Sunday, 18 September 2016

THE TORCH OF FREEDOM; Invoking The Desired Actions

It is not what you say but how you say it. 
Ishola Ayodele (ANIPR)

 William J. Brennan, Jr. once said, "We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time".

Before 1928 only a handful of women smoke cigarette mostly in secret. In 1904 a woman named Jennie Lasher was sentenced to thirty days for smoking in front of her children.

In 1928 George Washington Hill, the president of the American Tobacco Company, realized the potential market that could be found in women and said, ““It will be like opening a gold mine right in our front yard.”

Hill hired, Edward Bernays to encourage women to smoke in public despite social taboos. Bernays consulted psychoanalyst A. A. Brill whose research shows that the natural desire for  women to smoke is being repressed by social taboos which he termed "The torch of freedom".

Bernays hire a group of elegant women for an  Easter Sunday Parade in 1929. He told journalists before the parade that the women were going to light *"Torches of Freedom"*. In front of thousands of New Yorkers all the elegant women light up their cigarettes and smoked.

       The Results

1) Media Attention
This *Torches of Freedom* got a huge media attention and generated lots of discussions and debates in different quarters and it was instrumental to breaking the social taboo of women smoking in public.

2) In 1923 women only purchased 5% of cigarettes sold,

But after the this parade in 1929 it  increased to 12%, 18.1% in 1935 and this percentage peaked in 1965 at 33.3%.

*The Lesson*

This is a clear indication of the power of framing.

Edward Bernays who is regarded as the father of Public Relations masterfully framed something considered immoral, indecent and socially unacceptable ideology and framed it as a desire for freedom.

*Framing* is a way of presenting an idea to the audience in such a way that you influence how they understand or evaluate it.

*Framing effects*
framing effects refer to behavioral or attitudinal strategies and/or outcomes that are due to how a given piece of information is being framed in public discourse.

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman explored how different phrasing affected participants' responses to a choice in a hypothetical life and death situation in 1981.

Treatment A (Positive)
 "Saves 200 lives"

Treatment B (Negative)
"400 people will die"

 Treatment A was chosen by 72% of participants when it was presented with positive framing ("saves 200 lives") dropping to only 22% when the same choice was presented with negative framing ("400 people will die").

In Other research

1) 93% of PhD students registered early when a penalty fee for late registration was emphasized, with only 67% doing so when this was presented as a discount for earlier registration.

2) 62% of people disagreed with allowing "public condemnation of democracy", but only 46% of people agreed that it was right to "forbid public condemnation of democracy".

3) they are more likely to enjoy meat labeled 75% lean meat as opposed to 25% fat,

4) or use condoms advertised as being 95% effective as opposed to having a 5% risk of failure.

*Principles of effective framing*
According to communication experts three things are essential for effective framing.

1) *Placement*

 Effective communication is achieved by connecting with the right people at the right time and with the right message.

 That’s why  communicators must research their target audience to figure out how to send relevant messages that will resonate with them.
This is what PR guru, Prof. Fred Garcia described in his book *the  power of communication* as meeting the audience where they are. 

So the task for PR practitioners is how to meet the audience where they are physically, psychologically, geographically and most importantly emotionally.

Oreo Milk Chocolate cookies got their  placement right with its Ad
*Power Out? No Problem* tweet at the 2012 Super Bowl, when the lights went out and the game stopped for 20 minutes — and 62,000 people were engaged by a tiny message about a cookie.

2) *Approach*

Communicators basically use three ways to present information; messages are presented using
a. Gain or Loss

b. Anchor effect

c. Bandwagon effect

Recently, a 2004 study conducted by Stanford University political science professors asked respondents if they support or oppose allowing an extremist group to hold a rally. When framed in terms of *freedom of expression*, the majority supported the group’s rights;
And when it was framed in terms of *risk of violence*, the majority opposed permitting the rally. Again, data shows that communicators can control public perception and decisions by strategically framing the messaging of an issue.

3) *Words*

The choice of words people use can be a clue to understanding their viewpoint. Words are powerful, they can invoke *actions* or *reactions*.  September 11 may be just a date to  you but it means more to a person who lost a father during the September 11 terrorist's attack in US.

President Obama's use of *Stupid* to describe the Cambridge Police department.

Rather than saying, Nigeria came 16th in the Paraolympics. We say, *Nigeria was among the top 20 teams in Paraolympics.

Being 5th in the class can be made better framing it as *being among the 5 best students in the class*

The Elements of a frame 

Credible messenger 
People listen to knowledgeable and trustworthy messengers. While it’s nice to have likable or familiar messengers, credibility is most important. For example, the public will likely believe a medical doctor when the issue is about health care.

Numbers in context.
Facts alone aren’t compelling. Unless numbers tell a story, they won’t mean anything to your audience. Most people need cues. They can’t judge the size or meaning of numbers unless they’re related to something more familiar. For example, the population of Lagos State is about 20million will not invoke the same thinking as saying the population of Lagos State is 10 times that of Jamaica. The sun’s radius is 432,450 miles, may be more interesting if you frame it like this, “you could line up 109 Earths across the face of the sun”.

Showing how things connect.
Draw clear and concrete connections between a problem and its cause. People are more engaged and supportive when they understand the causes of, and solutions to, a problem. They get “compassion fatigue” when they only hear about suffering (symptoms) or about the reasons they should care (worthiness).

Ted Cruz, the U.S Senator understood the power of framing so well that he observed that, "In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative". 

Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on the post a comment box below.

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.
Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.
He can be reached on
BBM 58ED6030,
twitter @ishopr and via

No comments:

Post a Comment