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Framing expertise: a cross‐cultural analysis of success in framing contests

Viorela Dan (Department of Communication, Culture and Languages, Oslo, Norway)
Øyvind Ihlen (Department of Communication, Culture and Languages, Oslo, Norway)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 15 November 2011




This article seeks to analyse the skills and knowledge that have a positive impact on the reproduction of the core frames of social actors in the mass media.


The theoretical discussion is accompanied by a cross‐cultural case study of the debate surrounding the leaked e‐mail correspondence between climate researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2009. First, the authors analysed the framing work of the three main actors with their respective views, namely UEA and the blogs “Real climate”, “Climate audit” and “The air vent”. Second, they conducted an analysis of the media coverage of the issue in the UK, the USA, Germany and Norway, focusing on the importance of cultural factors, psychological biases and conformity to journalistic needs.


The literature review came to the conclusion that public relations practitioners stand good chances to succeed with their framing when they are able to conceive a message in a way that: is resonant with the underlying culture; appeals to psychological biases; and conforms to journalistic needs. The authors use “framing expertise” as an umbrella term for the knowledge and the skills related to these aspects when designing and promoting frames. In the case study, these theoretical assumptions were tested. While three different frames dominated the discourse, no clear winner of the framing contest was observed. Though qualitative differences in their framing expertise were noted, the frames of all of the strategic actors were accepted in the media, perhaps due to the norms of journalistic balance.

Research limitations

As this study is based on a single case, more research is needed to back up the findings and elaborate on the knowledge and skills needed when framing an issue.


The article pulls together, discusses and elaborates on a body of literature that thus far has been scattered, and makes contributions towards a better understanding of what it is that public relations practitioners actually do.



Dan, V. and Ihlen, Ø. (2011), "Framing expertise: a cross‐cultural analysis of success in framing contests", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 368-388.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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