A frame is a lens through which people interpret the information they receive. As it relates to improving business communication, framing a message is about positioning it so that both the intention and the content are interpreted as they were meant. The way information is framed first by the message sender, and then by the receiver, will determine whether it is perceived as good, bad, or something in between.
4 steps to frame messages for business communications
When we frame a message, our understanding of how the information is likely to be received by others should inform our choice of framing strategies. In module four of AMA’s Communicating Up, Down and Across the Organization course, we outline this process for framing messages to obtain the desired results:
Frame the message to achieve a clear purpose/result.
If your own thoughts about the message goals are unclear, your audience will walk away with a vague understanding as well. To ensure listeners have clarity, be clear in your own mind about what your specific goals are for the message.
One of the best ways to improve business communication is to type out your ideas. Construct a one- to two-paragraph intention statement explaining what you want to communicate with your message, including how you want the audience to interpret and feel about it. Rewrite the statement until it resonates with you and accurately reflects all that you want to accomplish. Doing so will give you the clarity you need to craft and frame the message.
Frame the message to the audience and situation.
As you frame your message, think of the reasons you can provide to justify the time and attention you want your audience to give to the message. Determine how the content affects your audience and how it compares with what your audience already knows, believes, and values—and address these points in your message as needed.
Also, consider the circumstances to determine the best way to deliver your message. Ask questions such as: Should it be delivered now, or are there advantages to delivering it at a later time? Do you need to collect feedback? Should you deliver the message via email, or is a meeting required?
Frame the message to build content understandings.
Help your listeners logically understand the issue(s) by communicating important details and putting them in context. Somebody needs to fill in the blanks, and if you’re not supplying the answers, then your audience members will make assumptions about what the answers are. Consider all the elements that contribute to having your listeners best understand and use the information you are presenting, and include those elements in the way you frame your message.
Let’s say you are announcing a change at your organization. Questions that you could answer include:
- What is my goal in communicating this change?
- What information is essential to share about the change?
- Who will be affected by the change?
- Why are we making the change?
- How will we implement the change?
- What are the challenges associated with implementing the change?
- What are the consequences of not making the change?
- What nonessential information would be helpful or interesting to know about the change?
Frame the message for a desired emotional response.
The most beneficial aspect of framing is to influence the emotional response of listeners. One way to do this is to learn and appeal to the values of your audience. For example, if your message is about the need for everyone to take on new responsibilities, and you know that your audience values career advancement, you could frame the new responsibilities requirement as an opportunity to learn something new and grow their careers.
By taking a thoughtful approach to framing your message, you’ll signal to your audience that you care about how they feel about the issue. This approach will help create the emotional response needed to move ahead successfully and achieve your desired results.
Through AMA’s resources, you can develop the communication and interpersonal skills that enable business leaders to inspire others and accomplish goals.