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Personal Blog Hiatus

For the last several months, I’ve been contributing to the Vox Public Relations Public Affairs blog about public relations, marketing and branding concepts. For the time being, I will postpone posting on my personal blog, so that I can focus my time and effort on Vox’s blog. I will resume blogging on Strategic PReparation in the near future. In the meantime, please visit Vox’s blog for company happenings and public relations news.



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How PR Can Close Curiosity’s Gap

Why do we sit through painfully dull movies?

Subtract the following factors from your answer:

  • You are on a first date with someone who adores lengthy documentaries on banana slugs’ sleep patterns.
  • You are in a film class or doing research for a client, and either your grade or paycheck depends on a film review.
  • You are in bed sick with the flu, and the remote is in the other room.

We are left with a fairly simple answer: Not knowing the conclusion of a terrible movie is often more painful than sitting through it all together. Chip and Dan Heath describe this experience as “having an itch that we need to scratch” in their book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” The itch (“gap theory” of curiosity) is examined in chapter two of the book.

Behavioral economist George Loewenstein explains that curiosity occurs when we feel a gap in our own knowledge. The reason we sit through a dull movie is because we want to find out what happens.

To close gaps we need to open them first. Normally, PR practitioners start any communication effort by providing the facts. However, receivers of the information must first realize they need the facts. According to Loewenstein, receivers respond the most when they recognize a gap in their knowledge before learning the facts. Practitioners can simply pose a question, draw attention to someone who knows the answer, present situations with unknown conclusions (e.g., elections) or challenge a prediction.

The process of opening knowledge gaps can be seen everywhere. Televised news segments lure viewers in with, “How do you protect yourself against car theft?” and magazine headlines tease readers with such statements as, “This doctor knows how to beat holiday weight gain.”

Once a knowledge gap has been opened, it can be closed just as quickly with the facts. A teaser here and there can encourage receivers to participate in the communication process.

Open the gap: Why do we sit through a painfully dull movie about banana slugs’ sleeping patterns?

Close the gap: Because not knowing how and why they sleep is more painful than sitting through it.

(Information provided in this blog post is from “Unexpected,” chapter two of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. Image provided by David Phillips’ blog “Ahem: Oh, I was just saying…”)


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How Severe is that Message?


“It is estimated that one woman dies from cardiovascular disease every 30 seconds.”

Imagine you are an obese 65-year-old Caucasian woman. Do the image and message make you feel at risk of getting heart disease, let alone die from it? You probably read the statement, see the image and feel the issue’s heaviness. Somehow though, you feel disconnected. It’s unlikely you think, “This could happen to me.” The overall message lacks severity, which is why you can’t relate to it.

The Extended Parallel Processing Model suggests that health risk messages elicit some form of message processing by receivers. The model emphasizes the relationships among threat, efficacy and fear in terms of the four components in a successful health plan: susceptibility, severity, response efficacy and self efficacy. The success of a health message depends on all four components; however, one’s level of susceptibility and severity determines whether he or she will understand, relate, or even listen to a message. Without a high level of perceived threat or vulnerability, one will see no reason to change his or her behaviors.

According to the EPPM, severity is one’s measurement of a threat and how serious it is in relation to him or her. One will assess a risk, typically in the form of a health-related message, and pose the question, “Could I be significantly harmed by this threat?” If yes, one will be motivated to follow the message and consider the suggested solution for prevention. If no, one will ignore the message and risk entirely.

The Heart Truth, a campaign aimed to inform women of their risk of cardiovascular disease, utilized well-known celebrities (primarily youthful, slim Caucasian women) and high-fashion clothing (including pricey Diane von Furstenberg dresses that cost $500 on average) to catch women’s attention (The fashion show was one of many tactics the campaign used to relay its message). Interestingly, those most at risk of heart disease are women 65 or older, black or Hispanic, obese and with a fixed income. Although this tactic was gaining authority by employing well-known public figures, celebrities typically look far different from those at risk of heart disease. This is not to say the campaign didn’t do well: Statistically, women’s overall awareness of cardiovascular disease as the number one killer of women increased to 57 percent from 34 percent in 2000, making an obvious impact on the target audience.

When evaluating a health-related message, it is important to recognize consistency within the message. Equally valuable is recognizing if the target audience can relate to the message enough to feel at risk. Seeing a thin, youthful actress jetting down a runway probably won’t help an overweight, 65-year-old woman change her lifestyle habits that put her at risk for heart disease. However, a 65-year-old woman in a red dress could.


Keep yourself in the assumed role of a 65-year-old Caucasian woman and look at this image and message.

“It is estimated that one woman dies from cardiovascular disease every 30 seconds.”

How do you perceive your level of threat now?

(Information provided in this blog post is from “Putting It All Together,” chapter three of “Effective Health Risk Messages: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Dennis Martell, Gary Meyer and Kim Witte. Top image provided by entertainment blog, “Hot Celebs Home.” Bottom image provided by the University of Michigan School of Public Health’s Findings Magazine.)


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Social Marketing and Its Successful Application in Public Relations Campaigns


Behind the seemingly pushy and money-focused exterior, salespeople often utilize thoughtful, strategic methods to market their products. Automobile market researchers, for example, closely analyze the wants and needs of a particular audience, using the audience’s preferences and attitudes to craft a product and its subsequent campaign. This detailed environmental research, also known as social marketing, is as commonplace in public relations as it is in the business and marketing worlds. If used properly, public relations practitioners can target specific audiences, creating focused, well-researched campaigns.

Social marketing’s purpose is to encourage audiences to adopt social concepts or values. A concept or value is pushed and marketed the same way a car would be by utilizing the “Four Ps”: product, price, promotion and place.

  • Product = desired behavior of the target audience
  • Price = costs related to adopting desired response
  • Promotion = compensation for the costs of adopting the desired response
  • Place = availability of information regarding the desired response

Traditionally, social marketing applies for-profit marketing tactics to pro-social health development programs. For example, The Way to Clean Air campaign aimed to reduce air pollution by telling Toronto residents how to lessen their carbon footprint. After detailed environmental research regarding several different audiences, educational programs were implemented in schools, online and in the workplace. The “Four Ps” of The Way to Clean Air campaign were clearly outlined and accessible to residents, making the campaign’s outcome both successful and easily measurable.

  • Product = decrease air pollution
  • Price = use of energy efficient methods versus traditional energy methods
  • Promotion = application of tangible incentives (e.g., prizes and awards)
  • Place = availability of educational materials (e.g., brochures, leaflets and school curriculum activities)

The Way to Clean Air example illustrates social marketing at its best. It is through detailed research and an organized, strategic method that public relations practitioners can design focused campaigns. In addition to being well-constructed, The Way to Clean Air campaign contributed to significant energy and pollution reduction in the Toronto area. Social marketing is just one of many methods known for garnering such results and widespread practice.

(Information provided in this blog post is from “Useful Concepts from Other Theories,” chapter four of “Effective Health Risk Messages: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Dennis Martell, Gary Meyer and Kim Witte. Image provided by Francis Anderson’s blog, “Making a Connection.”)

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Welcome to Strategic PReparation

100_0242My name is Adrienne Webb, and I am a senior at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. I graduate in December, marking the start of a new era with new aspirations. It was not so long ago that my main goal was to graduate, and now that I have nearly accomplished it I feel both liberated and hungry for a much larger, demanding goal. Understanding social media should do the trick.

Recently, I went to Chicago for several informational interviews with PR firms and agencies. It was from these interviews that I developed a new awareness and appreciation for social media, as every one of my interviewers gave me the same bit of sage advice: “One of the biggest things we look for in entry-level applicants is social media experience. We want to see that you know your way around the digital world, and we will want you to prove it.” With this in mind, I saw a new challenge in sight. I decided to dive into the world of social media, actively engaging in blogs and following the realms of delicious, LinkedIn and Twitter.

This blog will not only facilitate my desire to utilize social media platforms, but it will also allow me to explore my interests within the PR industry. I aim to examine theories and strategies commonly practiced in PR and how they are properly applied or fatally ignored in campaigns. This blog’s content is intended for budding PR practitioners who are eager to join the ranks of their current or potential colleagues.

I look forward to the research and analyses ahead, as well as to my leap into unfamiliar territory: the world of social media.

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