How can I frame issues like Donald Trump did?
Geplaatst op 14 november 2016 door Ronald Swensson

Why did Trump win the US presidential election? The appeal of Trump may have to do with how he framed political issues. Framing is a way of structuring or presenting a problem or an issue. For example. Whatever Trump talked about, he always had the same message: others are ‘much smarter’ than America. The Chinese are ‘much smarter’. The Mexican government is ‘much smarter, much sharper’ than the American government. They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our money. The nuclear agreement with Iran? One of the ‘dumbest deals’ in history and the Russians will benefit from the deal - because they’re ‘smart’. Why are these message so attractive to so many people? First of all, the ‘much smarter - frame’ created a matter of urgency and competition: we need to wake up, it’s us against them. Secondly, Trump nourished a need that we all have in this confusing, complicated world: we want to know the root cause of our problems. Trump reduced all of this complexity to one cause: they are smarter than us and we have to stop this. Knowing the root causes gives us the idea that we understand the complexity of our world - that we are more or less in control. And… that Trump will help us, the smart guy, the million dollar guy. Trump’s messages were great by its simplicity and he repeated it again and again. Here’s a brief step-by-step guide to frame an issue like Donald Trump did. 

Step 1. Understand the Mindset of Your Target Audience 
Before you can effectively frame your issue, you need to understand your target audience’s mindset. What do they care about? How can you reframe the issue to encourage them to think differently? What are the larger values you should frame your issue around? Be careful not to make assumptions but use market research to help you understand your target audience. 

Step 2. Know the Elements of a Frame 
An effective convincing frame includes the following: 
(1) Trustworthy messengers. People listen only to knowledgeable and trustworthy messengers and by the way a message is always inseparable from the messenger. 
(2) Facts and numbers must tell a story. Most people need cues. They can’t judge the size or meaning of facts and numbers unless they’re related to something more familiar. When Trump asked about facts and numbers, he often responded with a who-answer: whom he’s going to use to solve the problem.. Trump proved that people don’t bother about facts and numbers, only the fact that problems can and will be solved. 
(3) Show how things connect. Draw clear and concrete connections between a problem and its cause. People are more engaged when they understand the causes of, and solution(s) to a problem. But always KISS, Keep it Short and Simple! 

Step 3. Speak to People’s Core Values 
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong and they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals. There are many different types of core values and many different examples of core values depending upon the context. Examples: individuality, privacy, equality, progress, change, prosperity, etc. 

Step 4. Avoid Using Opponents’ Frames, Even to Dispute Them 
Never repeat the language of your opponents, even if you’re disproving them. Instead of repeating a negative frame, go straight to your core message. A direct attack on opponents’ frames won’t work because you’re attacking entrenched beliefs. Instead, stick to your message. Ensure your frames appeal to equally compelling values and belief systems. Understand your opponents’ mindset and the types of arguments they use so that you can stick to your core frame regardless of what they throw at you. Trump did continuously attack his opponents, never their messages. 

Step 5. Keep Your Tone Reasonable When You Address Your Audience 
In order for people to change their opinion on an issue, they need to be open to new information. A reasonable tone keeps them open when you address your audience. When people feel attacked as Hillary Clinton did with her statement that ‘You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables’ they tend to retrench and defend their existing worldview. Strongly worded tones may energize the base but they won’t move people to another direction. It may even reduce the credibility of the messenger in the mind of his or her target audience: everyone had at that time - early September this year - a best friend, a caring family member or a nice neighbor who supported openly Trumps candidacy - and Hillary Clinton said that Trump supporters were 'deplorables'? What the f*ck? I think it was the turning point for Hillary Clinton. It gave an insight into her own worldview and people sensed that at an unconscious level: she is not one of us so how do I know that she really cares for me/us? 

Step 6. Stick With Your Message 
Remember, people need repetition, repetition, and more repetition before it can internalize what you’re saying. Yes it’s simple! If you define your issues and stick with your messages and frames that resonate, you’ll get your messages in to your target audience’s mindset. If you simply play defense to the opposition’s offense, and merely react while they define the issues, messages and frames, you’ll lose. And don't forget: state clearly what action you want people to take.

The first task of any political campaign is to frame the question it wants voters to answer. Trump wanted this election to be a referendum on change. Others were ‘much smarter’ than America and it had to stop. The smart guy won by framing and reframing his issues cleverly. Framing and reframing can also be used in sales. The greatest salespeople understand the importance of framing and reframing and how it can dramatically increase their sales success. In a next post I will give you tips on how you can use this techniques in your sales presentations.

References and further reading: 
Framing public issues (2005), FrameWorks Institute. 
Framing' in de politiek (2013), Arno Korsten. 
Donald Trump’s rhetoric: an analysis of his frames (2016), Hans de Bruijn. 
- Unchain the Elephant: Reframe Your Thinking to Unleash Your Potential (2014), Erik Wahl. 
- The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant! (2014) George Lakoff. 
- Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (2008), Frank I. Luntz.