Degree Granting Department
Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.
Scott Liu, Ph.D.
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.
Scholar Commons Citation
Guilfoil, Emily N., "Nautical Knowledge: An Experimental Analysis of the Influence of Public Relations Strategies in Safe Boating Communication" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.