Implications for PR

At the end of the day, when conducting media framing analyses we have to ask ourselves, “If this was the only news source I referenced and therefore the only coverage I will read about a specific topic, what would I know (and not know) compared to looking at different coverage?” It seems like common sense, but everyone has different media routines. We get our news from many different sources, which use many competing frames to report on a topic—one story told many different ways.

Media framing (and its influence on “what we know to be true”) parallels the Indian fable about the blind men and the elephant. So the story goes, an elephant appeared in a village one day. Several blind men, who did not know what an elephant was, went to find out. Each man touched the elephant to determine what an elephant was like. Those who touched the elephant’s legs described the animal as a type of pillar. Those who touched the tail described a rope. Those who touched the trunk thought it was like a type of snake. (You get the picture.) The men argued over which definition was true–of course they were all true–but no single perspective painted the complete picture. It required many perspectives to paint the picture of the whole. There is real risk when it comes to media consumption, then, to limit our perspective to one source.

As public relations practitioners we therefore have an ethical responsibility to scan a variety of media in our daily role in order to get the whole picture determine the best approach in responding to our publics. The next lesson will address this function, and how we can employ media framing principles to enhance our environmental scanning role.

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