Posted by: kgaboury | October 25, 2013

Framing the message

The way in which a message is framed can be the difference between a successful and disastrous communication. This is especially pertinent to health communication.
In “Using Communcation Theory for Health Promotion: Practical Guidance on Message Design and Strategy,” Edgar and Volkman use anti-smoking public-service announcements as an example of how messages can be framed for specific audiences.
Typically, anti-smoking PSAs emphasize the negative effects of smoking as opposed to the positive benefits of quitting, according to the article. Positive versus negative framing is one way of targeting your message to a specific audience. Do you want to reach non-smoking audiences stressing the myriad health problems caused by smoking? Or do you want to reach smokers with examples of the amount of money they could be saving each month by not buying cigarettes and/or the health issues they could conceivably prevent by quitting? The authors point out that typically, negative messages are more effective for those with high levels of nicotine addiction, compared to the opposite for those with low levels of addiction. In this regard, if your intention is to reach those already addicted to cigarettes, a campaign focused on the negative effects of continuing to smoke would be your best option.
Examples of message framing can be seen in most forms of communication, but this strategy seems to be the most prevalent in health communications. The use of scare tactics is undeniably common. Public service announcements promoting safe sex are riddled with “ifs.” If you don’t use a protection, you will get an STD or you will get pregnant. But are these effective? Statistics of STD rates and teen pregnancy are at an all-time high among high school students, suggesting advertisers may want to frame their messages differently if they hope to reach this younger audience.

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