This is only a half-baked thought - better than a quarter-baked thought - but possibly not ready for public consumption.
Nonetheless, I'm curious to whether and how my fellow communicators apply persuasion theory to PR strategies and content.
One such theory - the Elaboration Likelihood Continuum - is described below, explaining that in some cases people invest a good deal of time thinking about information as they make decisions, and in others they rely on social, visual or linguistic cues or short cuts to reach an opinion or form an attitude. It's a continuum because we often shift back and forth, depending on the question, our state of mind and how much time, energy or other resources are available to us to work things out.
I'm no psychologist or in any position to analyse this theory over others, but it does make me wonder how much of our message development and strategic planning considers the 'back end' of the communications process - how messages are actually processed in the mind.
Most PR content is focused on the front end, getting the word out and noticed. We focus more on earning the attention (and cooperation) of journalists, editors, broadcasters, aggregators, etc. through content that is newsworthy enough in one way or another to justify sharing. Or we create content that can be shared directly through social media from person to person.
As a result, front-loaded content takes on features that get it 'out there,' but may lack the elements that make it work once inside the mind.
My guess is that the most successful - that is, persuasive - content and strategies are layered, designed to cut through, sink in and address high-information needs while reinforcing with frequent low-information cues.
What do you think? Are we good at this? And if so, why don't we describe our work this way, rather than in how much coverage it generates?
However, Cacioppo and Petty (1980) noted that due to limited cognitive resources, the amount of elaboration (or thoughtful attention) that people are willing and/or able to invest in decision-making varies with the individual and the situation. When making a decision, there is often not enough time or mental capacity to fully analyze important aspects of persuasive arguments. In these instances, people tend to rely on other cues to make decisions (Cafferata & Tybout, 1989). This notion of limited cognitive resources is essential to the ELM and has since been elaborated to form what is called the “Elaboration Continuum”.