(media) or (people) decide where people think about

also: framing in organizations

History and Orientation

The concept of framing is related to the agenda-setting tradition but expands the research by focusing on the essence of the issues at hand rather than on a particular topic. The basis of framing theory is that the media focuses attention on certain events and then places them within a field of meaning. Framing is an important topic since it can have a big influence and therefore the concept of framing expanded to organizations as well.

Core Assumptions and Statements

Core: The media draws the public attention to certain topics, it decides where people think about, the journalists select the topics. This is the original agenda setting ‘thought’. In news items occurs more than only bringing up certain topics. The way in which the news is brought, the frame in which the news is presented, is also a choice made by journalists. Thus, a frame refers to the way media and media gatekeepers organize and present the events and issues they cover, and the way audiences interpret what they are provided. Frames are abstract notions that serve to organize or structure social meanings. Frames influence the perception of the news of the audience, this form of agenda-setting not only tells what to think about, but also how to think about it.

Framing in organizations

Core: Framing is a quality of communication that leads others to accept one meaning over another. It is a skill with profound effects on how organizational members understand and respond to the world in which they live. It is a skill that most successful leaders possess, yet one that is not often taught. According to Fairhurst & Sarr (1996) framing consists of three elements: language, thought and forethought. Language helps us to remember information and acts to transform the way in which we view situations. To use language, people must have thought and reflected on their own interpretive frameworks and those of others. Leaders must learn to frame spontaneously in certain circumstances. Being able to do so had to do with having the forethought to predict framing opportunities. In other words, one must plan in order to be spontaneous. (Deetz, Tracy & Simpson, 2000).


Statement: Media products are human products, constructs that the audience take for granted.

Framing in organizations

Orientation: Fairhurst and Sarr (1996) describe a lot of possibilities to frame situations. a) Metaphor: To give an idea or program a new meaning by comparing it to something else. b) Stories (myths and legends): To frame a subject by anecdote in a vivid and memorable way. c) Traditions (rites, rituals and ceremonies): To pattern and define an organization at regular time increments to confirm and reproduce organizational values. d) Slogans, jargon and catchphrases: To frame a subject in a memorable and familiar fashion. e) Artifacts: To illuminate corporate values through physical vestiges (sometimes in a way language cannot). f) Contrast: To describe a subject in terms of what it is not. g) Spin: to talk about a concept so as to give it a positive or negative connotation. (Deetz, Tracy & Simpson, 2000).

Conceptual Model

Not applicable.

Favorite Methods

In-depth interviews.

Scope and Application

All news (or information) providing media.


Examples of much-used frames include the ‘war on drugs’, or a person’s ‘battle with cancer’, or the ‘cold war’, phrases that elicit widely shared images and meanings.


Key publications

  • Semetko, H. A., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2000). Framing European politics: A content analysis of press and television news. Journal of Communication, 50, 93-109.
  • Overview of agenda setting research in Journal of Communication (1993). Symposium: agenda setting revisited. 43(2), 58-127.
  • Deetz, S.A., Tracy, S.J. & Simpson, J.L. (2000). Leading organizations. Through Transition. London, Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Fairhurst, G. & Star, R. (1996). The art of Framing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

See also: Priming, Agenda-Setting Theory
See also Organizational Communication, Mass Media, Communication Processes