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January 11, 2012
Framing a Crisis for Sadness Instead of Anger
 
Social science research sometimes seems to confirm the obvious, but it doesn't hurt to be mindful of well-intended studies like this one from the University of Missouri's journalism school. There, the importance of "properly framing" the response to a crisis is being emphasized by focusing on "sadness-framing" of the mishap and avoiding "anger-framing." Having the results available might cheer crisis-response planners. 

Focusing on the victims of a crisis and what's to be learned from it — the sadness-frame approach — is vastly preferable to responding in a manner that gives rise to the anger-frame, in which the organization or company involved is blamed for reprehensible conduct.

"It is important for corporations to put on a human face during crises," says Glen Cameron, the journalism professor who led the study, "If a corporation can focus on the wellbeing of the victims and how the corporation will improve following the crisis, they have a better chance of influencing 'sadness-frame' news coverage as opposed to 'anger-frame' coverage. If the news coverage remains 'sadness-framed,' public perception will stay more positive."

Cameron notes that the research is not intended to help corporations shirk responsibility, but rather to handle crisis situations in the best way possible.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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