Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why Framing Matters: Frank Luntz on "Words that Work"

My colleague Matthew Nisbet over at Framing Science and I have been talking for a while now about the importance of framing for successful public communication and outreach about emerging technologies. One of the key concerns that is often raised, of course, is that framing is nothing else than spin and has no place in "honest" communication.

In fact, I had a stimulating discussion about this with friends and colleagues at the University of South Carolina where I gave a talk earlier this week. And one of the arguments I tried to make during my talk was that all human communication is about delivering messages that are effective for a given audience. What messages do we use to teach 5th graders about ethics, for example? And how do these messages and communication tools differ from the ones we would use a doctoral seminar in ethics?

This week, pollster Frank Luntz was on NPR's Diane Rehm Show to talk about his new book Words that Work. What's really interesting about the book is the sub title "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." And as much as Luntz's work may be motivated by partisanship and winning elections, the subtitle is not about spin, but about the idea of framing. Communication is about tailoring messages to audiences and -- more importantly -- about having a very granular understanding of how audiences make sense of these messages.

Either way, it is worth listening to Frank Luntz's appearance on the Diane Rehm Show (Click here to subscribe to the show's podcast in iTunes.).

On a side note, Journal of Communication is coming out with a special issue this spring that is devoted exclusively to framing and related concepts. The special issue is co-edited by David Tewksbury at the University if Illinois-Urbana Champaign and myself.


scripts said...

hi and I enjoyed your blog a lot. Actually I am interested in "framing" and I tried to access the spring 07 issue of jornal of communication for the related papaers but i failed to access. could you tell me me how to access them or kindly send me the e-version of this issue if you have it?

Thanks in ddvance,