Much of our work with clients focuses on building key messages and developing the techniques to say them powerfully, along with presenting the evidence to make sure they are clear, credible and memorable.
However, we also concentrate on the use of language – not only getting rid of jargon, but also demonstrating how it can play a significant part in framing what the participants of any debate are talking about.
BBC accused of ‘dishonesty’
This was something that came to the fore last week when Ukip leader Nigel Farage accused the BBC of “dishonesty” in its reporting of the referendum on staying in the EU.
His complaint was that the broadcaster was using “Europe” as shorthand in discussions about the forthcoming vote, saying that to do so benefits the ‘In’ campaign. His point was that the phrase ‘European Union’ can be something of a toxic label for voters, so using ‘Europe’ instead can help soften the blow for those in the pro-EU camp.
Europe not EU
Private polling suggests Farage is right: voters seem to have less of an issue with the name of the land mass than the political organisation. It’s no doubt why ‘In’ campaign leader Stuart Rose repeatedly used the word ‘Europe’ in his launch address. It’s also explains why an email from pro-EU campaigner Laura Sandys called on supporters of Britain remaining a member to “always talk about Europe rather than EU”.
Importance of language
Whether you agree with Mr Farage’s opinions or not, the very fact that an individual phrase has become the subject of contention indicates just how important language is in shaping what is being discussed.
Less experienced interviewees than Mr Farage may not find it as easy to spot how the terms of reference can influence the issues under discussion. In short, to see the whole picture clearly, it’s important to check the frame.
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