The Effectiveness of Mass Communication to Change Public Behavior

Media campaigns are widely used to try and change the behavior of the population . Most of those campaigns have targeted, but not limited to health isues such as tobacco users, sexual behaviors, child abuse, road safety, illicit drug, alcohol use and enviromental conservation. Mass media interventions carry messages that aim to influence people directly or indirectly. In a large population, these campaigns might result in positive changes and prevent people from developing negative related behaviors.

  1. Large Audiences

    • Mass media tools such as television, radio, billboards, magazines, newspapers and posters are effective in passing messages that persuade people to refrain from indulging in negative behavior such as polluting water. Typically, vital messages aimed at changing public behavior are placed in those media that have the potential of reaching a large audience. The emergence of other communication platforms, such as the Internet, where such messages can be posted on websites, blogs and relayed through email, has offered flexible and influential tools, through which different audiences receive valuable information.


    • Media campaigns may be carried out for long or short periods of time. The media repeatedly disseminate clear behavioral messages to the audience with the aim of invoking change. Repetition of the same concise behavioral message in mass media for a period of time might be successful in persuading people from indulging in negative practices such as drunk driving. For effective transmission of the information, these messages must be structured to suit the target audience. Avoid using inappropriate language or boring messages that might put people off.

    Direct Influence

    • Media interventions are successfully used in targeting people affected by a particular issue with an aim of invoking an emotional and cognitive response in those individuals. These messages affect individual decision making by highlighting the anticipated outcomes resulting from a certain behavioral change. For example, a campaign on alcohol abuse might emphasize the benefits of quitting, risks of drinking and provide a help line for people willing to change. The campaign might also highlight the social benefits associated with quitting drinking, with an aim of appealing to the viewer.


    • Behavioral changes in individuals might be invoked indirectly using mass media interventions, through carrying out discussions that target a certain behavior such as environmental conservation. Media interventions reach large audiences and might invoke changes in an individual within a social network. This transformation might in turn appeal to other people within the network, resulting in behavioral change even if they aren't directly exposed to the message. For example, an alcohol abuser who quits drinking through watching televised messages, might encourage others to form a social group to beat the habit, even if they haven't seen the messages themselves.

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