Strategists have always known that how you say something is as important as what you say. We are beginning to understand why. The article discusses the concept of message “framing” and how this affects peoples' attitude towards risk. It argues that this can easily form part of the strategist's communication toolkit.
The study of framing effects is a very active research. Interest ranges from the fundamental psychological underpinning for the effect, impact on small group decision making (the effects need not be eliminated and may in fact be enhanced), human resource strategy, ethical decision‐making and the interaction of framing with broader organizational and environmental factors.
Framing effects on risk decision‐making has been robustly demonstrated in a wide variety of decision settings. Expert decision makers are as prone to framing effects as are naïve decision makers. They are consistent enough to be adopted as a reliable tool in the strategists' communication toolbox.
The strategist is likely to understand message emphasis and may be aware of general message packaging; he or she is less likely to be aware of message framing, its impact and potential value as a part of the strategic communication toolkit. Attitude towards – acceptance of or rejection of – risk is of course critical to the effective implementation of strategic programs.
This article concerns itself with one aspect of strategic communication that has received extensive attention from organizational and cognitive psychology: the issue of decision task framing.
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