Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Liu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Mitrook, Ph.D.


safety communication, public relations process model, situational theory of publics, theory of reasoned action, organizational activism


This study explored the effect of public relations message strategies on beliefs,attitudes, and behavioral intentions of individuals regarding boater safety. An experiment was conducted using seven safety messages. Specifically, Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1975) theory of reasoned action and J.E. Grunig’s (1997) situational theory of publics were used to examine the communication effects of message strategies proposed by Hazleton and Long’s (1988) public relations process model.The findings of this study support the predictions of the theory of reasoned action—that salient beliefs predict attitude toward behavior and attitude toward behavior and subjective norm predict behavioral intent. Of the three attitude items measured—attitude toward message, attitude toward issue, and attitude toward organization—salient beliefs had the greatest effect on the attitude toward issue measure. Subjective norm was shown to be the stronger predictor of the three attitude items.In addition, support was found for the predictions of the situational theory of publics. The independent variables—problem recognition, constraint recognition, and level of involvement—were found to predict information seeking behaviors. However, the use of public relations message strategies in boater safety communication produced minimal effects on the same variables. It was determined that the power strategies, threat and punishment and promise and reward, would be most effective when communicating to a passive public such as the sample tested in this study. This study is significant to public relations literature because it examined how active boaters and non-boaters perceive safety messages. There appeared to be no research on the use of safe boating messages. Thus, there was no research on how public relations messages about boater safety affect boaters’ attitudes, awareness, and behavioral intentions prior to the implementation of this study. Determining effective boater safety messages will help to reduce boater accidents, injuries, and fatalities in years to come (U.S. Coast Guard, 2009), making this study both necessary and original.