From eyeballs to behaviour change

With so many public relations campaigns simultaneously spouting “green” messages, it is good to hear of  local councils working together in ‘s blog.   

talks about “” in relations to internal communications, and I’m sure most of us feel overloaded by, not just the volume of messages vying for our attention, but the repetition from many different sources.

What is nice about the campaign in the Midlands noted by Caroline is that not only were budgets pooled (and support gained from Warwickshire Energy Efficiency Advice Centre), but there were measurable outcomes in relation to the aim of encouraging residents and businesses to ‘switch-off’ electrical equipment left on standby.  

All too often public relations practitioners and their dozens of forgettable campaigns aim to achieve “awareness”.  This is particularly ridiculous when there is no evaluation of a current level of awareness – and no attempt to measure it after the campaign, apart from the volume of press coverage with the assumption that must mean more people are aware.

It is simplistic to assume that “awareness” (even if it is achieved) will automatically lead to a change in knowledge, understanding or, most importantly, behaviour.

Yes, we need to ensure people recognise problems, ensuring latent publics become aware – but too many awareness campaigns clutter up already overloaded communication channels.

 Once we’ve got the initial message that there is a problem (we know about the planet, smoking, obesity, yadeyadeyade), surely the purpose of public relations should be to help people make necessary changes.

Rather than counting the number of “eyeballs” that have potentially seen our messages, we need to focus on  winning hearts and minds, which also means using our ears to listen to why people who are aware publics are not yet active ones.

Do they feel a lack of involvement – or maybe they believe their efforts will make little difference.  Possibly there are other problems beyond communications that need to be addressed before behaviour change can result.

Would a little less Chicken Licken “sky falling on our heads” awareness be a more productive use of public relations skills?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “From eyeballs to behaviour change”

  1. I think people think och, that’s not really anything to do with me and switch off. I do think communications needs to be honed for each set of publics better. Awareness as you say is as imeasureable as who it is that’s actually supposed to sit up and become active.

    Our school wanted to get a few more parents on board to join our new council. The communication that was going home to parents was too wordy, too generic and too distant. We decided to get each child to write a standard letter home to mum or dad, whoever it may be, in their own handwriting asking for them to become involved for just two hours a month. They added with love from Harry, etc xxxx at the end.

    We’ve broken down the formal barriers that previously prevented parents to becoming involved. It’s going out soon, fingers crossed it gets a response.

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