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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) 21 significant relationships were found. These results provide mixed support for Hypotheses 5 and 6, suggesting that attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior and behavioral intention, but only through its influence on salient beliefs. This is consistent with the propositions of the theory of reasoned action. Discussion This study attempted to further theory-driven research in public relations by examining the message variable in the public relations process. Public relations strategies derived from Hazleton and Long’s Public Relations Process Model (1988) were examined using Fishbein and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action (1975) to determine strategy influence on individuals’ beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions toward an organization responding to activism. Six hypotheses were tested. Two hypotheses tested the predictions of the theory of reasoned action. Hypothesis 1 stated that attitude toward behavior and subjective norm regarding behavior predict behavioral intention. Hypothesis 2 stated that salient beliefs predict attitude toward behavior. The results of this study support Hypotheses 1 and 2, indicating that the predictions of the theory of reasoned action are supported. In addition, attitude toward behavior was found to be a stronger predictor of behavioral intention than subjective norm regarding behavior, and salient beliefs were found to be a slightly better predictor of intention to eat meat at McDonald’s than they were for intention to eat at McDonald’s. Four hypotheses tested the influence of public relations strategies on beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions. Hypothesis 3 stated that public relations strategies influence attitude toward strategy, an attitude toward target variable. Results indicted that public relations strategies do influence attitude toward strategy. Hypothesis 4 stated that attitude toward strategy predicts salient beliefs. Results indicated that attitude toward strategy has a strong effect on beliefs. Specifically, 41% of the variance in beliefs about McDonald’s was explained by its linear relationship with attitude toward strategy. Hypotheses 5 and 6 stated that attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior and behavioral intention, respectively. Support was found for these hypotheses; however, the results indicate that attitude toward strategy is only related to these variables via its influence on salient beliefs. This finding is consistent with the propositions of the theory of reasoned action. The results of this study have important implications for organizations responding to activism. Specifically, the results indicate that the McDonald’s response message treatments derived from public relations strategies produced more favorable attitudes toward the way McDonald’s responded to PETA’s accusations than the control message treatment. This suggests that, overall, people find some type of response to activism more favorable than no response. In addition, favorable attitudes toward the McDonald’s messages responding to PETA’s accusations produced favorable salient beliefs about McDonald’s. These favorable beliefs about McDonald’s resulted

Authors: Page, Kelly.
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Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621)
21
significant relationships were found. These results provide mixed support for Hypotheses 5 and 6,
suggesting that attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior and behavioral intention, but
only through its influence on salient beliefs. This is consistent with the propositions of the theory of
reasoned action.
Discussion
This study attempted to further theory-driven research in public relations by examining the message
variable in the public relations process. Public relations strategies derived from Hazleton and Long’s
Public Relations Process Model (1988) were examined using Fishbein and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned
Action (1975) to determine strategy influence on individuals’ beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions
toward an organization responding to activism.
Six hypotheses were tested. Two hypotheses tested the predictions of the theory of reasoned action.
Hypothesis 1 stated that attitude toward behavior and subjective norm regarding behavior predict
behavioral intention. Hypothesis 2 stated that salient beliefs predict attitude toward behavior. The results
of this study support Hypotheses 1 and 2, indicating that the predictions of the theory of reasoned action
are supported. In addition, attitude toward behavior was found to be a stronger predictor of behavioral
intention than subjective norm regarding behavior, and salient beliefs were found to be a slightly better
predictor of intention to eat meat at McDonald’s than they were for intention to eat at McDonald’s.
Four hypotheses tested the influence of public relations strategies on beliefs, attitudes and behavioral
intentions. Hypothesis 3 stated that public relations strategies influence attitude toward strategy, an
attitude toward target variable. Results indicted that public relations strategies do influence attitude
toward strategy. Hypothesis 4 stated that attitude toward strategy predicts salient beliefs. Results indicated
that attitude toward strategy has a strong effect on beliefs. Specifically, 41% of the variance in beliefs
about McDonald’s was explained by its linear relationship with attitude toward strategy. Hypotheses 5
and 6 stated that attitude toward strategy is related to attitude toward behavior and behavioral intention,
respectively. Support was found for these hypotheses; however, the results indicate that attitude toward
strategy is only related to these variables via its influence on salient beliefs. This finding is consistent
with the propositions of the theory of reasoned action.
The results of this study have important implications for organizations responding to activism.
Specifically, the results indicate that the McDonald’s response message treatments derived from public
relations strategies produced more favorable attitudes toward the way McDonald’s responded to PETA’s
accusations than the control message treatment. This suggests that, overall, people find some type of
response to activism more favorable than no response.
In addition, favorable attitudes toward the McDonald’s messages responding to PETA’s accusations
produced favorable salient beliefs about McDonald’s. These favorable beliefs about McDonald’s resulted


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