Framing: a practical example

We discussed, in our previous post, how positive and negative framing can help shape an audience's perception of your message -- now, let's take a quick look at how the global media make use of this communications technique.

You may have seen the new Gallup poll that found that 13% of American adults (roughly 33 million people) regularly smoke marijuana.  If you're pro-legalization, you might find these poll results empowering; if you're anti-legalization, you might find them alarming -- and if you're the media, you might realize that you can attract the attention of both audiences by placing your message in a positive frame, as we see in these headlines:

 "High numbers? 1 in 8 American adults smoke pot"

"More Americans use marijuana now than live in the state of Texas"

"Gallup: 33 million Americans might be stoned right now"

Regardless of where you stand on the legalization debate, these headlines work very effectively to capture your eye and your interest.  What happens when we create different headlines, presenting the same basic facts, but in a negative frame?

"United States of Sobriety? 7 in 8 American adults don't smoke pot"

"Poll: 87% of Americans don't smoke marijuana"

"Gallup: 265 million Americans probably aren't getting stoned"

What do you think?  Do you find the negative framing to be as compelling as its positive counterpart?  Does it catch your eye in the same way?  Does it make you want to engage with the message (and the messenger) to learn more?

Remember, positive and negative aren't synonyms for good and bad.  Each can be highly effective -- but it's critical that you choose the right one.