Musings of a PR Professional

Chapter 4: Framing and Developing Messages

This chapter’s discussion of framing messages is particularly relevant to me at this time because we have been discussing the process of framing in my Mass Communication class. Framing is a two-part process. First, certain aspects of an issue are emphasized over others in a news story. Second, those aspects that are emphasized tap into our pre-existing cognitive schema which categorize things we come in contact with in order to help us understand the world. The ultimate result of framing is that those people who read the story about your issue are lead to interpret or understand that issue in the way that your frame suggests to them.

As we discussed in my Mass Communication class, people are cognitive misers. This means that people generally rely on a small amount of information to make judgments and decisions about things. Cognitive schema help us to do so. Therefore, the best frames will be those that tap into your target audiences’ widely shared beliefs and values (their schema) and as a result invite them to interpret your issue in a way that is meaningful and more relevant to them.

As PR professionals, I think that we must realize that letting a message, issue, or whatever speak for itself is simply not enough most of the time. Developing values-based messages by framing them in such a way that they really tap into your target audiences’ core values is essential if you would like people to respond to your issue in the way that you would like them to. The book lists seven primary values that messages should speak to:

  • Responsibility to care for one’s family
  • responsibility to care for oneself
  • Personal liberty
  • Work
  • Spirituality
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Fairness and equality

These values are widely held and so dear to us that they tend to trump other lesser held values and beliefs and can really connect with people on a deep level, according to the text. So, it is imperative than when you are developing the message(s) for your cause that at least one of these values is incorporated in some way. It will make your message much more resonating. In fact, it doesn’t take a genius to think of a great values based mission, as the book notes, it just takes a little brainstorming among the people who know a lot about your issue and what you are trying to achieve.

What are some of the best values-based messages that you have heard recently?


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