I recently read this extremely interesting article from The Atlantic by Olga Khazan entitled “The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion.” I thought that it shed a lot of light on how humans have a hard time separating their own deeply held moral beliefs from their arguments with the opposing points of view. I also thought it revealed a lot about how partisan American politics has become. Khazan argues that persuading the other side has to do with framing, a common technique used in public relations.
Khazan explains that liberals and conservatives in America view political issues through two different sets of moral values: for example, liberals prefer reciprocity, caring, and fairness, while conservatives prefer patriotism, loyalty, and purity. She writes that when it comes to the topic of same-sex marriage, most liberals would argue something along the lines of “Why would we punish these people for being born a certain way? They deserve the same equal rights as other Americans.” But, a conservative would not respond to an argument based on fairness; instead, it would be more appropriate to frame an argument based on loyalty, something like “Our fellow citizens of the United States of America deserve to stand alongside us … We should lift our fellow citizens up, not bring them down.”
Framing is a highly effective tool for any public relations practitioner, especially those in crisis communications. Framing gets used a lot in political topics, which is important to remember because depending on whether a media outlet is liberal or conservative, the same issue can be communicated very differently.
Remember when crafting a PR strategy that framing can be useful if you are dealing with sensitive topics; if your company deals with healthcare or consumer safety, for example, your communications most always have to be framed as positively as possible. Remember what angle your company is coming from versus what angle from which your stakeholders are viewing your communications. Don’t let a single tweet be posted without considering what frame (responsibility? blame? emotional? persuasive?) your company is using. And, of course, always think about what the opposition or the competition would say about your company–how do their morals dictate their response to an issue in comparison to your company’s response?