What is framing?

Let’s start with what framing is not:

  • Presenting facts and logical arguments; this is not framing and it’s not effective enough.
  • Clever phrasing or rapier wit; that’s just good storytelling.
  • Messaging. A message delivers the frame, it is not the frame itself.
  • Unfortunately, it’s not part of our culture. It needs to be!

It is challenging to drop what we have been doing and practice this new way of communicating, but we must make effective communication part of progressive culture, the way it is now firmly entrenched in conservative culture.

Values are at the heart of political communication.

Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system.

-Charles Fillmore

When forming opinions about issues, we consult, however unconsciously, value frames we already hold. We each have our own set of moral values and we often group together around a common set of values called a worldview. We also understand the values and worldviews of other groups, including those opposed to our own, even if we don’t subscribe to them. In fact we may apply the very same frames as our opponent but in a different context.


When a frame is activated it also activates related frames. When connections are repeated the link between ideas becomes stronger.

Think of a guitar again. What do guitars make you think of? Perhaps a favorite song or musician. You may think about concerts you’ve been to or one particular concert and the people you were with and that you were in Cleveland and that you don’t like Cleveland because on another visit your car was towed -and on an on. Ideas are interrelated.

When communicating progressive frames we want our words and phrases to activate frames that evoke the deep core values that make up our worldview.


Our job is to light up exactly the right deep frames that allow our listeners to adopt our frames on the issues.

Framing is the art and science of crafting your message so people figure out that the already agree with you.

-Steve Bucher