Public Relations Theory


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Public Relations Theory

  1. 1. Public Relations Theory Basics Presented by Brett Atwood
  2. 2. Basic Review  Four elements of communication  1. Sender  2. Message  3. Medium  4. Receiver  Who is your message aimed at?  There may be one or multiple publics  Who is affected by the actions  Stakeholders
  3. 3. Persuasion vs. Manipulation What do you think the difference is between persuasion vs. manipulation?
  4. 4. Persuasion  Persuasion is an attempt to influence a person’s actions through an appeal to his/her self-interest  A PR person must be aware of what the audience wants to know  Gained knowledge is “mutually beneficial”
  5. 5. Manipulation  The audience might not need to know the message, but they are coerced or tricked into that knowledge when there is little of no benefit to them  Can result in loss of credibility or negative feelings
  6. 6. How PR works  Get the attention of the audience  Stimulate interest in the message  Build desire and intent to act on the message  Direct the audience to take action
  7. 7. Dissemination ≠ Communication  Dissemination of a message is not the same as communicating  The receiver might not get the message due to:  Technical issues  Semantic/fidelity issues  Other influences beyond your control
  8. 8. How do you inform?  Attract their attention  Get them to accept the message  Ensure that it is interpreted correctly  Have the message retained/stored
  9. 9. How do you persuade?  In addition informing your audience, you must also get them to accept and change their point of view
  10. 10. Basic Model of Communication  Source -> Message -> Channel -> Receiver
  11. 11. Source of the Message  Audience Perceptions are Important  Credibility of sender  Higher credibility = greater persuasion  Irrelevant characteristics can help  Examples: Attractiveness, Likability, etc.  Relatability matters
  12. 12. The Message  Simple messages are more persuasive  One-sided messages work if the audience is already on your side  Two-sided messages work if you are courting a skeptical and/or opposing audience  Emotions vs. Logic  Both strategies work in the right context
  13. 13. The Message  Fear is a factor  Can work for or against you  Consider age, context, social vs. physical, etc.  Negativity is more memorable than positivity  There is often resistance to persuasion  Audiences who perceive manipulation will be more resistant  Group identification reduces the effectiveness of anti-group messages
  14. 14. The Message  Frequency Matters  Increased awareness = increased reach  To move onto the agenda, increase the frequency  To maintain one’s opinion, increase the frequency
  15. 15. The Channel  Broadcast  TV is the most persuasive mass medium  On average, TV is watched 7+ hours/day  TV is intrusive and emotional; can increase audience attentiveness to messages
  16. 16. The Channel  Print  Effective for more complex messages  Newspaper readership and reach is declining, but still impactful for older audiences
  17. 17. The Channel  The Internet and Mobile Media  Fast-growing, fast-changing channel that is particularly impactful for reaching younger audiences  Traditional “gatekeeper” model is joined by social media, bloggers and other user-generated media outlets
  18. 18. The Channel  Interpersonal  Intrusive and allows for interaction  Reach is weaker (one-on-one vs. one-to-many)
  19. 19. The Receiver  Personal Relevance/Involvement is Key  Peer Group Influences are Significant  Opinion Leaders Highly Influential within Select Groups
  20. 20. Media Theory  Does the media have an effect on viewers and listeners?  There are several theories that support the extremes and the middle on this  Yes, it impacts us  No, it does not  Yes and No... somewhere in between
  21. 21. Hypodermic Needle Theory  One of the earliest theories held that mass media was highly influential  The media could “shoot” beliefs into people’s minds as a doctor shoots a hypodermic needle into a patient  Examples: WWI propaganda, “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast  This theory is no longer widely held
  22. 22. Two-Step Flow Theory Media messages observed, analyzed, interpreted and passed on by opinion leaders  The mass public gets information via these tastemakers  Opinions are formed  Perceptions are created  Knowledge is gained (or repressed)
  23. 23. Opinion Leaders  Opinion leaders serve as a powerful conduit in the flow of information  Opinion leaders may have more direct access to the media and/or a better media literacy than the masses  They have credibility with individuals that the mass media may lack  Political candidates  Celebrities  Community or religious leaders  Teachers  “Media analysts”  Journalists
  24. 24. Example Scenario  Paris Hilton has a specific brand of mobile phone  She is shown in public using it  To some of the public, this communicates that the item is “hip”
  25. 25. Example Many of us know an “early adopter” who is always the first on the block to own the coolest technology gadget  This person serves as an “expert” that we may directly or indirectly learn from
  26. 26. Limited-Effects Theory Media often does not have a direct effect on subjects and decision making  However, it is just one of many influences, including:  Opinion leaders  One’s prior held beliefs  Influence of family, friends, peers
  27. 27. Decision-making Process  Exists on a continuum  Depends on:  The information itself  Personal psyche or disposition
  28. 28. Decision-making Process  Some key factors:  Socio-economic status (class)  Religion  Gender  Intra-familial status
  29. 29. Moderate-Effects Theory  A “middle ground”  Recognizes that media is not all-powerful in its influence  However, under certain circumstances it can have a very strong effect
  30. 30. Powerful-Effects Theory Media has the potential for a huge influence on the audience  Influence increases if:  Audience has little or no opinion on a subject  Subject is non-ego threatening  Audience has no direct experience with the subject
  31. 31. Framing  “Framing” is the shaping of views and discussions through selective choice of facts, themes and words  Sender makes the selection  PR has a huge influence in “framing” how the media will discuss a product, person, development or ideology  “Framing” creates the context in which the discussion occurs
  32. 32. Examples  A tech company makes a “comeback” with the introduction of a new product following a less successful product  The war on Iraq is a “war on terrorism”  A movie’s success is discussed in terms of opening weekend box-office numbers  Katie Couric’s new anchor role at CBS is discussed in the context of her gender
  33. 33. Agenda Setting  The pattern of news coverage of a particular topic helps to determine what the public perceives as important  In other words, the media sets the agenda  Through Emphasis or even Omission  Through Repetition and Prominence of Coverage
  34. 34. Perceptions of Reality  Does what we see on TV impact our view of reality?  For many people, the TV serves as a key way we learn about the world  Particularly, when it exposes us to things or places that we might not normally encounter in “real life”
  35. 35. Uses and Gratification Theory  Communication process is interactive  It is a selective process  People consume the media (and absorb messages embedded within it) for a reason  It meets their needs  Entertainment  Information
  36. 36. Cognitive Dissonance  A message will not be believed if it is contrary to the predispositions of the receiver  To combat this, a PR writer must introduce new information that says it is OK to change  This may take the form of a credible spokesperson
  37. 37. Power of the Media: TV vs. “Reality” What happens when TV’s portrayal is wrong  Do we learn incorrect information or do we know better?  Example:  “Summer of the Shark” coverage  Violent crime coverage
  38. 38. Cultivation Theory  The more that a person is exposed to media, the more likely that person’s construction of social reality will be more like that in the media and less like reality
  39. 39. Racial, Ethnic, and Sex-Role Stereotypes  Are we really seeing accurate portrayals of race, ethnicity, and sex roles in the media?  Example:  Women in Media  Men outnumber women 2 to 1 in starring roles, yet women make up 51% of the population  When women are featured, they are usually in subservient or younger roles
  40. 40. Diffusion and Adoption  Five steps to acquiring new ideas  1. Awareness  2. Interest  3. Trial  4. Evaluation  5. Adoption
  41. 41. Diffusion and Adoption  In PR, the first two stages (awareness and interest) are most relevant
  42. 42. What causes change?  Adoption may be due to several factors:  Is the idea better?  Does it fit into my existing paradigm?  Do I understand it?  Can I safely try it out?  How observable is it?
  43. 43. Application of Theory  As a PR professional, your goal is to persuade  Persuasion is easier if the audience has an interest in the topic and is predisposed to accept it  Active audiences are already aware of the product and have an interest in it  Passive audiences must be lured into accepting your message  An inactive public has less interest in the topic and, thus, will be even more difficult to persuade
  44. 44. M-A-O Model  Use the M-A-O model to lure a passive audience into action  Motivation  Ability  Opportunity
  45. 45. Motivation  You must motivate the audience to become aware that your message even exists  Can be done with various tactics:  Design and style of message  Unique form of delivery  Reliance of credible tastemakers  Bribe the audience
  46. 46. Ability  Enable easier understanding of the message (once the public is aware of it)  Can be achieved various ways:  Simplify the message  Relate the message to what they already know
  47. 47. Opportunity  Structure the message for optimal processing  Repetition  Create an environment where message is most likely to be heard  Keep it interesting
  48. 48. Example: M-A-O Model  Progressive Direct car insurance campaign  Many consumers do not “shop around” for car insurance  They stick with their existing insurance… even if there is a price advantage to shopping around
  49. 49. EXAMPLE  Progressive has a campaign to motivate would-be consumers to think about their rates so that they may build awareness of their service  They “bribe” people with free airline miles to request a quote  Then, the consumer is exposed to the information and interest is generated due to the anticipated reward  Once the consumer gets the quote, it is hoped that they will take action on their knowledge of the competitive rate