Public relations and environmental psychology

considers the relationship between people and their surroundings and according to Wikipedia, it

draws on work in a number of disciplines including anthropology, geography, ekistics, sociology, psychology, history, political science, planning, architecture, and urban design.

But not public relations.  This is a topic that marketing has considered at times – such as store layout or the use of aroma to influence customer behaviour.

The trigger for considering this topic was a conversation yesterday with who is a PhD research student at Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, De Montfort University, Leicester (and formerly a lecturer in public relations).

She is studying the “potential power of PR to change people’s behaviour around the issue of recycling and other green living”.   Caroline has been surprised to learn of a large body of knowledge from other disciplines that could be of use to public relations professionals in this respect. 

Environmental psychologists such as Dr Doug McKenzie-Mohr have produced some interesting materials looking at Fostering Sustainable Behavior.  The resources aim “to use community-based social marketing to design and evaluate programs to foster sustainable behavior.”

Caroline pointed out there is a real lack of knowledge and understanding of how public relations, and its theoretical and practical underpinnings, could contribute towards achieving public behaviour change – a key goal of environmental psychology.

Not surprising perhaps with the general image of PR as being one-way publicity or press agentry – but another reason why we need to ensure we champion the strategic benefits.  Or, as Caroline is discovering, others will be filling the need that public relations could deliver.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Public relations and environmental psychology”

  1. I think that this is a matter of interest. I also have to agree that PR pros are not fully aware of the two-way communication and is more focused with the one way strategy.

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