An essential part of communication – be it political, commercial, love letters, whatever – is how the receivers of the messages you create interpret and understand them. Public relations includes the practice of designing these messages in such a way to focus on a particular dimension of a particular issue…in other words, framing the message.
Take for example, climate change. How many of you associate climate change with the lone polar bear floating on his ever-shrinking iceberg? This frame highlights the environmental seriousness of the issue and the threat of global warming to animals and their native habitats, but unfortunately has done little to generate the type of public support needed to seriously address the issue. Although Mr. Polar Bear is cute, his plight is not enough to make you (or me) really pay attention.
But what if I told you that climate change makes your allergies worse? That it presents a risk to public health? Paying more attention now, huh? It’s all about which dimension of an issue you highlight that makes people pay more or less attention to your messages.
I’ve written all this because 1.) I’m a know-it-all grad student now, and 2.) I just read an amazing article on Newsweek called The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage that beautifully re-frames the gay marriage argument to say that gay marriage does not conflict with, but actually reinforces the values conservatives prize.
Read the article. It made me want to stand up in my apartment and applaud.