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RESULTS is an international development advocacy NGO with a network of highly engaged volunteer campaigners around the UK who routinely discuss international development issues with their MPs and the public.

In 2014, The Narrative Project tested and refined message frames to help the sector to change the narrative on global poverty. The project identified four frames to drive this change:

  • Independence – development programmes help people in the world’s poorest places become independent and stand on their own two feet.
  • Shared Values – people born in the world’s poorest places deserve the chance to achieve their full potential, because every human life is valuable.
  • Partnership – development programmes work because people from across countries and communities join forces to share knowledge, resources and responsibility.
  • Progress – development programmes have made a huge difference. We’ve beaten smallpox, nearly defeated polio and helped millions of people get education and access to health services.

RESULTS was a partner on The Narrative Project and we tested the use of these message frames as part of our “Leave no-one behind: Health for All” campaign, which ran from July to December 2015.

Communicating with campaigners and the public

We tested the messages in a number of campaign communications, including in our regular monthly action materials, emails, volunteer-led campaign events, infographics, and a campaign video.

RESULTS’ monthly campaign action is sent out to our campaign network by email. We split our list 50:50 by random selection and for each of two consecutive monthly actions, the control group was given ‘traditionally framed’ email text and subject lines both months, while the treatment group received Narrative Project framing both months (to test for consistency and to avoid random effects introduced by variable copy quality and the different nature of the issues). No pictures were used in the emails, so that only text variations could make a difference.

Impressively, the Narrative Project version of the action emails produced the highest open and click through rates of any monthly action email that year, and the traditional versions of each email were the lowest. Both segments performed consistently across the two months, each with approximately twice the click through rate of the standard emails.

By tracking individuals, we were also able to measure repeat actions: we found that just over half of people who opened the first Narrative Project email in November went on to open the December email, and 63.4% of the people who clicked through in November’s email went on to repeat their click through again in December.

Significant increases in open rate and click-through from open rates provided excellent evidence of the potential of Narrative Project framing for improving the performance of email subject lines and body text.

Engaging Video

The framing of communications is just one factor contributing to the success or failure of a piece of communication, alongside the nature of the issue, the campaigner’s underlying attitudes and beliefs, and the quality of the content.

When developing a video for the campaign, we tried to make the script and footage embody the Shared Values, Independence and Progress frames; the film depicted a child living in Rio who had a good start in life, despite living in a favela in an unequal society.

We conducted a survey of some of the video’s viewers in order to understand how it affected our audience. Survey responses showed that most people exposed to the video understood why nutrition mattered for overcoming poverty, appreciated how it helped children lead healthy lives, and understood that inequality hindered good nutrition. They agreed that by working together we can address under-nutrition, and to some extent that progress was being made on under-nutrition.

This showed that we were broadly successful at embodying Narrative Project frames in a piece of video; however, these outcomes also depended on the quality of our creative treatment as well on setting objectives for the video seeking to change perceptions, not just the presence of Narrative Project framing.

Our testing of Narrative Project Frames in both video and emails suggests that these frames are effective ways to engage supporters.

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About the author(s)

Naveed Chaudhri

Naveed is Results UK's Head of Campaigns and is a leader in the field of communications, activism and public engagement.

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