Framing Corporate Philanthropy A Program for San Diego Grantmakers by Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. UCLA
Outline: • Why strategic communications matters to corporate philanthropy • The importance of values in public reasoning about social issues • The tension between social change and philanthropy
Important Distinctions: What this talk is about • This talk is about how to move public will in a direction to better leverage corporate community investments • This talk is about why and what you communicate, not how • This talk is about identifying communication tools that help you think through the why and what • This talk is about cognitive, not moral failure in the general public and in the boardroom
Important Distinctions: This talk is not about • Social marketing – great for changing individual behavior, less useful for moving public will • A bumper sticker or communications silver bullet – “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” • Solving policy or strategic goals
What Is A Frame? “The way a story is told – its selective use of particular symbols, metaphors, and messengers – which, in turn, triggers the shared and durable cultural models that people use to make sense of their world.” (Bales and Gilliam)
Learning from Cognitive Linguistics “People understand almost everything by applying conceptual frames. The conclusion one draws depends on the frame one uses…..People reason metaphorically most of the time without being aware of it.” Since it is a complete way of thinking and not just talking, a metaphor includes patterns of reasoning. Metaphors allow us to make extensive inferences beyond the word actually used. Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press, 1980. Lakoff, Moral Politics, University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Framing Effects “Every frame defines the issue, explains who is responsible, and suggests potential solutions…conveyed by images, stereotypes, or anecdotes” (Charlotte Ryan, 1991).
Framing Matters ““ “Movements are engaged in ‘meaning-work’ …the struggle over the production of ideas of meaning…The failure of mass mobilization when structural conditions seem otherwise ripe may be accounted for by the absence of a resonant master frame.” Snow and Benford
Civil Rights Movement Christian charity: White Americans, Black church Conventional democratic theory: secular liberals, govt Gandhian nonviolence: Northern intellectuals, media Environmental Movement Responsible manager: business, bystander publics, voters Steward: people of faith, swing conservatives Visionary: business, politicians, consumers Frames As Mobilizers
What Is Reframing? • “Changing the context of the message exchange” • So that different interpretations and outcomes become visible to the public • By identifying rival frames or • Using primes
Implications for Corporate Philanthropy • The failure to effectively frame your communications means that people (senior mgt; employees; public; policy makers) will default to the most accessible mental images • These images generally do not elevate the importance or impact of community investments • There are no frameless transactions • E.G. - Individual donations; charity; good deeds > different from community impact which represents the optimal leveraging of corporate dollars
What Research Suggests About How People Think • People use mental shortcuts to make sense of the world. • Incoming information provides cues about where to “file” it mentally. • People get most information about public affairs from the news media which, over time, creates a framework of expectation, or dominant frame. • Over time, we develop habits of thought and expectation and configure incoming information to conform to this frame.
Levels of Thinking • Level One: Big ideas, like justice, prevention, family, equality and opportunity • Level Two: Issue-types, like women’srights, the environment, children’s issues, employment • Level Three: Specific issues, like treatment of women by the Taliban, rainforests, daycare, minimum wage
Safety Family Self-made Child Nurturance Elitism 1 Child Rearing Development Education 2 School Readiness School Readiness School Readiness 3
Lakoff’s Rule of Levels • You can only fight level three challenges if you know the level one and two frames. • Never accept the opposition’s level one and two frames, or it doesn’t matter what you say at level three.
Fairness Freedom Justice Security Future Legacy Stewardship Responsibility Opportunity Reliability Protection Prevention Connection Community WHICH LEVEL ONE CHOICE WILL BEST PRIME THE FOLLOWING POLICIES: Continuing Education JobTraining Day Care Subsidies Health Insurance Access to Union Jobs Better Unemployment Benefits More Benefits for Part-Time Workers Raising Minimum Wage Adjusting Poverty Guidelines Living Wage Standards Expanded EITC Using Level One Messages
Implications for Corporate Philanthropy • The common communications mistake is to communicate solely at Level Three when, in fact, people reason from Level One downward • The failure to mobilize and move people, even when conditions are otherwise ripe, can be traced to the failure to develop a clear master frame utilizing the appropriate values • Communications has to be a front—end activity; post hoc communications (dissemination) is a weak, if not, harmful model
Commitment to Change? • Generally conservative nature of corporate boards • Willingness to work with other community stakeholders in meaningful ways? • What does being a good corporate citizen really mean? • Can you be a change agent and keep your job? • How do you connect corporate philanthropy and HQ to social change?
Strategies for Change • Build communities of interest, both within and outside of corporate philanthropy • Reveal to senior management the short-sightedness of crisis philanthropy and the value of leveraging public will • Don’t be afraid to talk values • Act with intentionality and discipline
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