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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) 2 behavior. The theory states that the single best predictor of behavior is an individual’s intention regarding the behavior. Behavioral intention is a function of two other factors: 1) the individual’s attitude toward the behavior, and 2) the individual’s subjective norm with respect to the behavior (Petty & Cacioppo, 1996, p. 200). According to Rossi and Armstrong (1999), the theory of reasoned action is one of the most influential contributions to the field of attitude measurement and behavior prediction. Sheppard, Hartwick, and Warshaw (1988) concluded that the model predicts behavioral intention and behavior quite well and provides a basis for identifying where and how to target strategies for changing behavior. The purpose of this study is to further current theory-driven research in public relations by examining the message variable in the public relations process. Specifically, public relations strategies derived from Hazleton and Long’s Public Relations Process Model (1988) are examined using Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1975) Theory of Reasoned Action to determine the influence of strategies on individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions toward an organization responding to activism. Review of Literature The public relations strategies examined in this study derive from the theoretical framework provided by Hazleton and Long’s Public Relations Process Model. Adopting a general system’s theory approach, Hazleton and Long define public relations as a communication function of management through which organizations adapt to, alter, or maintain their environment for the purpose of achieving organizational goals (Hazleton & Long, 1985, 1988; Long & Hazleton, 1987; Hazleton, 1992). 1 As such, public relations can be conceptualized as an open system consisting of a multi-dimensional environment and three subsystems (Hazleton & Long, 1988). At the macroscopic level, the environment is the system and public relations input, transformation and output processes are made up of the organization, communication and target audience subsystems. Each of these subsystems, considered microscopically, possesses its own input-transformation-output cycles. Specifically, the public relations process consists of “(1) input from the environment (exogenous input) to the system, (2) transformation of inputs into communication goals, objectives, and campaigns, and (3) output, in the form of messages, to target audiences located in internal and external environments. Target audience reactions to public relations messages provide further input for organizational maintenance or adaption, refinement of the public relations process, and alteration of the environment in which the organization exists” (p. 80). A complete graphic illustration of the public relations process model is provided in Appendix A. 1 Wilcox, Ault, Agee & Cameron (2000) note that, among the various definitions of public relations that have been posited, this definition best reflects today’s modern practice. It “represents the somewhat newer theory that public relations is more than persuasion. It should also foster open, two-way communication and mutual understanding with the idea that an organization also changes its attitudes and behaviors in the process—not just the target audience” (p. 4).

Authors: Page, Kelly.
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Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621)
2
behavior. The theory states that the single best predictor of behavior is an individual’s intention regarding
the behavior. Behavioral intention is a function of two other factors: 1) the individual’s attitude toward
the behavior, and 2) the individual’s subjective norm with respect to the behavior (Petty & Cacioppo,
1996, p. 200). According to Rossi and Armstrong (1999), the theory of reasoned action is one of the most
influential contributions to the field of attitude measurement and behavior prediction. Sheppard,
Hartwick, and Warshaw (1988) concluded that the model predicts behavioral intention and behavior quite
well and provides a basis for identifying where and how to target strategies for changing behavior.
The purpose of this study is to further current theory-driven research in public relations by examining
the message variable in the public relations process. Specifically, public relations strategies derived from
Hazleton and Long’s Public Relations Process Model (1988) are examined using Fishbein and Ajzen’s
(1975) Theory of Reasoned Action to determine the influence of strategies on individuals’ beliefs,
attitudes, and behavioral intentions toward an organization responding to activism.
Review of Literature
The public relations strategies examined in this study derive from the theoretical framework provided
by Hazleton and Long’s Public Relations Process Model. Adopting a general system’s theory approach,
Hazleton and Long define public relations as a communication function of management through which
organizations adapt to, alter, or maintain their environment for the purpose of achieving organizational
goals (Hazleton & Long, 1985, 1988; Long & Hazleton, 1987; Hazleton, 1992).
1
As such, public relations can be conceptualized as an open system consisting of a multi-dimensional
environment and three subsystems (Hazleton & Long, 1988). At the macroscopic level, the environment
is the system and public relations input, transformation and output processes are made up of the
organization, communication and target audience subsystems. Each of these subsystems, considered
microscopically, possesses its own input-transformation-output cycles. Specifically, the public relations
process consists of “(1) input from the environment (exogenous input) to the system, (2) transformation
of inputs into communication goals, objectives, and campaigns, and (3) output, in the form of messages,
to target audiences located in internal and external environments. Target audience reactions to public
relations messages provide further input for organizational maintenance or adaption, refinement of the
public relations process, and alteration of the environment in which the organization exists” (p. 80). A
complete graphic illustration of the public relations process model is provided in Appendix A.
1
Wilcox, Ault, Agee & Cameron (2000) note that, among the various definitions of public relations that have been
posited, this definition best reflects today’s modern practice. It “represents the somewhat newer theory that public
relations is more than persuasion. It should also foster open, two-way communication and mutual understanding
with the idea that an organization also changes its attitudes and behaviors in the process—not just the target
audience” (p. 4).


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