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Can I Quote You On That?

August 17, 2012

Words in Reality & Reality in Words
Politicians use words in an effort to change reality; but reality and history also change words. That’s Mark Forsyth’s argument in his pithy TED talk. We often write about ways nonprofits may tell their stories better to potentially influence the perception of their policy issue. But when evaluating these narratives in the media, it’s important to look not just at what was meant to be communicated but at what folks in the target audience actually captured, whether intended or not.  

Advocacy Coalitions
This week, we came across a neat research study published earlier this summer in the American Journal of Evaluation on predicting the collaborative tendencies of health advocacy coalitions. The authors use a social network analysis approach to study how nascent coalitions work. Through multiple surveys, they looked at how organization- and coalition-level factors, ranging from advocacy experience to the relationships among the groups, influenced their ability to act jointly on their health policy goals. Some takeaways: resources (as measured by policymaker contacts) and frequent communication matter.

Maria Konnikova’s latest piece for The Atlantic explores a phenomenon that should be very familiar to us during an election year: the practice of misquotation. She argues that misquotation happens because our brains streamline information to recall it more easily when necessary. This means that we are predisposed to adjust messages that may sound awkward and turn them into quotable, ostensibly catchier material. Now whether any one misquotation is true, false or something else is up to debate. But as Konnikova recommends, and we often say about our work, bringing a skeptical eye to any message is critical.