THE STRATEGY OF AGENDA SETTING:
Arrangement or setting of news, current affairs, items and documentary elements in a descending order of importance is called agenda setting. The process relates to the dynamics of coverage and to the structuring of what and how. Agenda setting is more concrete and dependable in broadcasting as compared to newspapers. It is because the items follow in a linear order in broadcasting and there is no alternative with the audience but to follow the agenda except by switching off the sets.
Paying attention to some issues and neglecting others will have an effect on • public opinion. People will tend to know about those things which the mass media deal with and adopt the order of priority assigned to different issues.
The best known of the more recent proponents of the agenda-setting hypothesis are the American researchers Malcolm McCombs and Donald Shaw (1972, 1976). The audience not only learns about public issues and other matters through the media, they also learn how much importance to attach to an issue or topic from the emphasis the mass media place upon it. For example, in reflecting what candidates are saying during a campaign, the mass media apparently determine the important issues. In other words the mass media may set the “agenda” of the campaign. This ability to affect cognitive change among individuals is one of the most important aspects of the power of mass communication.It has been the case that most of the agenda-setting research has concerned itself with election campaigns. In the typical modern election campaign it has become a common strategy to establish the ‘image’ of a given candidate by association with certain position on the perennial problems of a society and with certain special issues of the candidate’s choice. The theory is that if voters can be convinced that an issue is important, they will vote for the candidate or party which has been projected as most competent to deal with it.Although no specific theory has been developed to explain and predict public communication campaigns, a number of theoretical perspectives are regularly invoked to guide campaign strategies. The most comprehensive applicable conceptualizations are the social marketing framework and the Communication-Persuasion Matrix.
Public Opinion moulding with agenda setting across the spectrum of health, prosocial, and environmental domains share some similarities to commercial advertising Public Opinion moulding with agenda setting. Thus, it is useful to apply social marketing, which emphasizes an audience-centered consumer orientation and calculated attempts to attractively package the social product and utilize the optimum combination of campaign components to attain pragmatic goals (Andreasen, 1995, 2006; Kotler, Roberto, & Lee, 2002; McKenzie-Mohr, 2011). Social marketing offers a macro perspective, combining numerous components, notably the multifaceted conceptions of product, costs, and benefits, as well as audience segmentation, policy change, and competition (see Bracht & Rice in Chapter 20 and Rice & Robinson in Chapter 16). In McGuire’s (Chapter 9) classic Communication-Persuasion Matrix, or input–output model, the communication input variables include source, message, channel, and audience; these factors, which are central to most communication models, will be discussed at length in subsequent sections. The output process posits audience responses to campaign stimuli as proceeding through the basic stages of exposure and processing before effects can be achieved at the learning, yielding, and behavior levels. Exposure includes the simple reception of a message and the degree of attention to its content. Processing encompasses mental comprehension, pro- and counterarguing, interpretive perceptions, and cognitive connections and emotional reactions produced by the campaign message. Learning comprises information gain, generation of related cognitions, image formation, and skills acquisition. Yielding includes acquisition and change in attitudes, beliefs, and values. Behavior in the campaign context involves the bottom-line enactment of the actions recommended in messages.
Specific central theories that are applicable to various aspects of public communication campaign strategies, processes, and implementation include:
Agenda setting (McCombs, 2004). The phenomenon of topical salience applies to campaign impact on the perceived importance of societal problems and the prominence of policy issues. Diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2003). This theory introduces the ideas of relative advantage and trialability of recommended behaviors, and the individual adoption decision process, as well as opinion leadership that shapes diffusion through interpersonal channels and social networks via multistep flows. Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and Heuristic Systematic Model (HSM) (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). ELM and HSM highlight the role of audience involvement level as it shapes cognitive responses, thought generation, and central versus peripheral routes to persuasion. Extended Parallel Process Model (Stephenson & Witte, 2001). Effectiveness of fear appeals is enhanced by understanding cognitive processes that control danger versus emotional processes, which control the fear via denial or coping; perceived efficacy influences type of response.
Health Belief Model (HBM) (Becker, 1974). Several concepts from HBM pertain specifically to
the potency of health threat appeals: susceptibility multiplied by seriousness of consequences and the self-efficacy and response efficacy of performing the recommended behavior.
Instrumental learning (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). As adapted to mediated communication, this learning mechanism features message-related concepts of source credibility, reinforcement incentives, and repetition of presentation.
Integrative Theory of Behavior Change (Cappella, Fishbein, Hornik, Ahern, & Sayeed, 2001).
The multifaceted model integrates HBM, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to specify how external variables, individual differences, and underlying beliefs contribute to differential influence pathways for outcome behaviors, intentions, attitudes, norms, and self-efficacyMessage frames (O’Keefe & Jensen, 2007; Quick & Bates, 2010). This framework focuses on how message appeals are packaged in terms of gain-frame promotion of positive behavior versus loss-frame prevention of negative behavior, especially for audiences likely to display reactance. Self-Efficacy (Bandura, 1997). This key construct highlights the role of the individual’s perceived capability of successfully performing behaviors; those who are confident of carrying out recommended actions are more likely to attempt and sustain behavioral enactment efforts.
Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). SCT emphasizes the processes by which source role models, explicitly demonstrated behaviors, and depiction of vicarious reinforcement enhance the impact of mediated messages.
Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen, Albarracin, & Hornik, 1997).
The TRA and the ensuing Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) formulate a combination of personal attitudes, perceived norms of influential others, and motivation to comply as predictors of intended behavior. A key underlying mechanism is based on the expectancy–value equation , which postulates attitudes are predicted by beliefs about the likelihood that given behavior leads to certain consequences, multiplied by one’s evaluation of those consequences.
Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). This stage-of-progression model identifies subaudiences on the basis of their stage in the process of behavior change with respect to a specific health behavior (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance), which shapes the readiness to attempt, adopt, or sustain the recommended behavior.
Uses and gratifications (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Rubin, 2002). This offers concepts useful in understanding audience motivations for selecting particular media, attending to media messages, and utilizing learned information in enacting behaviors.