How well does the leader enact, or fail to enact, Fairhurst’s “Rules of Reality Construction?”

However skillful we are with framing, at times we are apt to go “off message.” That is, under stress and in times of crisis, we may fail to communicate our best thoughts, self-image or regard for others. Leaders are especially vulnerable to go “off message” when meeting the press. Reporters are seeking a story of dramatic interest for the public. If a leader is not properly prepared for such moments, the leader’s failure may become “the story.” Press encounters require delicate framing and human sensitivity. As such, they provide excellent opportunities to learn about the art of framing in highly pressurized situations.

To begin your case study, select a televised press conference that involves a business, charity or political leader. The kind of conference to select is illustrated by Fairhurst’s (pp. 2-14) discussion of Robert E. Murray’s response to a Utah mine crisis. Consider as well her discussion of Hillary Clinton’s Pakistan encounter (pp. 127-131).  View the selected conference and, where possible, obtain a transcript. Write a 5-7 page evaluation on how well the leader communicated his or her message, image and relationship to an audience.

Use these questions to guide your analysis:


  • How well does the leader enact, or fail to enact, Fairhurst’s “Rules of Reality Construction?”
  • In your view, does the leader marshal the best “Cultural Discourses” for his or her cause?
  • Does the leader seem well “primed” for the occasion?
  • How well does the leader use language forms discussed by Fairhurst (p.93)?
  • One cannot stay on message, if one lacks a message. Does the leader give evidence of having a vision and mission? Does he or she repeat the “master frame” sufficiently?
  • Does the leader effectively maintain emotional regulation?
  • Does the leader create audience rapport?

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