Public communication campaigns

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  • Dr. Rasha Salama
  • PhD. Community Medicine and Public Health
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Suez Canal University-Egypt

PUBLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGNS What are Public Communication Campaigns ?

Public Communication Campaigns

  • Public communications campaigns impart ideas for a strategic purpose.
  • They are an attempt to shape behavior toward desirable social outcomes.


  • “ Public communication campaigns are campaigns that use the media, messaging, and an organized set of communication activities to generate specific outcomes in a large number of individuals and in a specified period of time.”


  • Campaigns maximize their chances of success through the coordination of media efforts with a mix of other interpersonal and community-based communication channels.
  • “May involve a conventional mix of brochures, posters, advertisements, and commercials or a different array of communication methods” for the purpose of achieving certain objectives.
  • Communications campaigns use a variety of techniques and strategies in hopes of improving individual lives and making the world a better place.

What are the different types of campaigns?

There are two main types of campaigns:

  • Individual behavior change campaigns: that try to change in individuals the behaviors that lead to social problems or promote behaviors that lead to improved individual or social well-being;
  • Public will campaigns: that attempt to mobilize public action for policy change. A public will campaign attempts to legitimize or raise the importance of a social problem in the public eye as the motivation for policy action or change

Knowledge versus Behavior

  • Knowledge Alone Does Not Alter Behavior
    • With some limited exceptions, people already know what they should be doing
    • Simply telling them what to do rarely creates change
    • Behavior is shaped by factors such as:
      • available range of choices
      • social reinforcement and approval (norms)
      • rules (laws and policies)
      • ease/difficulty (benefits and barriers)
      • cost (economic and otherwise)

Communication Campaigns Theories

  • What are the theories that public health communication campaigns are based on?

Communication campaigns theories

  • Theory of Reasoned Action
      • a given behavior is primarily determined by the intention to perform that behavior.
  • Social Cognitive Theory
      • self-efficacy – the belief that one has the skills and abilities necessary to perform the behavior under various circumstances – and motivation to perform the behavior, are necessary for behavior change.
  • Health Belief Model
      • Based on: 1) a feeling of being personally threatened by a disease, and 2) a belief that the benefits of adopting the protective health behavior will outweigh the perceived costs of it.
  • Stages of Change Model
      • This model views behavior change as a sequence of actions or events.

Theory of Reasoned Action

Social Cognitive Theory

Health Belief Model

Trans-theoretical Stages of Change Model

Evaluation of Campaigns

  • What is it?
  • What are the types?


  • It is simply:
  • “Assessing the impact and value of communication activities”

“Front-End” Versus “Back-End” Evaluation

  • Evaluation can be categorized into four basic types. The next table presents each, along with their definitions and the sorts of evaluation questions that each type may address (National Cancer Institute, 1992).
  • The first type—formative evaluation—represents front-end evaluation; the last three types—process, outcome, and impact evaluation—represent back-end evaluation.

Pathway of Communication Campaigns:

What are the characteristics of effective campaigns

Campaign Logic Model Template

Public communication campaigns obstacles and stumbling block:

  • Campaigns have horizontal and vertical complexity;
  • Their interventions are unpredictable;
  • Context and other factors confound outcomes;
  • Control or comparison groups are difficult to create;
  • There is a lack of knowledge and precision about outcomes;
  • Evaluators lack the necessary tools.

Ambiguity between goals and actions

  • Despite these distinctions, a campaign’s tactics don’t always line up with stated goals. There may be several reasons for the ambiguities:
  • Timing. Pushing for specific policy change may be premature for an audience that does not see the problem as a significant – or public – one. For domestic or sexual violence in particular, advocates may have decided that the public needed to be convinced first that the problem extends beyond a basic victim/perpetrator conceptualization. Only then could advocates rally the public to apply sufficient pressure for institutional- or social policy-change.
  • Mixed goals. A campaign may have both individual change- and public policy-oriented goals. Given the relative scarcity of full-time public will or policy campaigns, any public policy component may be enough to land a campaign on the policy side of the continuum

Ambiguity between goals and actions (cont.):

  • Working behind the scenes. A campaign may indeed have a policy change emphasis – it just may not be public. That is, the public face of the campaign may stress individual behavior change while advocates work behind the scenes to change policy.
  • Universal approach. Lastly, researchers may tend to characterize a campaign as “public will” simply because it takes a universal approach to a problem. If the campaign never makes the leap to institutional or policy change, it probably shouldn’t be classified as such.


  • Coffman, J. (2002, May). Public communication campaign evaluation: An environmental scan of challenges, criticisms, practice, and opportunities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.
  • Public Communication Campaigns, Rice, Ronald E. & Atkin, Charles K. (eds.), Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, 2001, pg. 5.
  • Coffman, J. (2003). Lessons in evaluating communications campaigns: Five case studies. Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved 28 August 2008 from:
  • National Cancer Institute (1992). Making health communication programs work: A planner’s guide [Electronic version]. Washington, DC: Author.

Thank You

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