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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) 8 Ajzen (1975), traditional measures such as attitudes toward targets (people and/or institutions) affect behavior only through the more proximal determinants of behavior specified by the model. The researchers noted, however, that a number of conditions will affect the predictive power of the reasoned action model. Most importantly, the level of specificity between behavior and intention must be correlated as closely as possible in action, target, context, and time. In application, the measures regarding beliefs, attitudes, and intentions must be similarly worded in terms of these factors. In addition, it is important to note that the complete model does not have to be used for its individual predictions to be supported. Many studies have stopped short of examining actual behavior due to the length of time required to conduct such research. The theory of reasoned action provides a comprehensive and well-tested framework for examining the influence public relations strategies have on the beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions of individuals. However, the theory specifies that these variables must be analyzed in the context of a specific behavior. Since the issue of activism is considered to be of critical importance to public relations scholars and practitioners (Smith & Ferguson, 2001), this study focuses on the influence public relations strategies have on the beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions of individuals toward an organization responding to activism. Responding to Activism The behavior of activist groups is a growing problem for organizations operating in today’s multi- dimensional marketplace. An activist group is defined as two or more individuals who organize in order to influence an organization through action—its members are committed to reaching their goals, which may be political, economic, or social (L. Grunig, 1992). Activist groups attempt to influence public policy to reach a common goal through the use of strategic communication. According to Smith (1997), the primary purpose of activism is to influence public policy, organizational action, and social norms and values. Organized activists are often referred to as special interest groups, pressure groups, grassroots organizations, or social movement organizations (Smith, 1996). According to Smith and Ferguson (2001), activists typically have two primary goals. First, and most recognizable, is the goal to rectify the conditions identified by the activist group. To do this, activists must draw attention to a problem, position themselves as legitimate advocates, and successfully argue for their recommended resolution to the problem (Crable & Vibbert, 1985; Heath, 1997; Vibbert, 1987). Through strategic communication, activist groups communicate their position on issues, solicit support for action and engage target organizations in policy discussions. The second goal of activists is to maintain the organized group established to pursue their purpose. Activist organizations must maintain membership, thrive in a competitive environment, and adjust to changes in that environment (Smith & Ferguson, 2001).

Authors: Page, Kelly.
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Responding to Activism (ICA-15-11621)
8
Ajzen (1975), traditional measures such as attitudes toward targets (people and/or institutions) affect
behavior only through the more proximal determinants of behavior specified by the model.
The researchers noted, however, that a number of conditions will affect the predictive power of the
reasoned action model. Most importantly, the level of specificity between behavior and intention must be
correlated as closely as possible in action, target, context, and time. In application, the measures regarding
beliefs, attitudes, and intentions must be similarly worded in terms of these factors. In addition, it is
important to note that the complete model does not have to be used for its individual predictions to be
supported. Many studies have stopped short of examining actual behavior due to the length of time
required to conduct such research.
The theory of reasoned action provides a comprehensive and well-tested framework for examining
the influence public relations strategies have on the beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions of
individuals. However, the theory specifies that these variables must be analyzed in the context of a
specific behavior. Since the issue of activism is considered to be of critical importance to public relations
scholars and practitioners (Smith & Ferguson, 2001), this study focuses on the influence public relations
strategies have on the beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions of individuals toward an organization
responding to activism.
Responding to Activism
The behavior of activist groups is a growing problem for organizations operating in today’s multi-
dimensional marketplace. An activist group is defined as two or more individuals who organize in order
to influence an organization through action—its members are committed to reaching their goals, which
may be political, economic, or social (L. Grunig, 1992). Activist groups attempt to influence public policy
to reach a common goal through the use of strategic communication. According to Smith (1997), the
primary purpose of activism is to influence public policy, organizational action, and social norms and
values. Organized activists are often referred to as special interest groups, pressure groups, grassroots
organizations, or social movement organizations (Smith, 1996).
According to Smith and Ferguson (2001), activists typically have two primary goals. First, and most
recognizable, is the goal to rectify the conditions identified by the activist group. To do this, activists
must draw attention to a problem, position themselves as legitimate advocates, and successfully argue for
their recommended resolution to the problem (Crable & Vibbert, 1985; Heath, 1997; Vibbert, 1987).
Through strategic communication, activist groups communicate their position on issues, solicit support
for action and engage target organizations in policy discussions. The second goal of activists is to
maintain the organized group established to pursue their purpose. Activist organizations must maintain
membership, thrive in a competitive environment, and adjust to changes in that environment (Smith &
Ferguson, 2001).


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