Friday, November 28, 2014

Planning Public Relations campaigns

Public Relations campaigns are organised at various levels. The need could be creating awareness, a further need could be going beyond awareness where you try to educate the consumer on an issue and ready the person emotionally to change. The other two reasons could be changing the attitude and behaviour of the audience. More tougher one.

In the first instance a simple awareness program could be a "Do not talk on mobile while driving" or "Do not drink and drive" or "Do not Honk; school/hospital nearby". Here perhaps a reinforcement can be required time and again but no education to the audience. The one that involves education could be issues in selling technology where a training manual needs to be prepared and countless articles have to be written for a person to upgrade to technology. The writing skill of a PR practitioner is tested here as many articles and manuals have to be penned down, seminars and training sessions have to be arranged for thoroughly educating the audience. This could be done with other similar situations where a simulation and training is required. 

The tougher one is where the attitude and behaviour of the audience has to be changed. The best examples are social issues like dowry, child marriage, child labour etc. and health campaigns like No Smoking, cleanliness campaigns, AIDS campaigns, vaccinations for newborns etc. People are resistant to change so these usually takes a longer time to see a change. In fact sometimes years for such a change to happen. 

James K. VanLeuven from Colorado State University theorizes 5 campaign planning ways. Persuasion/ learning effects is one where he says that knowledge, attitude and behaviour usually changes step wise. If you also read Carl Hovland's theory of persuasive communication he breaks down the Harold Lasswell's model of communication and explains how each element in the process of communication acts in the persuasion process.

The next theory is the social learning model. In this model a a lot of emphasis is on educating and training  the publics then merely persuading them. This models explains that a person will adapt to a change depending on the consequences. "The more positive and rewarding the consequences, more likely the behaviour to occur (McAlister, 1981)". On that note you may also want to read social learning theory by Albert Bandura This theory explains how does one learn through watching others and what motivates someone to do what others are doing. 

The third theorization for the campaigns is the Low Involvement model. As the same suggests there isn't must of education or attitide change required in this one, basically not much of thinking required here. This is done on an impulse where people take a call on buying something or making a choice. Or when there might not be a huge difference in the choices given. As Flay (1986) explains best."If you drink, don't drive-- if you drive, don't drink."

The fourth model is the cognitive consistency model. This model suggests that when behaviour changes are imposed there has to be enough new knowledge to become generally accepted by all. This is most applicable in crisis situations and in issues management. Thus what kind of message goes out on behalf of the organization during a crisis will drive the point accordingly to the audience. The more in depth and clear the information is, more easier it will be for people to accept it. So if the BMC gives information of stringent measures to be taken to protect the city from the clutches of Dengue, audience will react on how and what was the message given. How is the media reportage of the issue etc. Changing attitudes of people here is the main thing here, which will lead to change. This link could be useful in understanding the term cognitive consistency.

The last but not the least the value change model. This model suggests changes which could be personal and at an individual level. Thus suggesting changes at the self-esteem level. People who are prone to any kind of addiction like smoking, drugs etc, need change at that level, which requires a lot of counseling on behalf of the campaigners. NGOs, special clinics and health organizations spend years helping such people in distress. This is good link to understand how values are developed early in life

Various campaign objectives and strategies can be designed depending upon the issue at hand based on the above literature. A public relations practitioner has to have thorough knowledge of psychology or should take help form psychologists while designing their campaigns. Previous studies and constant reading in this practice really helps designing effective campaigns which could also be peculiar to a culture and country. Continuous evaluation at every step helps get rid of any problems.

Your experiences?