Framing: a key ingredient for a great creative brief

Framing is the choices we make about what ideas we share and how we share them. It’s what we emphasise, how we explain an issue, and what we leave unsaid.  

At FrameWorks UK, we research and test frames to help organisations create change because we know that these choices matter, and have the power to affect how people think, feel and act. 

In our workshops and conversations with partners, we often talk about using frames flexibly and creatively. For example, we might discuss how certain tested metaphors can be used in more direct or abstract ways. Or we’ll demonstrate how you can flex your tone from more measured to more strident, but still communicate the same core idea or value. 

We do this to help illustrate how different organisations – and different voices – can draw from a consistent set of framing principles in myriad ways. Adapted for their audiences, aims and organisational values.  

Why? Because frames are more than key words, phrases or messages. Frames are the ideas that provide a scaffolding for you to build your communications, helping you to tell the same powerful story but in different ways.  

Changing the narrative on social issues doesn’t have to mean using the same messages over and over. It’s about getting the right ideas out there and into public conversation.  

Framing and creative briefs 

Something we don’t always get the chance to discuss is how framing can feed into creative briefs – how they can be a jumping off point for highly creative campaigns and content.  

As someone with a creative background (I trained in graphic design, before becoming a copywriter and then creative director) I love a good brief.  

When it comes to a creative brief, constraints liberate. Rather than being handed a blank page, when we’re offered a problem to solve, it helps to direct our thinking. By closing off certain avenues, it forces us to think more imaginatively about others.  

A set of frames, or communication principles, can offer that structure. Knowing that we have a solid starting point, backed up by evidence, frees us up to innovate and get creative.  

Core ideas, endless possibilities 

Take a look at the Lift the Ban campaign as an example. This campaign was all about giving people seeking asylum the right to work. And it was framed using the idea of ‘common sense’. This frame was chosen in part because it had the potential to shift people’s thinking, regardless of their political leaning. 

We brainstormed framing approaches with Ben & Jerry’s, who then took forward this idea of common sense in a way which was true to their brand. Leveraging their playful tone, they poked fun at the ban by flipping the idea of common sense and inventing ridiculous ice cream flavours like fish and (par)snips. They shared posts on their social channels, but also took their nonsensical ice cream to Westminster to rally support for the campaign.  

The Lift the Ban coalition built on this idea in different ways. Not only was it embedded into straightforward core messaging by Refugee Action, the coalition got creative with the concept of common sense too. They staged a “frozen protest” using living statues as a stunt to not just tell, but show, how nonsensical the situation is – with people being frozen out of work because of a ban which flies in the face of common sense.  

Importantly, these different stunts and pieces of content all used the same framing as a starting point. This key ingredient in the creative brief ensured that each piece of comms reinforced an idea which had the potential to shift hearts and minds in the desired direction.  

And it’s an approach which is making an impact – uniting people behind the cause from across party lines, as seen here 

Framing: bake it in 

Just as you wouldn’t leave a key ingredient out of a recipe, framing works best when it’s baked into the creative process. So, whether you’re devising a piece of content, a whole campaign, or briefing a creative team, remember to start with any framing insights you have. Use them to spark ideas, steer your creative choices and, ultimately, shape communications that will make a difference.  

And if you need help with it? Get in touch.