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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) 22 in more favorable attitudes toward eating (meat) at McDonald’s and a stronger intention to eat (meat) at McDonald’s. Among the public relations strategies examined in this study, the cooperative problem- solving response message produced the most favorable attitudes toward the way McDonald’s responded to PETA’s attack. This suggests that organizations responding to activism will have the most favorable results if they use a cooperative problem-solving strategy. In addition, facilitative and promise and reward strategies may produce more effective outcomes for organizations responding to activism than informative, persuasive, bargaining and threat and punishment strategies. Based on the results of this study, organizations responding to activism should avoid using threat and punishment strategies because they produce the least favorable outcomes. Although many activist organizations rely on threat and punishment strategies to achieve their goals, organizations targeted by activist groups must devise more cooperative, balanced strategic responses to these groups. Despite the implications of this study, it has some limitations that most be addressed. First, the subjects were appropriate in the sense that college students are a target public for public relations efforts of fast-food restaurants, and many individuals in this age group are patrons of such establishments. However, these subjects do not constitute a random sample of the entire student population, and college students do not represent all fast-food restaurant customers. Thus, the results of this study cannot be generalized beyond the subjects tested. In addition, intent to behave does not constitute actual behavior. It is possible that subjects will not do what they say they will do. Thus, future research should examine public relations strategy influence on actual behavior. Finally, the results of the manipulation check for strategy type suggest that the strategic response messages used in this study require further testing to ensure they adequately reflect the definitions articulated in the taxonomy of public relations strategies identified by Hazleton. However, the results of this study constitute an important step in understanding the influence public relations strategies have on beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions.

Authors: Page, Kelly.
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Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621)
22
in more favorable attitudes toward eating (meat) at McDonald’s and a stronger intention to eat (meat) at
McDonald’s. Among the public relations strategies examined in this study, the cooperative problem-
solving response message produced the most favorable attitudes toward the way McDonald’s responded
to PETA’s attack. This suggests that organizations responding to activism will have the most favorable
results if they use a cooperative problem-solving strategy. In addition, facilitative and promise and reward
strategies may produce more effective outcomes for organizations responding to activism than
informative, persuasive, bargaining and threat and punishment strategies. Based on the results of this
study, organizations responding to activism should avoid using threat and punishment strategies because
they produce the least favorable outcomes. Although many activist organizations rely on threat and
punishment strategies to achieve their goals, organizations targeted by activist groups must devise more
cooperative, balanced strategic responses to these groups.
Despite the implications of this study, it has some limitations that most be addressed. First, the
subjects were appropriate in the sense that college students are a target public for public relations efforts
of fast-food restaurants, and many individuals in this age group are patrons of such establishments.
However, these subjects do not constitute a random sample of the entire student population, and college
students do not represent all fast-food restaurant customers. Thus, the results of this study cannot be
generalized beyond the subjects tested. In addition, intent to behave does not constitute actual behavior. It
is possible that subjects will not do what they say they will do. Thus, future research should examine
public relations strategy influence on actual behavior. Finally, the results of the manipulation check for
strategy type suggest that the strategic response messages used in this study require further testing to
ensure they adequately reflect the definitions articulated in the taxonomy of public relations strategies
identified by Hazleton. However, the results of this study constitute an important step in understanding
the influence public relations strategies have on beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions.


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