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Responding to Activism: An Experimental Analysis of Public Relations Strategy Influence on Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behavioral Intentions
Unformatted Document Text:  Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621) 10 Public Relations Attitude Toward Salient Attitude Toward Behavioral Strategy Strategy Beliefs Behavior Intention To examine these relationships, the following hypotheses were tested: H3: Public relations strategies influence attitude toward strategy. H4: Attitude toward strategy predicts salient beliefs. H5: Attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior. H6: Attitude toward strategy is related to behavioral intention. Method To test these hypotheses, a controlled experiment was conducted using stimulus material based on a real case of activism. The case involved the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of the most well-known and successful activist groups in existence today. Founded more than 20 years ago, PETA has over 700,000 members worldwide and has attacked the practices of corporate giants such as Gap, General Motors, Gillette, Avon, Revlon, General Mills, and NASA, among others (“Shock Treatment: Why PETA’s Radical marketing Tactics Work,” 2001). In 2000, PETA launched an attack campaign against the fast-food chain McDonald’s in a long- standing effort to make McDonald’s change its suppliers’ treatment of food animals. The attack consisted of shocking and offensive communication tactics aimed at McDonald’s employees and customers. For example, people pulling through McDonald’s drive-thrus were given PETA McCruelty Unhappy Meals, a gory parody of the McDonald’s Happy Meal. The gruesome boxes and accompanying flyers contained an ax-wielding “Son of Ron,” a plastic butchered pig and cow amid blood-stained hay, and photos of a skinned cow’s head hung from a butcher’s hook alongside the phrase, “Want fries with that?” The PETA McCruelty Unhappy Meals were distributed at 400 McDonald’s restaurants in 23 countries. In addition, PETA launched a national campaign that included billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and print advertisements featuring images of slaughtered animals designed to shock viewers into taking action (“Shock Treatment: Why PETA’s Radical marketing Tactics Work,” 2001). For this study, the PETA vs. McDonald’s case was used as the context for analysis of the influence of public relations strategies on beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions of individuals. To examine the influence of strategies, subjects were exposed to four anti-McDonald’s messages from PETA, followed by a mock response message from McDonald’s derived from the strategy definitions provided in the review of literature. Participants then rated their beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions towards McDonald’s using measures specified by the theory of reasoned action. The effect of response messages on actual behavior was not examined due to the time required to test this component of the model.

Authors: Page, Kelly.
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background image
Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621)
10
Public Relations
Attitude Toward
Salient
Attitude Toward
Behavioral
Strategy Strategy Beliefs Behavior Intention
To examine these relationships, the following hypotheses were tested:
H3: Public relations strategies influence attitude toward strategy.
H4: Attitude toward strategy predicts salient beliefs.
H5: Attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior.
H6: Attitude toward strategy is related to behavioral intention.
Method
To test these hypotheses, a controlled experiment was conducted using stimulus material based on a
real case of activism. The case involved the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of the most
well-known and successful activist groups in existence today. Founded more than 20 years ago, PETA
has over 700,000 members worldwide and has attacked the practices of corporate giants such as Gap,
General Motors, Gillette, Avon, Revlon, General Mills, and NASA, among others (“Shock Treatment:
Why PETA’s Radical marketing Tactics Work,” 2001).
In 2000, PETA launched an attack campaign against the fast-food chain McDonald’s in a long-
standing effort to make McDonald’s change its suppliers’ treatment of food animals. The attack consisted
of shocking and offensive communication tactics aimed at McDonald’s employees and customers. For
example, people pulling through McDonald’s drive-thrus were given PETA McCruelty Unhappy Meals, a
gory parody of the McDonald’s Happy Meal. The gruesome boxes and accompanying flyers contained an
ax-wielding “Son of Ron,” a plastic butchered pig and cow amid blood-stained hay, and photos of a
skinned cow’s head hung from a butcher’s hook alongside the phrase, “Want fries with that?” The PETA
McCruelty Unhappy Meals were distributed at 400 McDonald’s restaurants in 23 countries. In addition,
PETA launched a national campaign that included billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and print
advertisements featuring images of slaughtered animals designed to shock viewers into taking action
(“Shock Treatment: Why PETA’s Radical marketing Tactics Work,” 2001).
For this study, the PETA vs. McDonald’s case was used as the context for analysis of the influence of
public relations strategies on beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions of individuals. To examine the
influence of strategies, subjects were exposed to four anti-McDonald’s messages from PETA, followed
by a mock response message from McDonald’s derived from the strategy definitions provided in the
review of literature. Participants then rated their beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions towards
McDonald’s using measures specified by the theory of reasoned action. The effect of response messages
on actual behavior was not examined due to the time required to test this component of the model.


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