Susan Nall Bales

SUSAN NALL BALES is founder of and senior advisor to the FrameWorks Institute. In 2016, she was named Chair of the Board of Directors. For more than 15 years, she has led an interdisciplinary team of social scientists and communications practitioners in the development and application of Strategic Frame Analysis™--an innovative method of conducting and applying framing research.  In addition to dozens of reports and commentaries that inform the FrameWorks’ work on a wide range of social issues, she has published widely on framing, science translation and communications for social good, in both peer-reviewed and popular journals, and has lectured at institutions from Brandeis and the Rural Sociological Society to the White House and Yale University.  She is a senior fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

A veteran communications strategist and issues campaigner, she has more than 30 years of experience researching, designing and implementing campaigns on social issues. A key focus of her work prior to FrameWorks focused on increasing the legitimacy of children’s needs as a public issue.  Before founding FrameWorks in 1999, Bales served for six years as director of strategic communications and children’s issues at the Benton Foundation, where she founded www.connectforkids.org (now sparkaction.org), an award-winning web gateway, the top national public service advertising campaign in 1997 and first to unify news and research on children’s issues across issues, organizations and locales .  She also managed the Foundation’s partnership with the Ad Council on a major multi-year campaign on children’s issues, a campaign that secured $300 million in donated media and featured an ad with President and Mrs. Clinton.  Bales contributed to the advertising content and critiqued its messages, bringing new research techniques for measuring media effects to the Council.

Prior to her foundation work, Bales served as vice president for communications at the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, where she helped create the popular “Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?” public advocacy campaign and founded the Coalition for America’s Children, with more than 350 organizational members. Here, she conceptualized and ran the first-ever Presidential Debate on Children’s Issues in 1992, with 7,500 civic leaders participating in 50 communities via satellite conference.  The campaign resulted in more than 100 nonpartisan forums as well as face-to-face briefings for 1,500 candidates for local, state or national office. Written children’s platforms were secured from 950 candidates.  As a result, the Clinton state of the union remains to this day the highest concentration of key words devoted to children of any president.   One result: In his State of the Union address, President Clinton devoted more key words to children’s issue than any president before or since. 

In 1995, Bales helped secure $25 million in advertising exposure for children’s issues on the ABC network and advised on content. As part of the campaigns she spearheaded, Bales commissioned, managed and published numerous reports on public attitudes to children’s issues.  Her insistence on an evidence-based strategy has been a hallmark of her campaigns.

For eight years she served as president of Public Affairs Research & Communications, where she designed and managed more than 75 communications campaigns nationwide on progressive issues from civil rights and women’s issues to international affairs.  From promoting the 10th anniversary of the Congresswomen’s Caucus to the 20th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, Bales’ firm worked to secure public attention for social issues. In this capacity, she wrote speeches and provided communications training for members of Congress, prime ministers and prime time TV stars.

A graduate of UCLA, she received her M.A. in French literature from Middlebury College.