Words that Work - Making the best case for people seeking asylum

In 2015, the ASRC decided we needed to find a better way to talk about people seeking asylum. We commissioned a multi-phase research project to uncover and test the ways we can put forward the most compelling case for a more humane approach to people seeking asylum. The result was an incredible piece of research and recommendations by renowned communications and linguistics expert Anat Shenker-Osorio (ASO Communications), Troy Burton (Commonality) and John Armitage (QDOS). We call it Words that Work.

We want Words that Work to drive our advocacy in a new direction. A direction that will see us more effectively win the hearts and minds of the public.

View a summary of the Words that Work report.

The project was conducted in four stages:

Language Analysis:

The language used when talking about people seeking asylum was analysed. The analysis covered nearly 1000 data points including communications material from sector organisations, social media, media coverage and ‘opposition’ material. Based on this, preliminary recommendations and areas to further explore in subsequent stages were identified.

Advocate Interviews:

Executives at major humanitarian organizations, activists and people who once sought asylum were asked deliberately broad questions to reveal the underlying values and reasoning driving their involvement in advocating for people seeking asylum. The results were used by the researchers crafted new values-based message frames to test alongside more traditional approaches to advocacy.

Focus Groups:

Ten focus groups were conducted to deepen the researchers’ understanding of why people held different views about people seeking asylum and refine the messages for testing in the fourth phase. The groups included combinations of age, gender, cultural background and attitude toward people seeking asylum and were carried out in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Parramatta and Rockhampton.

Dial Testing:

This stage involved testing a number of different messages to determine what language was the most persuasive.  The messages were tested with 1500 members of the general public, as well as advocates and activists. The testing allowed us to see how people responded to the messages moment-to-moment, so we could determine exactly what language works with our supporter base and the people we are trying to persuade.

At the conclusion of the project, events were held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to share the findings with the sector and members of the public.

Next Steps:

In the lead up to the 2016 federal election, we ran a community conversations campaign in the electorate of Higgins to test how we can embed Words that Work in a conversation framework. You can read the findings of these conversations here.

Now, we are working with people across Victoria to build our skills in using Words that Work and having persuasive conversations through a series of workshops.

Stay tuned for further updates about how you can get involved in getting our community on the #RightTrack.