Since 1997 we have learned, influenced and, finally, become comfortable with a particular vocabulary.You’ll share some of these words, but in housing we regularly use phrases such as:Neighbourhood renewalStakeholder engagementMarginalised groupsTacklingsocial exclusionHouseholds – we don’t distinguish between types of household unless it’s pertinent – we are careful not to value one over anotherAll very New Labour, in concept if not always in phrasing.Welcome to the new politics – where the lion lays down with the lamb and we’d all like to teach the world to sing.January – we wanted to examine the language we use and the language the Tories use to spot in advance any bear traps.We commissioned Woodnewton Associates to examine Tory policy documents, speeches, statements etc and compare them to our own to identify: concepts which we shared, even if the language was different concepts which we did not share, even if the language was the same concepts which characterised a shift in thinking new terms or language.NOT an exercise to recommend we move one way or another, but to feed into the discussion internally AND to avoid speaking at cross purposes.
Green ticks – describe Tory visionRed crosses – what they see as the problem or barrier
These are some of the repeat phrases/concepts they found in our discourse.
Different terms with the same apparent meaning – eg vulnerable & marginalisedMarginalised – has connotations for the right, as there is an element of victimhood, whereas we might see it simply as a statement of fact.Same term with different meaning – eg aspirationWe tend to mean prospering, even if remaining in the same tenureTories tend to mean getting out of social housing – strong suggestion of home ownershipDifferent terms, different values – eg familiesConservatives use the word 'family' a great deal and with a great deal of warmth, while the social housing sector uses it rarely if at all – and if we do we tend to mean all kinds of families, not just nuclearTerms with difficult associations – eg stakeholderVery convenient word – encompasses subtle definitions but very New Labour
Do nothing – there is no requirement that we change our language.Shift emphasis – towards more neutral language• Delivery becomes implementation• Worklessness becomes unemployment• Marginalised becomes vulnerableResonates – eg more discussion of families and family housingUnpack terms – do not move away from core ideas but explore whether different language can be used that conveys it in ways more meaningful to your audience.
The key to this is objectivity and honesty.Although it’s an advantage to use a third party for this, it’s certainly not impossible to do yourself.Ultimately, this about doing what you already do every day – trying to understand your target audience so you can be effective in influencing them.
National Housing Federation case study - discourse analysis
Chloe Hardy – Head of Campaigns<br />Understanding the Conservatives through their language<br />
Discourse analysis on a shoestring<br />Speeches, manifesto, policy docs, think pieces<br />A few colleagues<br />Post-it notes<br />
Discourse analysis on a shoestring<br />Divide the material<br />Ask people to highlight words/phrases/ideas that are repeated<br />Write onto post-its<br />Work to together to group post-its<br />Discuss as you go<br />
Discourse analysis on a shoestring<br />Are there words/concepts you share?<br />Are there concepts you share but describe differently?<br />Are words you share but mean different things?<br />Are there concepts which they use and you don’t?<br />