Framing the debate: bail-out or rescue?

Framing is an important part of any communication. How we ‘frame’ a message can dramatically change it’s effectiveness.

In this BBC News article If only the bail-out had been called a rescue Jonathan Gabay discusses how choice of words affected the passage of America’s $700 billion bail-out plan. The use of the word bail-out is the problem he compares and contrasts two different ways of making the same pitch.

Would you prefer a $700 billion bail-out plan, or a $700 million rescue plan?

In both cases the plan is the same, the frame is different. Bail-out suggest failure and breakdown, rescue suggests heroic efforts to save the day.

The article contains an excellent discussion of the use of these frames although he talks about it in terms of branding rather than framing.

If you are interested in frames an excellent book about framing is Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff. It’s about framing in American politics but the principles are good far beyond that bear pit.

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