our lives we make sense of our world, ourselves and others. Naming is the basis for how we think, assess, analyse and decide. What we cannot name, we cannot really grasp. What we call things reflects how we value them. When we name something we attach an understanding to it. The labels we choose load particular inherent meanings and shape interpretations. Naming frames.

This is important to incorporate into lobbying. Aim to name and frame subjects so as to tap into underlying values and symbols that exist within the audience. Good naming allows you to implicitly affirm beliefs people already hold and therefore your policy or advocacy will resonate as intuitively correct.  This is likely to increase public and political engagement and sympathy for your goals.

If you are naming a protest group or policy, a campaign or a place that you want to protect – you want a name that can evoke some cognitive and emotional connection, to become a visual and symbolic device for so much more.  Think strategically about your campaign title and what it will mean to people who are listening to it for the first time. Make it memorable and make it meaningful. Consider names that will intentionally convey a particular unspoken sense or value.

Here are some examples of loaded labels:

NIMBY’s (not-in-my-backyarders) OR stakeholders

illegal immigrants OR asylum seekers

minimum wage OR living wage

terrorists OR freedom fighters

euthanasia OR right to die

protesters OR advocates

Each of these labels in a way that seeks to influence by leading
people to look at a matter in a particular light. So consider carefully how you name a policy, a campaign, an advocacy group. It is your flag, your banner, your calling card and a powerful message carrier.

Saleena Ham