Visual communication and public relations: Visual frame building strategies in war and conflict stories

Source of Publication

Public Relations Review


© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Considering the pervasiveness of social media platforms that foreground visuals over text and the consequent rise of visually acculturated publics, this study examined the visual frame building strategies employed by international news media and organizational communication personnel in their coverage of war, conflict and humanitarian crises. Findings generated through 15 in-depth elite interviews with senior media and communication practitioners drawn from large, international news and multilateral organizations revealed four main visual frame building strategies. These strategies include audience-centered strategies of (1) using strong narrative pictures to create a compelling visual hook (2) selecting humanized and personalized images to cut through compassion fatigue, and (3) scripting to the visual; and humanitarian organizations’ character-centred strategy of (4) eschewing negative imagery in favour of framing the characters using positive frames of agency and dignity. These rich insights are explained by the simultaneous influences of traditional and social media, particularly the trend of humanization and personalization of subjects in war and conflict stories, a development largely effected by social media logics. Implications for public relations theory and practice are discussed.

Document Type



Elsevier BV

Publication Date




Author First name, Last name, Institution

Ganga S. Dhanesh, Zayed University
Nadia Rahman, Zayed University

Scopus ID


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