Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly Werder, Ph.D.


Message strategies, Situational theory of publics, Theory of reasoned action, Activism, Public relations process model


Utilizing communication and activist organization perspectives, this empirical study examined activist message strategies and how they influence variables related to the receiver of activist communication. Specifically, J.E. Grunig's (1997) situational theory of publics and Fishbein and Ajzen's (1975) theory of reasoned action were used to explain the communication effects of the seven activist message strategies developed from Hazleton and Long's (1988) public relations process model. The findings of this study support the premise of situational theory of publics and contribute to the extension of the theory through the inclusion of goal compatibility as a predictor of information seeking behavior and the use of alternative items to operationalize information seeking behavior, such as visiting a Web site. Only partial support was found for the predictions of the theory of reasoned action.

Attitude toward behavior was not found to have a significant influence on behavioral intent. However, the importance of subjective norm to the prediction of behavioral intent was reiterated. Also, the proposition that message strategies influence behavioral intent via their influence on attitude toward strategy was supported. Finally, results of this study partially supported the hypothesis that receiver variables are influenced by activist message strategies. Problem recognition, goal compatibility, attitude toward strategy, and attitude toward behavior were found to be affected by activist message strategies. Problem recognition was influenced most by the persuasive strategy, goal compatibility was most influenced by the threat and punishment strategy, and attitude toward strategy and attitude toward behavior were both influenced most by the cooperative problem-solving strategy.

Overall, the results of this research suggest that, of the seven activist message strategies, activist organizations will be most successful using persuasive and coercive strategies. This important finding offers a recommendation to activist organizations regarding the most effective strategy to use in message development.