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A persuasive message answers three basic questions: (1) what’s the problem, (2) why it matters, and (3) what’s the solution.

Poster from Vermont Housing Awareness Campaign

What’s the problem, of course, is the lack of affordable housing, or the need. Why it matters is where you connect housing to values and issues that resonate with your audience. What’s the solution is where you talk about how the housing trust fund will provided safe, stable housing for those in need.

As advocates, we often spend too much time communicating about the need (what’s the problem), and not enough time communicating about why affordable housing matters or how with resources, we can provide needed housing solutions. Decision makers, the media and the general public are confronted with problems on a consistent basis. In order to build support and political will, our messages must convey why having a place to call home matters. Public opinion research shows that people are more likely to respond positively to affordable housing when you connect housing to values such as opportunity, reward for work, fairness, security, stability, and shared responsibility to care for the more vulnerable. Similarly, decision makers, the media and the general public are more likely to engage a problem when you are proposing a solution.  Shifting your messages to emphasize why housing matters and how the housing trust fund is a solution makes your messages more effective.

Expressed as a formula, if you have 5 minutes to deliver your message, here is a suggested breakdown of how you spend your time:

  • Statement of concern (what is wrong?): A minute and no more on need.  A simple example or a statistic is often sufficient.
  • Statement of the value (why it matters?): 2-3 minutes.  This is the heart of your argument.  Begin with your value frame and expand the frame with a story or vivid examples.
  • Statement of solution (what is the action?): 1-2 minutes. Clear statement of how a housing trust fund address local housing need.  Take the time to trumpet the potential or actual success the housing trust fund.

Here is an example message with all three parts:

On any given night, there are hundreds of homeless children in Kalamazoo County, and hundreds more at risk of homelessness staying in motel rooms they cannot afford, and doubling up with friends and family. It breaks your heart to know that some families do not have a place to call home. I just think of all those kids trying to get their homework done in the back of a car, or on some motel desk. I know these kids need more if we want them to do well in school.  A stable place to call home gives kids more opportunities to succeed in life. Kalamazoo has a proven tool that gives homeless families the stability and security of home: The Local Housing Investment Fund.  Its pilot funding has expired, and now is time for us to reinvest in the Fund. These kids need a stable place to call home. Let’s support the Local Housing Investment Fund.

Click here to go to next page–values and framing

Click here to return to messages that work