Sunday, June 20, 2010

Role of Agenda Building in Public Relations

The term Agenda Building as explained by Cobb & Elder, 1971, 1972,1983,Cobb, Ross & Ross, 1976) is that it examines public participation in such a way that various kinds of publics in a population become aware and participate in political conflicts.(Cobb et al., 1976, pg 126) further add that it is a process by which voice of many in the population can catch attention of the public officials. This may be done to accomplish some serious policy change.
The term agenda can be explained as “ a general set of political controversies that will be views as falling within the range of political concerns meriting concerns of the polity.” (Cobb & Elder, 1971, pg 905).There are two types of agenda clearly specified: public and formal. The public agenda consists of “a) subjects of widespread attention and awareness b) perceived of requiring action and c) appropriate concern of some governmental unit.”
The formal agenda refers to the set of issues that decision makers have already formally considered for serious consideration. So any issue that is raised from a governmental body will be a part of the formal agenda.
Johnson et al., 1996 give an interesting insight where budding public relations professionals can take a cue from. They say “it is a collective and reciprocal process where the press, public and public officials influence one another and are at the same time influenced by one another.” They came up with a four-stage model for agenda building "1) real-world conditions starts off the agenda building process; 2) news media increases coverage of the issue; 3) the public picks up signs from real-world conditions and media coverage; and finally 4) the opinion leader reacts upon public concern". Take all examples that we have seen in the recent past such as the emergence of the swine flu, bird flu etc. If you look at these issues they have all had a similar pattern. The way they started and were later on ‘treated’ by all the parties concerned .It explains how any issue  that which is of public concern is usually handled. Here we have to keep in mind that events though begin with being news events may turn out to be pseudo news events as explained in my earlier blogs.
Would you like to contribute to the above?
Handbook of public relations
 By Robert Lawrence Heath, Gabriel M. Vasquez
Public relations theory II
 By Carl H. Botan, Vincent Hazleton
Research paper “International Agenda-Building and Agenda-Setting: Exploring the Influence of Public Relations Counsel on News Media and Public Perceptions of Foreign Nations” A Manuscript submitted to the Public Relations Division for the annual International
Communication Association conference in New York, NY, to be held on May 26-30, 2005


  1. This cyclic model can also be referred in Bhopal Gas Tragedy case. An event occur, media reports it, public opinion(s) is formed and final call is of opinion leader(s). Here the agenda is, what action will the government take about the Chief of the company?
    I think this pattern is formed because there is a strong public interest.
    It's an interesting phenomenon to observe and study as a PR student.

  2. Yes Tejal this entire process has to be observed very closely.Infact we have to see what happens next on the case of Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

  3. Agenda building & Agenda Setting are closely knit.
    Theories on Agenda Setting are common in Communication Studies.
    Proposed by Malcolm Macccombs & Donald Shaw (1976), it tells that Mass Media pays attention to some issues /overlooks others. It affects Public opinion. Order of priority is set by the Media.
    Media doesn't reflect the society but sets agenda.
    It becomes a lap dog from a Watch dog.
    Agenda Setting implemented through,
    Press Release
    Press Conference
    Advertisement/Advertorial/Paid news/Treaties