Reframing newsletter

Avoid These Communication Traps

April 29, 2016

Since unveiling the Building Well-Being Narrative in November of last year, the Reframing Network Newsletter has been devoted to unpacking each of the narrative elements of the frame:

As Nat Kendall-Taylor, CEO of FrameWorks Institute, demonstrates in his recent APHSA blog post “What’s Wrong with Worthiness? And Other Framing Dilemmas…” there is more to framing than applying the narrative elements to our communications. This issue of the Newsletter briefly identifies additional framing tips and resources that will help the human services sector make the most of the new narrative. We will do a deeper dive on these tips in upcoming newsletters.

1Focus on Solutions: While many of our sector’s audiences want us to quickly “define the problem,” inundating communications with challenges and crisis language can leave the audience feeling that a problem is too big to solve.

2Make the Story About the Setting, Not the Characters: Framing focuses the public on the big picture by telling what FrameWorks Institute refers to as the “thematic story” – spotlighting systems, institutions, and policies rather than specific individuals.

3Avoid Repeating Myths and Correcting Mistakes: The public comes to the table with a number of myths and misconceptions about what human services are and who they serve. Communicators often try to address this challenge by first restating and then dispelling the mistake, but this has the surprising unintended consequence of reinforcing the mistake in the listener’s mind.

4Tone is as Important as Substance: Using a reasonable, affirmative tone in communications can help frame the solutions presented as sensible and sound. By contrast, an adversarial tone may turn off people who are not already allies on your issue.

5Place Numbers in Context: Data can be an important part of the human services story when used judiciously. Establishing the frame before introducing data into your messages is key.

6These Words are Not Our Friends: Vulnerable, Charity, Safety Net. We need to re-think language that feeds the old narrative that human services is only temporary, direct aid to the needy.