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Criteria for Successful Mainstream Framing

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The Metaphor Project's eight main criteria below use some ideas and language drawn from the world of advertising, because advertisers were among the first to do serious research on what actually works to persuade people in the modern communications media. It is high time that people of good will learned to use these ideas for the common good. If your funds permit, follow up on using these criteria by testing your results via polls, focus groups or other common surveying tools, formal or informal.

l. Which of your creations have 'legs,' as they say in the advertising trade?

2. Which ones are broadly accessible now? How do you know?

3. Are they fresh new combinations, surprising tweaks of the familiar, or just the right conventional phrase or metaphor for the moment?

4. Are they concrete, not abstract? Do they create a new category, the way 'frankenfood' does?

5. Do they suggest a story or draw a picture favorable to your cause? Are they self-explanatory? Do they evoke core American values?

6. Do they make use of a comparison to something familiar to most people?

7. Do they point to what causes the problem? Do they suggest a solution to the problem? Do the negative ones imply a potentially empowering positive story? (Example: 'Treaty trap' implies that one could also get out of it, go around it, warn people of it, spring it, stay out of it, prevent damage.)

8. Do they have rhythm and do they 'jingle?' Say them aloud to check. This is a vital criterion today. See Leslie Savan's study of 'pop speak,' Slam Dunks and No Brainers, listed in American Studies in Selected Sources and Links.


- Do your results really pass the audience accessibility test? 

- Do they have broad audience appeal right now? 

- Who might they offend? 

- Is it worth it? 

! If you can, test your creations in the field or if you have the resources, professionally. 

! Also, be sure to set up an ongoing American Framing work group in your organization. 

The opposition never rests, and today language grows stale faster than ever!