Vast amounts of money, time and effort are expended yearly to warn consumers of the health risks and potential dangers in certain products, as well as educate them on the benefits of patronizing other items. In the US alone, the government allots $1 billion per year to the Office of National Drug Control Policy to underwrite information and prevention campaigns in mass media on the ill-effects of tobacco, alcohol and against unsafe behaviors like unprotected sex, driving without seatbelt and breaking the prescribed speed limits…
This type of business communication comes under the heading Public Service Announcements (PSAs), which are carried out to foster healthful behavior among consumers. It is one thing to prepare and mount such a communication campaign; it is another matter as to whether such campaigns are invariably effective in changing the minds and habits of consumers, which are often deep-seated. Studies show that not all campaigns to communicate risks to consumers in fact yield the desired results (Rucker & Petty, 2006). The failed efforts include even those that were prepared with great to-do, contained all the proper information, and were implemented at huge expense. There is a rich literature on strategic business communication that examines in vivid detail why most PSAs fail to connect with consumers and why a few others do. One of the more successful health-oriented business communication campaigns is the PSA that links fiber intake with colon cancer prevention, resulting in an increased public awareness of the once ignored fiber supplements (Thrasher, et al., 2004). Another anti-smoking PSA that specifically targets adolescents has substantially achieved its objective of reducing the incidence of smoking among young adults in America (Hainkin, et al., 1998).
The purpose of this discursive essay then is to draw from the existing literature on business communication the strategic mix that holds greater promise of increasing the effectiveness of risk communication to consumers. Having zeroed in on the choices, the essay proceeds to support their increased use in PSAs, moving on to defend these particular strategies against any and all objections from academic reviewers that may impute some flaws in them.
Persuasion Through Advertising
A health communication campaign is believed influential if it employs the psychology of persuasion through advertising, which is more elaborate and expensive. This clashes with the more popular view that package warning labels incorporating all the necessary information and warning will serve the purpose, at less cost and effort. Remember that the bottom line in every risk communication program is to change consumers' attitudes and behavior, a complex task that calls for designing methods that would yield optimal results (Stewart & Martin, 1994). The warning label strategy was primarily used in the anti-smoking campaigns in public places in some American states and in a nationwide alert against alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Both communication programs failed to realize measurable results (Pechmann & Reibling, 2000; Hainkin, et al., 1998).
A cursory observation of consumer behavior shows that few if any read product labels for their risk content. For most consumers, product labels, as in the case of food products, are generally a source of information for their nutritional elements. It follows that a health warning squeezed into the product label is less likely to be noticed. On the other hand, a health warning disseminated through the regular modes of ...
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