Persuasion and public opinion – communications

The basic objective to most public relations programs is to change or neutralize hostile opinions, to crystallize unformed or latent opinions, or to conserve favourable opinions by reinforcing them. This is done through persuasion. Primarily a communications process, persuasion is an effort to convey information in such a way as to get people to revise old pictures in their heads, or form new ones, and thus change their behaviour.

Channel – The means or pathway through which a message is transmitted from source to receiver.

Connotative meaning – The emotional or evaluative meaning we read into words because of our experience and background.

Context – The communications setting.

Denotative meaning – The common dictionary meaning of a word, generally accepted by most people with the same language and culture.

Effect – The outcome of communications.

Feedback – The return of information to the source of a message.

Field of experience – Each person’s storehouse of experiences.

Gatekeeper – A person who has the power to control and direct the flow of information as well as the ability to limit, expand, emphasize or interpret that information.

Message – The content of the communicative act.

Multiple channel approach – Communicating a message through a variety of channels, including various mass media, personal conversation, meetings, etc.

Noise – Anything that interferes with the ability to send or receive messages.

Receiver – The person who is the target (intended or unintended) of the source’s efforts during the communication process.

Semantics – The study of the meanings of speech forms, especially of the development and changes in meaning of words and word groups.

Source – The person who originates and transmits a message to others during the communication process.

Stereotypes – Fixed, unchanging mental images that embrace all that is believed to be typical of members of a given group. When we make use of stereotypes, we categorize people or things without regard for their individual characteristics.

Theory of cognitive dissonance – A person’s tendency to avoid information that is dissonant or opposed to her or his own point of view. Tending to seek out information that is consonant or in support of one’s own attitudes.

Threshold of consciousness – This must be reached before an idea becomes a factor in the attitude of an individual or group. The process through which a concept passes from complete obscurity through the various stages of awareness in one’s mind.