Heartwired messaging leverages the ways that people’s emotions, identity, values, beliefs and lived experiences combine and collide to govern their decision-making. Below, we spotlight examples of heartwired messaging at work.

The videos and messages below have been created by different teams of talented, strategic communicators. We’re featuring them here as examples of the many ways powerful messaging, delivered by the right messengers, can connect with the values, beliefs, morals, identities and lived experiences of their audiences.


A Tale of Two Ads

Before 2012, advocates for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples had often framed the issue in terms of rights and discrimination — like the ad on the left that the “No on Prop 8” campaign ran in California. Ads like this failed to convince enough conflicted voters.

The ad on the right, run in Maine in 2012, focuses on the shared values of love, commitment and marriage. Voters in Maine approved Measure 1 to grant equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.



More Heartwired Ads on the Freedom to Marry

An ad in Maryland in 2012 features Todd who expresses his concern about not wanting to harm lesbian and gay friends or family by voting against allowing marriage for same-sex couples. Marylanders also voted to affirm equal marriage rights at the ballot box in 2012.

Given that faith was a prime motivator to vote against the freedom to marry, the movement began running ads with Christian messengers delivering Christian messages like the ad on the left featuring Pastor Michael Gray and his wife Robyn, or the ad on the right featuring Rev. Delman Coates.



Heartwired Ads Defeat Restrictions on Abortion

With heartwired messaging, it is even possible to defeat an anti-abortion measure in a state where 80 percent of all voters identify as pro-life. A 2011 anti-abortion measure was so extreme that it turned off many pro-life voters. Yet, research showed that many Christians feared that they would be judged by God for voting against the measure.

The two ads below featured real Mississippi women who talked about the extreme nature of the measure while also communicating that “you could be pro-life and still vote no on Initiative 26.” Voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 26.


There are many times when a proposed public policy change has such high levels of initial public support that it can appear unstoppable. Yet with heartwired research and messaging, blocking a problematic policy may be possible. For example, laws requiring parental notification for minors to access abortion care have been repeatedly proposed in California – and defeated. The ad below, from California’s No on 85 campaign, emphasized people’s identity as caring adults – as well as their lived experiences of teen-parent relationships and an awareness that some parents are abusive – to motivate them to vote against the measure in order to protect young women and girls who would be put at risk by this proposed law.

Heartwired Messaging to Build Familiarity with Transgender People

In the past few years, transgender people have increasingly become the focus of intense political, legal, and legislative attacks by anti-LGBTQ forces. Research showed that building familiarity and a sense of shared humanity would be an essential component of any effort to defeat or hold back anti-transgender attacks and advance policies that are inclusive of people who are transgender.  Below are examples of this approach in action. This online campaign, a partnership with Equality California and Transgender Law Center, features video narratives from a wide range of transgender and gender non-conforming people.


The ad below was developed in partnership with the Movement Advancement Project, and aired on national television during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2016, to help show the real-life consequences of policies restricting transgender people’s access to public restrooms.

Heartwired Messaging on Medical Aid-in-Dying

Our heartwired approach does not attempt to resolve all of our audiences’ inner conflicts about medical aid-in-dying. Rather, this approach helps people realize that even if they are uncertain whether they would ever exercise this option for themselves, they can allow others facing the end of life the peace of mind that having this option might provide.


Below are two examples of how this heartwired approach was integrated into efforts to pass such legislation in California—and used to support the Governor choosing to sign the bill in to law.

Dolores Huerta op-ed
Gov. Brown signing statement










Heartwired Stories Encourage Employers to Hire People with Arrest Records

The Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and the National Employment Law Project launched A Good Hire — a public education campaign encouraging employers to be open to hiring people with arrest or conviction records.


Messaging in Action: Sample Toolkits

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation messaging guide
Hagedorn Foundation Long Island fundraising guide