Behind Closed Doors: How Public Affairs Professionals Perceive the Process of Organizational Frame-Building

Irina Lock, Sandra Jacobs


Various organizations employ framing in their public affairs strategies to influence public and political issue debates. However, how frames are built by actors before lobbying activities remains a black box. Thus, to outline the origins of strategic frames, we investigate perceptions and understandings of the frame-building process by public affairs (PA) professionals across corporations, public organizations, and interest groups. Besides framing theory and the hierarchical influence model, this study draws on a strategic communication and institutional theory perspective on PA as an organizational practice. By means of qualitative interviews with PA professionals from a diverse set of 24 Dutch organizations, we propose a model of perceived frame-building from issue emergence, the assessment of issue viability, via frame construction and alignment to legitimation. The model reflects aspects of the frame-building process as understood by PA professionals and categorized by the authors into individual, organizational, and routine factors, as well as context and timing. It enriches our understanding of the way PA professionals perceive organizational influence in framing contests and policymaking through their strategic frames.


frame-building, public affairs, lobbying, strategic communication, qualitative interviews

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