Persuasion Theory

The study of persuasion dates, according to general opinion, at least 5000 years. “The first known writing about persuasion dates back to 3000 B. C” (Heimes, 1998). American scholar Dr Kelton Rhodes, of Arizona State University, argues that persuasion falls within the study of social influence, which is the science of influence, persuasion, and compliance. ” Persuasion, therefore, is central to public relations: in that it is able to influence target publics.

This essay will look at how various theories of persuasion interact with the Domino Model of Communication and whether or not the Domino Model is a useful tool in planning communication strategies. Persuasion has been defined as “a successful, intentional effort at influencing another’s mental state through communication, assuming the person to be persuaded has some measure of freedom. ” (O’Keefe, 1990). Another definition says “persuasion attempts to change minds or get people to act” (McGann, 2000).

Within public relations there are many ways to influence public opinion and perception. It is recognised that public relations through “Persuasion attempts to win ‘the heart and mind’ of the target. Thus, persuasion must induce attitude change, which entails affective (emotion-based) change. Although persuasion is more difficult to induce, its effects last longer because the target actually accepts and internalizes the advocacy. ” (Rhodes, 1999). There are various methods used to persuade.

These include: writing, speaking (debate), using fear or authority, Central to the “workability” of the Domino model is that attitudes must change. The first two steps in the Model (delivery of the message and the processing of knowledge) could almost be a “given”. However, the message needs firstly to be correctly targeted, not just at the source but in the way they are put together. Messages firstly must be simple. One does not need to research the fact that our lives are increasingly being bombarded with information.

“Every day, U. S. consumers are exposed to no less than 1000 commercial messages”. (Meyers-Levy, 1999). Secondly, messages need to be distilled to the right audience. Advertising used to simply take a “one-size-fits-all approach”. “Basic research in psychology, however, suggests that a different strategy is likely to be more effective. The logical implication is that persuasive messages should be tailored to those with specific interests, needs, values, beliefs, and the like. ” (DeFleur, Ball-Rokeiach, 1989).

The first stage in the Domino Theory requires that a message be delivered. How a public receives a message is critical. “How publics perceive the source of a message is a significant factor in whether they accept it” (Newsom, VanSlyke Turk, Kruckenberg, 1996). The deliverer must firstly be credible. However, “researchers have found that the effects of a communicator’s credibility diminish over time, be cause members of the audience tend to dissociate the message from the communicator.

However, these credibility effects can be reinstated simply by reminding the audience who said what. Overall, however, most of the opinion change obtained was short term rather than long term. Thus, while it is not difficult to change opinion immediately after a persuasive communication, when the change is measured a month later, the audience often has “reverted” to its original opinion”. (Lowery/DeFleur, p172, 1983). The message must be simple and offer something to the receiver. PR professionals should present one benefit and one message.

With one message the possibility of delivering varying interpretations can be avoided. In this way, the process is similar to advertising. Successful campaigns to concentrate on one message include: Volvo motor vehicles focusing on the safety features of their cars (never mind they used to be built like boxes); Apple Computers focusing on the “different” nature of their product, as opposed to PCs (Apple used the great thinkers, such as DaVinci, Aristotle, to push a message that meant their computers were for creative people, or those who aspired to be so.

Even non-PR people can be successful at delivering a simple persuasive message, such was the case with Irish woman Nancy Gracy, who in 1993 ran a simple (if not inspired) PR campaign to stop the violence against families in Northern Ireland by the (seemingly) simple methods of meetings with like-minded people, producing leaflets, appearing on the media and lobbying government. Likewise, Greenpeace’s campaign to get Shell to stop sinking the Brent Spar oil rig in the North Atlantic was also a persuasive battle for the hearts and minds of consumers.

Both messages highlight simple messages: stop violence; stop pollution. The channel through which a message is to be delivered will also affect the outcome. Channels are the various mediums that can be used. Apart from press, radio and TV, these can include staff newsletters, staff meetings, intercom announcements or closed-circuit TV. Audio or visual, or a combination of both, can be used.

Assuming the message has successfully been delivered, and that an audience’s knowledge has been increased, the third phase is to change attitude (or beliefs) – possibly the most difficult task. “The more a person is emotionally involved in his or her beliefs, the harder it is to change those beliefs by mere information or argument. People who are less interested in an issue hold weaker opinions and beliefs and thus are more likely to change their minds”. (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 1985).

It could be argued that most people these days take an interest in the environment, or at least are more aware of the issues than they were 15 years ago. Thus, the success of Greenpeace’s Brent Spar campaign was aided by the fact that its audience was already partially won-over, in that they were emotionally receptive and their beliefs and attitudes did not have to change much to affect their behaviour (i. e. , they stopped buying Shell petrol in Germany, with sales dropping 30 per cent).

On the other hand, Greenpeace may battle to convince its publics to change their minds about the location of Australia’s only nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, Sydney, as this facility is used foe medical products and is known to have only low level of radioactive waste. Recent protests there were counteracted by articles saying nuclear medicine (radio isotopes) supplies were affected, and as far afield as Perth. Attitude has been defined as “a stable, long-lasting, learned predisposition to respond to certain things in a certain way.

The concept has a cognitive (belief) aspect, and affective (feeling) aspect and a cognitive (action) aspect” (Statt, 1990). Our attitudes are also affected by the groups we associate with: family, friends, informal work groups and clubs and organisations we may belong to. “Group influence and pressure become particularly apparent during controversy” (Newsom, VanSlyke Turk, Kruckenberg, p215, 1996). This only demonstrates the many variables that can interfere with the persuasion process in the stages of the Domino model.

It is also recognised that attitudes are formed over long periods of time. Conversely, attitudes can be changed quickly. (You could build up an affinity of using a particular brand of running shoes, but your attitude – and years of conditioning – could change instantly if the new pair you buy cause discomfort). Marketers spend a lot of money on psychological surveys in trying to determine what shapes peoples’ attitudes. Research has taken three forms in recent years: 1. mere exposure, 2. cognitive dissonance and 3. persuasive communication. I will deal with the latter.

Why could it be argued that audience are not controlled by the media around them? The media and audience relationship bond has been very strong from the beginning of media time. Without an audience there would be no media as …

The hypodermic syringe model is a theory of media effect on audience. The term is used to describe interaction between the media and public belief, offering the concept of people becoming affected by the information ‘injected’ into them through their …

Communication is not as easy as it is cut out to be. There are basic rules that communicators must follow to effectively send or receive messages effectively. For example when sending messages it is important to own the message by …

Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of the Hypodermic Syringe Model of the Mass Media (33 marks) The Hypodermic Syringe Model suggests that the media are strong and the audience is weak and passive. This means …

David from Healtheappointments:

Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out