Theories of Communication A message may move from the sender through the media to the receiver without necessarily conveying ideas and getting them accepted. Yet ideas do get accepted, and there are several theories about how this is done.
104 The two-step flow theory assumes that there is a definite group of "opinion leaders" who get information from the media, analyze and interpret it, and then pass it along to the public. The theory fails due to the fact that no permanent group of people serves as opinion leaders on all subjects. The multistep flow theory holds that there are opinion leaders on many different subjects and that they have varying degrees of influence. The opinion group theory is fairly well accepted. It recognizes opinion leaders but does not assume that they are the sole influence on the formation of public opinion. The basic emphasis is on the function of discussion in crystallizing opinion. People of similar interests discuss mutual problems and arrive at common conclusions. People try to conform to group opinion and to avoid disagreement with the majority. Anyone may belong to several groups — at work, at church, at leisure. Grouping maybe by age, occupation, place of residence, and soon. Whenever there is a common interest, there is formal or informal grouping. The diffusion theory was developed in the s. It holds that there are five steps in the process of acquiring new ideas Awareness — the person discovers the idea. Interest — the person tries to get more information. Trial — the person tries the idea on others. Evaluation — the person decides whether the idea is in his or her own self- interest. Adoption — the person incorporates the idea into his or her opinion. In this model, the public relations writer is most influential at the awareness and interest stages of the process. People, for example, often become aware of a product, service, or idea through traditional mass outletssuch as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. Indeed, the primary purpose of advertising in the mass media is to create awareness, the first step in moving people toward the purchase of a product or support of an idea. At the interest stage, more direct media — pamphlets, brochures, direct mail, videotape presentations, even conferences and symposiums — play an important role. Once awareness has been created, people turn to more detailed information in these direct media channels. The hierarchy-of-needs theory has been applied in a number of disciplines, including communication. It is based on the work of Abraham H.Maslow, who listed basic human needs on a scale from basic survival to more complex ones Physiological needs. These are the constituents of self-preservation. They include air, water, food, clothing, shelter, rest, and health — the minimum necessities of life.
105 Safety needs. These comprise protection against danger, loss of life or property, restriction of activity, and loss of freedom. Social needs. These include acceptance by others, belonging to groups, and enjoying both friendship and love. Ego needs. These include self-esteem, self-confidence, accomplishment, status, recognition, appreciation, and the respect of others. Self-fulfilment needs. These represent the need to grow to one's full stature — simply as a human being or in terms of some special talent, gift, or interest. Effective messages carry components of these needs from the standpoint of helping people achieve them in someway. In sum we're talking about the self- interest of the audience. Indeed, if you can keep in mind the self-interest of your target audiences when formulating messages, you will bean effective communicator. Most public relations activity is aimed at lower-level needs because people are generally more concerned about their families, jobs, and homes than they are about more abstract goals. Economics may get most of the attention, but don't forget that there are many people who do have non-economic interests.