Values-based Messaging

What is values-based messaging and how can it help you connect with your audience to change hearts, minds (and policies)?

My approach to values-based messaging brings together an understanding of human values motivation and priming with framing effects and how the words we use influence reasoning, mostly beneath the level of conscious thought.

I can work with you and your organisation to develop your understanding of values and frames and how you can apply this knowledge a as critical foundation of your change strategy.

Values: deeply held, tied to emotion 

What values are you activating in your communications? Do they help or hinder your cause?


Values define what’s important to us in life and make up a large part of our personal identity. 

Understanding how people’s values influence their views on different issues – and how these might be changed – requires an understanding of the dynamics inherent in human value motivations and values priming.

Drawing attention to specific values in can temporarily primepeople into a particular mindset, with a subsequent increased receptivity to aligned messages and demonstrated influence on behaviours and attitudes, including an inhibiting effect on opposing values and related messages.


Through positive feedback, values to work like muscles; a given values motivation becomes stronger with repeated activation so that temporarily engaged values, with repetition, can become part of a person’s general values disposition.

Frames are the mental structures or cognitive shortcuts we use to process information and make sense of the world. Frames are built up over a lifetime, strengthened through activation (repetition), durable, tied to emotion and define our embodied notion of common sense.

  • Frames are evoked by words (especially metaphors) and imagery, and operate with our values to shape reason—mostly beneath the level of our conscious awareness. 

  • Frames can narrow or widen thinking, hide or highlight perspectives and reduce or expand options. 

Facts need frames


Facts alone, no matter how compelling, will never win the day because people are not rational decision-makers.


People come to reason through frames, values, metaphors and imagery - not facts and data alone. You can't displace a feeling with a fact. 


We need to engage people on shared values first, to create a receptive mindset for facts and information to resonate.


Facts need frames, or facts will bounce off frames.

Reframe - say what you're for!

Avoid messaging in retaliation.


Think - literally and metaphorically - about putting your message in a new frame. Studies show that negating a frame with a 'no, not, don't, stop', etc, just reinforces the frame as cognitively, you have to think of something in order not to think about it, and over time we remember the assertion, not the negation.


Reframing is about telling the truth directly, articulately and with moral conviction in a way that speaks to people's shared intrinsic values.  

© Words for Change 2020