This headline from The Independent is typical of much recent media coverage:
Anger as Johnson’s Cop26 spokeswoman Allegra Stratton suggests ‘not rinsing dishes’ to tackle climate crisis
The suggestion is that people with dishwashers can save on water, and so help the environment, by not rinsing their plates and bowls before putting them in the dishwasher.
It’s the sort of advice – something that helps the planet a little and which saves you a little bit of time and/or money – which is commonplace. You find these sort of tips all the time online, in books and in the media.
But when it’s a government spokesperson saying it, that media coverage flips from ’31 helpful tips for our audience, including dishes’ to ‘outrage over dishes’. But it’s more than just the media. It’s how we all react too, because the meaning given to a message varies depending on the context.
In this case, the advice – the message – is just the same. But its reception varies depending on the messenger.
More on messaging, of course, in 101 Ways To Win An Election, now out in a third edition.