Public Communication Campaigns
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Public Communication Campaigns

Ronald E. Rice, Charles K. Atkin

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eBook - ePub

Public Communication Campaigns

Ronald E. Rice, Charles K. Atkin

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In this fully revised and expanded Fourth Edition, Ronald E. Rice and Charles K. Atkin provide readers with a comprehensive, up-to-date look into the field of public communication campaigns. Updated to reflect the latest theories and research, this text extends coverage to new areas, including sun protection, organ donation, human rights, social norms, corporate social responsibility, condom use, ocean sustainability, fear messages, and digital games. Classic chapters include updates on topics such as campaign history, theoretical foundations, formative evaluation, systems approaches, input-output persuasion matrix, design and evaluation, meta-analysis, and sense-making methodology.

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Part I Overview and History

Chapter 1 Theory and Principles of Public Communication Campaigns

Public communication campaigns can be defined as purposive attempts to inform or influence behaviors in large audiences within a specified time period using an organized set of communication activities and featuring an array of mediated messages in multiple channels generally to produce noncommercial benefits to individuals and society (Rice & Atkin, 2009; Rogers & Storey, 1987).
The campaign as process is universal across topics and venues, utilizing systematic frameworks and fundamental strategic principles developed over the past half century. Campaign designers perform a situational analysis and set objectives leading to development of a coherent set of strategies and implement the campaign by creating informational and persuasive messages that are disseminated via traditional mass media, new technologies, and interpersonal networks.

Theoretical Foundations of Campaigns

Although no specific theory has been developed to explain and predict public communication campaigns, a number of theoretical perspectives are regularly invoked to guide campaign strategies. The most comprehensive applicable conceptualizations are the social marketing framework and the Communication-Persuasion Matrix.
Campaigns across the spectrum of health, prosocial, and environmental domains share some similarities to commercial advertising campaigns. Thus, it is useful to apply social marketing, which emphasizes an audience-centered consumer orientation and calculated attempts to attractively package the social product and utilize the optimum combination of campaign components to attain pragmatic goals (Andreasen, 1995, 2006; Kotler, Roberto, & Lee, 2002; McKenzie-Mohr, 2011). Social marketing offers a macro perspective, combining numerous components, notably the multifaceted conceptions of product, costs, and benefits, as well as audience segmentation, policy change, and competition (see Bracht & Rice in Chapter 20 and Rice & Robinson in Chapter 16).
In McGuire's (Chapter 9) classic Communication-Persuasion Matrix, or input–output model, the communication input variables include source, message, channel, and audience; these factors, which are central to most communication models, will be discussed at length in subsequent sections. The output process posits audience responses to campaign stimuli as proceeding through the basic stages of exposure and processing before effects can be achieved at the learning, yielding, and behavior levels. Exposure includes the simple reception of a message and the degree of attention to its content. Processing encompasses mental comprehension, pro- and counterarguing, interpretive perceptions, and cognitive connections and emotional reactions produced by the campaign message. Learning comprises information gain, generation of related cognitions, image formation, and skills acquisition. Yielding includes acquisition and change in attitudes, beliefs, and values. Behavior in the campaign context involves the bottom-line enactment of the actions recommended in messages.
Specific central theories that are applicable to various aspects of public communication campaign strategies, processes, and implementation include:
Agenda setting (McCombs, 2004). The phenomenon of topical salience applies to campaign impact on the perceived importance of societal problems and the prominence of policy issues.
Diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2003). This theory introduces the ideas of relative advantage and trialability of recommended behaviors, and the individual adoption decision process, as well as opinion leadership that shapes diffusion through interpersonal channels and social networks via multistep flows.
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and Heuristic Systematic Model (HSM) (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). ELM and HSM highlight the role of audience involvement level as it shapes cognitive responses, thought generation, and central versus peripheral routes to persuasion.
Extended Parallel Process Model (Stephenson & Witte, 2001). Effectiveness of fear appeals is enhanced by understanding cognitive processes that control danger versus emotional processes, which control the fear via denial or coping; perceived efficacy influences type of response.
Health Belief Model (HBM) (Becker, 1974). Several concepts from HBM pertain specifically to the potency of health threat appeals: susceptibility multiplied by seriousness of consequences and the self-efficacy and response efficacy of performing the recommended behavior.
Instrumental learning (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). As adapted to mediated communication, this learning mechanism features message-related concepts of source credibility, reinforcement incentives, and repetition of presentation.
Integrative Theory of Behavior Change (Cappella, Fishbein, Hornik, Ahern, & Sayeed, 2001). The multifaceted model integrates HBM, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to specify how external variables, individual differences, and underlying beliefs contribute to differential influence pathways for outcome behaviors, intentions, attitudes, norms, and self-efficacy.
Message frames (O'Keefe & Jensen, 2007; Quick & Bates, 2010). This framework focuses on how message appeals are packaged in terms of gain-frame promotion of positive behavior versus loss-frame prevention of negative behavior, especially for audiences likely to display reactance.
Self-Efficacy (Bandura, 1997). This key construct highlights the role of the individual's perceived capability of successfully performing behaviors; those who are confident of carrying out recommended actions are more likely to attempt and sustain behavioral enactment efforts.
Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). SCT emphasizes the processes by which source role models, explicitly demonstrated behaviors, and depiction of vicarious reinforcement enhance the impact of mediated messages.
Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen, Albarracin, & Hornik, 1997). The TRA and the ensuing Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) formulate a combination of personal attitudes, perceived norms of influential others, and motivation to comply as predictors of intended behavior. A key underlying mechanism is based on the expectancy–value equation, which postulates attitudes are predicted by beliefs about the likelihood that given behavior leads to certain consequences, multiplied by one's evaluation of those consequences.
Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). This stage-of-progression model identifies subaudiences on the basis of their stage in the process of behavior change with respect to a specific health behavior (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance), which shapes the readiness to attempt, adopt, or sustain the recommended behavior.
Uses and gratifications (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Rubin, 2002). This offers concepts useful in understanding audience motivations for selecting particular media, attending to media messages, and utilizing learned information in enacting behaviors.

Audience Segmentation and Campaign Design

Identifying the Audience

Campaign design begins with a conceptual assessment of the situation to determine opportunities and barriers and to identify which outcome behaviors would be performed by which people (Atkin & Salmon, 2010; see also Dervin & Foreman-Wernet, Chapter 10). Rather than attempting to reach the broad public, campaign designers typically identify specific (often “at risk”) segments of the overall population. There are two major strategic advantages of ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Public Communication Campaigns
APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2012). Public Communication Campaigns (4th ed.). SAGE Publications. Retrieved from (Original work published 2012)
Chicago Citation
[author missing]. (2012) 2012. Public Communication Campaigns. 4th ed. SAGE Publications.
Harvard Citation
[author missing] (2012) Public Communication Campaigns. 4th edn. SAGE Publications. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. Public Communication Campaigns. 4th ed. SAGE Publications, 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.