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Communicating to Change Behaviour - Public Education and PR

As public relations practitioners, our daily roles centre on managing favourable public perceptions of our clients. We use a variety of tactics and mediums to do so, however, when it comes to public education campaigns, the very perceptions we spend so much time trying to shape must be converted into tangible changes in behaviour in order to be successful.

This is an exciting time to be a PR professional. Given the right campaign planning and implementation, our field has the potential to bring about positive and long-lasting social changes. We have the potential to make a real difference benefitting society, not to mention kick the stereotype of the typical ‘PR Princess’ - yes, we all know us PR people can get a bad wrap! With so many local and international crises going on, there is no better time that now for us to really use our profession for the greater good.

For example, we could tackle the environmental issue of littering in Barbados. The goal of our behaviour change campaign could be to educate the public on how to responsibly dispose of their garbage and thus reduce the amount of visible rubbish on local streets. A traditional PR campaign would certainly bring about a change in public perception about littering, however if there is no change in overall littering behaviour, your public education venture has failed.

In order to bring about sustained behaviour change, you must study your target audience in depth to find out what motivates them, and what is going to inspire them to act. Your campaign must be grounded in research, your key messages carefully crafted, and your communications delivered in such a way (and at such a time) that motivates your stakeholders to modify their behaviour, not just their perceptions.

Not surprisingly, theories behind communicating to change behaviour are also strongly associated with behavioural science and the field of psychology. The Institute for Public Relations suggests that if PR professionals were to look at behavioural research, it would actually guide us to much better communications solutions.

In fact, it can be said that if we turn directly to behavioural psychology we can gain a better insight into the link between communications and successful behaviour change. For example, behavioural psychology suggests all human behaviour is primarily learnt. So, like with any learning, changing behaviour via communications practices is going to be an ongoing process.

Therefore, our public education communications campaigns should have long-term using diverse strategies that will continually reinforce the desired behaviour and ensure the sustainability and ultimate success of the project.

Let us help you with your next public education campaign. Book your free consultation with us today! 

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