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Understanding Framing. Dr. LaRae M. Donnellan , APR, CPRC Professor & PR Sequence Coordinator School of Journalism & Graphic Communication Florida A&M University (October 2011 ). What is Strategic Frame Analysis?.

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Understanding framing

Understanding Framing

Dr. LaRae M. Donnellan, APR, CPRC

Professor & PR Sequence Coordinator

School of Journalism & Graphic Communication

Florida A&M University

(October 2011)

What is strategic frame analysis
What is Strategic Frame Analysis?

  • “…an approach to communications research and practice that pays attention to the public’s deeply held worldviews and widely held assumptions.” (http://www.frameworksinstitute.org)

    • Developed by FrameWorks Institute, led by Susan Nall Bales

    • Involves interdisciplinary research on how people think and communicate

    • “Designed to help progressive groups understand public prejudices and thereby better advance their objectives.” (Chris Mooney, “Breaking the Frame,” 2003)

The media not only tell us WHAT to think about but also HOW to think about it.


What is framing
What is Framing?

  • “… how messages are encoded with meaning so that they can be efficiently interpreted in relationship to existing beliefs or ideas. Frames trigger meaning.”

  • Mental shortcuts we use to help us understand and interpret information/events

  • “If the facts don’t fit the frame, it’s the facts that are rejected, not the frame.”

  • (http://www.frameworksinstitute.org)


Competing theories
Competing Theories

  • Agenda-Setting Theory: The media tell us what to think about, not how to think about it.

  • Framing Theory: The media not only tell us what to think about but also how to think about it.

(From “Politico Mafioso: Leader of the McCain Mafia,” http://politicomafioso.blogspot.com/2009/08/framing-debate-by-william-warren.html)

Science of the mind
Science of the Mind

  • 98% of our thinking = unconscious (reflexive, automatic, uncontrolled)

  • 2% of our thinking = conscious (reflective, on purpose)

  • Therefore, your brain makes decisions for you that you are not consciously aware of.


So what
So What?

  • Not aware of unethical appeals to our subconscious

  • Moral & political thought not arbitrary

  • Connected to each other & to the physical world by our unconscious mind

  • George Lakoff: Democracy in mortal danger

  • Implications for PR?

    • Language has power.


Are facts enough
Are Facts Enough?

  • 47 million people are without health care.

  • There were no WMD in Iraq.

  • The ice caps are melting.

  • Most teenagers are good kids.

  • Guns are used to kill many people.

    • Gun control?

    • Gun safety?


What s in a frame
What’s in a Frame?

  • Metaphors, visuals, stories, context, messages, messengers, numbers

  • Episodic news frames

    • Focus on specific events in time and place (e.g., crime reports) – Tallahassee ranked 8th in Forbes’ list of “most dangerous U.S. cities”

  • Thematic news frames

    • Focus on broader context, societal trends



Power of storytelling
Power of Storytelling

  • “Storytelling is the very essence of human thought and communication. Everything we know or do or say is, at some point, organized into a story – embedded in a narrative that enables us to remember and understand.”

    • Notion of “mother” requires “child”

    • Notion of “earth” implies “sky”

  • “I went to the mall and …”

(James Hoggan, “Do the Right Thing”)


Echo chamber
Echo Chamber

  • “If we hear the same language over and over, we will think more and more in terms of the frames and metaphors activated by that language. And it doesn’t matter if you are negating words or questioning them; the same frames and metaphorswill be activated and hence strengthened.”

(George Lakoff, “The Political Mind”)

Nation as family frame
“Nation as Family” Frame

  • Sending our sons & daughters to war

  • Founding Fathers

  • Uncle Sam

  • Daughters of the American Revolution


Strict father frame
“Strict Father” Frame

  • Assumes world is dangerous & difficult

  • Need strict father to protect us, teach us right from wrong by punishment

  • Hierarchy: God above man, man above nature, adults above children, America above other countries, and Western culture above non-Western culture

  • Morality & power go together

  • Natural resources = for human use

  • Facts about species destruction won’t overwhelm the frame


Nurturing parent frame
“Nurturing Parent” Frame

  • Assume world can be made better

  • Children nurtured by both parents through empathy & responsibility

  • Parents protect children, who are born good & can be better

  • Values: Cooperation, fulfillment, two-way communication, happiness, fairness

  • Results = consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection


Framing owls vs people
Framing: Owls vs. People

  • Strict father frame: Owls are cute, but jobs for people are more important.

  • Nurturing parent frame: All species are sacred.

    • “It would be immoral to destroy anything this remarkable and glorious."

    • NOT just science/facts/economics.

    • We must protect the sacred forests.


Framing the tea party
Framing: The Tea Party

  • Taxes are bad.

  • Small government is good.

  • Freedom from government

  • Running a government is like running a household.

  • American patriots, true Americans

  • Getting our country back

  • “Deserving” defined by success


Framing occupy wall street
Framing: Occupy Wall Street

  • “We are the 99%.”

  • Big Business is the problem.

  • Be fair to everyone.

  • Tax the super wealthy.

  • Change the moral focus of the country.

  • Strong wages make a strong America.

  • We are part of nature.


Framing frank luntz
Framing: Frank Luntz

  • Conservative political consultant and pollster

  • “Fox News” commentator and analyst

  • Words that work … and don’t work

    • Say “free market economy,” not “global economy” or “capitalism”

    • Say “exploring for energy,” not “drilling for oil”

    • Say “not give,” not “deny”

    • Say “equal opportunity in education,” not “school choice” or “vouchers”

    • Say “death tax,” not “estate tax”

    • Say “climate change,” not “global warming”


Framing environmental policies
Framing & Environmental Policies

  • Luntzsays conservatives are losing the battle over global warming science.

    • Use terms environmentalists like, such as “healthy,” “clean,” “safe.”

  • Bush-era anti-environmental legislation:

    • “Clear Skies” (allowed coal plants to emit more sulfur, nitrogen & mercury) – Opponents called this “Mercury Polluters’ Relief Act.”

    • “Healthy Forests” bill (increased clear- cutting and commercial logging in national forests) – Opponents called this “No Tree Left Behind”


Framing 2010 epa air quality rules
Framing 2010 EPA Air Quality Rules

  • Environmental Protection Agency

    • “... nation’s most important air quality standards are clearly grounded in science, protect public health with an adequate margin of safety and protect the environment.”

  • American Petroleum Institute

    • “... unnecessary energy cost increases, job losses and less domestic oil and natural gas development and energy security.”

  • On Sept. 2, 2011, Obama ordered the EPA to shelve proposed regulations for new air-quality standardsm

    • Sticking with Bush 2005 policies

    • Cited “potential impact on weak economy”


Global warming vs climate change
Global Warming’ vs. ‘Climate Change’

  • “Warming” is nice

  • “Climate change” = attempt to be scientific & neutral

  • “Climate crisis”

    • More correct, Lakoff would say

    • Scarier, Bales would say

  • Other options:

    • “Climate collapse”

    • “Carbon dioxide strangulation”

    • “Suffocation of the earth”

  • Hard to change common vocabulary once it’s in place.


Framing sierra club campaign
Framing: Sierra Club Campaign

  • “End Commercial Logging” campaign in the Arctic Refuge

    • Arguing “against” something is a disaster. (Don’t think of an elephant.)

    • Logging = masculine; assumption logs are going into your home, not overseas.

  • Morphed into “Forest Protection and Restoration” campaign


Framing chicken little
Framing: “Chicken Little”

  • Environmental group messages

    • “The sky is falling!”

    • “It’s your fault!”

    • “You must lower your standard of living!”

  • This type of message attracts only true believers.

(Susan Nall Bales, FrameWorks Institute)


Framing the little engine that could
Framing: “The Little Engine That Could”

  • Messages

    • “Good old American technology can solve environmental problems.”

    • “Citizens can hold government and business accountable if they have the political will to do so.”

  • More acceptable to more people

(Susan Nall Bales, FrameWorks Institute)


Survey says
Survey Says …

  • Climate change a “very serious threat” for:

    • Plants & animals: 52%

    • People in other countries: 40%

    • People elsewhere in U.S.: 30%

    • You & your family: 19%

    • Your community: 18%

      (Leiserowitz, July 2007 study of U.S. residents)


2011 yale s urvey says
2011 Yale Survey Says …

  • Believe that global warming is happening:

    • Democrats: 78%

    • Independents: 71%

    • Republicans: 53%

    • Tea Party members: 34%

  • Believe global warming is mostly caused by humans:

    • Democrats: 62%

    • Tea Party members: 50% naturally occurring, 21% not at all

  • Well informed about global warming?

    • Tea Party members are “much more likely” than any other group to say they are “very well informed” and “do not need any more information” about it.

      (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, http://environment.yale.edu/climate/)

Frameworks how to reach tea party
FrameWorks: How to Reach Tea Party

  • Emphasize prosperity and benefits to economy of climate change solutions.

  • Integrate Christian values of stewardship of the earth, especially for future generations.

  • Focus on specific climate solutions, “such as research funding for renewable energy and providing tax rebates for purchases of solar panels and energy efficient vehicles.”

  • (http://www.frameworksinstitute.org/blogs/ alumni/2011/09/how-to-frame-climate-change-to-the-tea-party/)


Solution localize
Solution: Localize

  • Frame climate change with local examples

    • Droughts in the Southwest U.S. (not Africa)

    • Effect of sea level rise on New York subways (not Bangladesh)

  • Be careful

    • Climate change is increasing the odds of an extreme weather event.

    • Climate scientists may not yet want to say that climate change is causing such events.


Now vs future frame
Now vs. Future Frame

  • NOW: Immediate threats seen as more relevant & of greater urgency.

  • People discount environmental & financial consequences of climate change with each year the consequences are delayed.


    • “Climate change is a threat to our children’s future.”

    • “Climate change will cost us big money in the future.”


Gain vs loss frame
Gain vs. Loss Frame

  • People tend to avoid losses rather than seek gains.

    • Lose $100 vs. win $100?

  • Combine “gain vs. loss” frame with “now vs. future” frame.

    • Energy-saving appliances = Help homeowners avoid losing money on higher energy bills in the future instead of helping them save money in the future.

    • Focus on losing less now instead of losing more in the future.


National security frame
National Security Frame

  • 2007: UN Security Council put climate change on agenda

    • GW = catalyst for conflicts around the world

  • Threats

    • Reduction of global food supplies

    • Large migrations of people

    • Increased risks of infectious disease

    • Increased fighting over water & land


Encourage group participation
Encourage Group Participation

  • Solicit participation by all stakeholders.

    • Use group discussion to generate solutions.

    • If people feel they are part of the decision-making process, they are more likely to support an outcome.

  • Use clear, easy-to-understand information.


Optimize the default option
Optimize the Default Option

  • Human tendency to stick with option that is automatically selected rather than choosing an alternative.

  • Rutgers University

    • Made double-sided printing the default in all campus computer labs.

    • Saved about 7.4 million sheets of paper in first semester.

    • Saved about 620 trees/semester; 1,280 trees/academic year.

    • Option to conserve is now easier.

(http://library.tauranga.govt.nz/what-can-i-find/ information-services/tabid/147/qid/1322/ tctl/697_ViewQuestion/Default.aspx)

(Columbia University Center for Research on Environmental Decisions)