Employee Communication: Framing can help you communicate strong messages

  • nov 2012
  • Irene
  • 2231
Dossier: Communitymanagement

Een artikel dat kort beschrijft hoe framing kan helpen bij het communiceren van boodschappen in een organisatie. Er worden in dit artikel enkele voorbeelden gegeven, maar ook manieren van framing komen (kort) aan bod, zoals:

  • Metaphor – to give an idea a new meaning by comparing it with something else.
  • Stories (myths and legends) – to frame a subject by anecdote in a vivid and memorable way. For instance, some managers tell and retell stories of how teamwork helped pull their organization through in tough times.
  • Traditions (rites, rituals and ceremonies) – to use to define and reinforce organizational cultural values. For instance, certain activities (some humorous and some serious) traditionally done during annual strategic planning conferences.
  • Slogans, jargon and catchphrases – to frame a subject in a memorable and familiar way.
  • Artifacts – to illuminate corporate values through objects that strike a chord with employees. For instance, a current best-selling product compared with an outmoded product from an earlier time.
  • Contrast – to describe a subject in terms of what it is not.
  • Spin – to talk about a concept in a way that gives it a positive or negative connotation.

In dit artikel worden deze methoden voor framing nog iets meer uitgelegd:

"In addition to regular dialogue, some of the communication tools that can be useful inframingare: metaphors, symbols, allusion, contrast, and stories. Some of the hazards of using thesetools are: their potential for creating mixed or variable meanings; they may mask importantprimary meanings; the listeners may not understand the ideas or phrases used as references; andthe tools may appear or be manipulative, resulting in negative back-lashes. Despite thesepotentialproblems, which should be minimized with appropriate intentions and actions, it is useful toreview some of these potential tools.


* A word or phrase meaning one thing used in place of another to suggest an analogy orlikeness between them. If a leader wants to make something clearer and more vivid, he/shedrawsinto the communication, if only by a single word or two, a concrete, readily understood imagethat brings to mind some qualities to be connected with the situation or object or person orabstract idea that needs illustration. For example: "selling and buying are a pitched battle - thebuyer erects her/his sales resistance, much like a stockade in Indian country, while the seller triesto tear it down." Metaphors can make abstract ideas concrete, complex ideas simple, unfamiliarideas more comprehensible. Further, metaphors evoke mental images, and mental images oftenhave powerful emotional qualities.


* Symbols are metaphors whose associative meaning is more or less permanently fixed. They are important in communication and framing because they can be used to bear the fullmeaning of a passage rather than to act as accessories, as other metaphors often do. Symbolism,skillfully used, is far more effective than a bald literal statement: (a) symbols, as other kinds ofmetaphor, call forth an emotional reactions by way of sensuous imagery, and (b) most symbolshave figured in literature and communications for centuries, and are surrounded by an aura ofassociations that evoke reminiscences of many past connections and connotations. For example,the use of a river as a symbol of the eternal flux of life, of the absence of anything reallypermanent and substantial in our human existence, goes all the way back to Plato, and countlesswriters have used it since.

Some of the common symbols are: (a) gold or golden - symbol of wealth, happiness,enduring, excellence; (b) star - symbol of remoteness, purity, permanence; (c) crossroads - achoice between two or more courses of action - usually a critical decision. For example, in amission statement: "Our mission is to provide the gold standard of excellence in..."


* A reference to specific places, persons, literary passages, or historical events that havecome to "stand for" a certain idea. For example, "The new owner of the company mistakenlythought that bread and a circus would distract the employees from the fundamentaldisasters that the company faced (in which the allusion is to the device by which many of theRoman emperors tried to keep their rebellious subjects' minds off their woes).


Stories or illustrations have a long, wonderful history over all of recorded history (andprobably much before this). Many cultures lacking a written language or convenient means ofpreserving written records have preserved vital history, traditions, and ideas through oral stories. Many of the greatest teachers have taught primarily through use of stories that were relevant toand touched their listeners. Great leaders have used stories - past and potential - to communicatetheir ideas and visions. Stories frame a subject by example. They attract attention and can buildsupport and rapport. Current leaders would do well to make extensive use of relevant stories intheir communications. Some can be wonderful, but other can be rather simple, e.g., "When I firstjoined this organization I .... and I thought.... however, I now have begun to realize that... because of experiences such as this one last month..."

...and one to avoid

"Spin" is a label for a type of framing that has been used especially in connection with publicfigures and events in recent years - primarily in negative terms. This concept or technique tendsto be associated with extensive (often untrue or inappropriate) efforts to frame a situation orsubject in a primarily positive or primarily negative way. It is used often to reveal or suggest anopponent's strengths or weaknesses (without any attempt to provide a balanced critique orencourage a dialogue). Although "spin" may provide short-term tactical advantages, I believethatit often will fail to provide lasting benefits and may produce significant negative backlashreactions. I think there are better alternatives - both ethically and tactically."

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