The ORE of Communication will be available for subscription in late September. Speak to your Oxford representative or contact us to find out more.

Dismiss
Show Summary Details

Page of

 PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, COMMUNICATION (communication.oxfordre.com). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 19 September 2017

Publics Approaches to Health and Risk Message Design and Processing

Summary and Keywords

The concept of publics and related notions such as receivers, audiences, stakeholders, mass, markets, target groups, and the public sphere are central to any discussion of formal communication programs between organizations or other strategic communicators and the individuals or groups with which they strive to communicate. The concept explains why individuals and collectivities of individuals are motivated to communicate for themselves (to seek or otherwise acquire information), with similar individuals to form organized groups, and with formal organizations to make demands on those organizations or to shape the behavior of the organizations. Theories of publics originated in the 1920s as the result of debates over the nature of citizen participation in a democracy, the role of the mass media in forming public opinion, the role of public relations practitioners in the process, and the effects of communicated messages on publics, audiences, and other components of society. J. Grunig developed a situational theory of publics in the 1960s that has served as the most prominent theory of publics for 50 years, and J.-N. Kim and J. Grunig recently have expanded that theory into a situational theory of problem solving. These theories have been used to identify and segment types of publics, to explain the communication behaviors of those publics, to conceptualize the effects of formal communication programs, to understand the cognitive processes of members of publics, and to explain the development of activist groups. Other scholars have suggested additions to these theories or alternatives to more thoroughly explain how communication takes place between members of publics and to identify latent publics that are largely ignored in the situational theories.

Keywords: publics, audiences, stakeholders, public opinion, situational theory of publics, situational theory of problem solving, information seeking, information attending, information sharing, communication effects, segmentation, activist groups, identity, discourse publics

Origins of the Concept of Public

The term “public” has been a part of concepts such as public opinion, public relations, public affairs, and the public sphere for at least 100 years. In the 1920s, Walter Lippmann and John Dewey debated about the nature of “publics” or “the public” and their role in a democracy (Garcia, 2010). Both Lippmann and Dewey rejected the prevalent notion of the day that “the public” was a fixed body of individuals who participated in democratic institutions, attended to information in the media, and formed opinions on the issues of the day. Both agreed that there were multiple publics that became active in situations where their self-interests were at stake. Lippmann, however, believed that publics essentially were spectators who were malleable and easily manipulated by actors such as government, corporations, or the media. These actors could use messages and symbols to create pictures in the heads of publics, which Lippmann called stereotypes. Both Lippmann and public relations pioneer, Edward L. Bernays (1923) believed that well-intentioned actors in the government, corporations, and other institutions could, and had the responsibility to, persuade and manipulate public opinion so that publics would behave in a way that served their own interests as well as the interest of society at large. For Bernays, this was the role of the public relations counselor.

Dewey, in contrast, envisioned publics as more active participants in democracy. To Dewey, publics arose when actors such as government or corporations made decisions that had consequences for people who were not involved in the decision, who recognized those consequences as problems, and who communicated with others experiencing the same problems in order to organize into an active public (Dewey, 1927, pp. 12–13). As publics became organized, according to Dewey, they formed the state. Allport (1989) described Dewey’s thinking well:

A public, instead of being a mystical entity or the expression of social instinct, is nothing but the by-product of social activity between individuals. So long as A and B have direct private transactions, no public is involved. But let the consequences of their transactions extend beyond their own lives, affecting the lives and welfare of others, and a public, based on common interest, springs into being. In itself, such a public is unorganized and formless, comprised merely of common segments of certain individuals’ interests. One public is created by the existence of motor cars, another by the existence of schools, another by the practice of taxation. (p. 285)

Thus, publics come into existence as aggregations of individuals facing common problems; and these disaggregated publics make up most of the publics segmented by professional communicators today. However, Dewey also believed that actors (both organizations and organized publics) had the obligation to subordinate their private interests for the good of all and that actively participating publics constituted the state. Thus, Dewey suggested that these individuals should organize into what today we know as activist groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or actively communicating and organizing groups of individuals that rhetorical scholars define as publics (Cozier & Witmer, 2001; Leitch & Neilson, 2001; Vasquez & Taylor, 2001).

In his book on public opinion, Price (1992) pointed out that these early theories of publics conceptualized public opinion as a special kind of social-level product. It was more than the aggregated opinions of a mass audience or a general public but the opinions of different publics that were developed through discussion and debate. In the 1930s, however, the survey research industry developed; and researchers found it difficult to measure the opinions of fluid, constantly changing publics. As a result, they developed measures of mass opinion and began to view public opinion as the aggregated opinions of everyone. Blumer (1946) captured these different views of public opinion in his classic distinction between the crowd, the public, and the mass. Blumer argued that most public opinion pollsters actually measured mass opinion rather than public opinion. L’Etang (2008) pointed out that most concepts of public opinion reflect a general will or consensus or an opinion of the majority. She added: “Because the general will is difficult to pin down, the majoritarian definition is useful in our scientific culture and is also the concept which underpins opinion polling” (p. 99).

Today, theories of publics continue to make these historical distinctions between different types of social collectivities (a mass, disaggregated publics facing similar problems, and organized publics that themselves can become organizations). Theorists debate whether publics, or audiences, are active or passive and whether they can be manipulated by symbolism and the communication of messages, or whether publics control their own communication behavior and the messages to which they are exposed. This distinction, in turn, produces different theories of public relations and other forms of strategic communication—a symbolic interpretive approach versus a strategic, behavioral approach to communication management (J. Grunig & Hung-Baesecke, 2015).

Related Segmentation Concepts

Publics are one of a number of concepts that communication, marketing, and management professionals use to break down the general population into segments that can be used to more precisely identify groups of individuals relevant to an organization’s interests, for communication or marketing programs, or for understanding media audiences. Segmentation makes it possible to identify communicating parties more precisely than do concepts such as public opinion, the general public, audiences, or masses.

A segmentation principle is useful if it identifies a differential response—that is, if people placed within a segment behave differently than do people who are not placed within that category (J. Grunig & Repper, 1992). For example, publics can be segmented according to the problems they experience; the differential response is the nature of their communication behavior related to those problems. In contrast, a market segment differs in the extent to which an organization’s products or services are relevant to the individuals within the segment; and the differential response is the likelihood that they will buy those products or services. J. Grunig and Repper used these different types of responses to distinguish between public relations and marketing: “Organizations can choose their markets, but publics arise on their own and choose the organization for attention” (p. 128). Public relations professionals communicate with publics who seek out organizations to solve problems they recognize, including problems such as the environment, community, or employee welfare and safety. These problems might be caused by the organizations themselves (i.e., the problems are consequences of organizational behaviors), or they might be experienced independently by publics that then seek out, and often pressure, organizations to help them solve the problems. Marketing professionals, in contrast, create and serve markets that will use the products and services they provide. At the same time, an organization can choose to ignore a market if it wishes. The same generally is not true for publics.

There is much discussion in the public relations literature about whether organizations choose their publics or whether publics define themselves. Traditionally, most public relations textbooks and public relations professionals have viewed publics as organization-centered—that is, publics that the organization defines and chooses to communicate with and with which they choose to establish a relationship. Additionally, public relations people have described such a segment as an audience, a target public, or (especially in Germany) a target group. As a result, communication programs were aimed at these targets; and the differential response sought by communicators was a change in the cognitions, attitudes, or behaviors of the target. Critical public relations scholars have challenged this organization-centered view of publics—critical scholars who generally view public relations as an activity through which organizations use their power to dominate the publics they choose for attention (e.g., Leitch & Neilson, 2001). Dewey’s classical view of publics, however, defined them from the perspective of publics. The most prominent public relations theory of publics from the 1970s on, J. Grunig’s situational theory of publics, also followed Dewey’s lead and defined publics from their own perspective (e.g., J. Grunig, 1997).

A segmentation concept closely related to publics arose in the last half of the 20th century in the management literature—the concept of stakeholders. Although management scholars traditionally believed that the major responsibility of corporations was to serve their stockholders, business writers such as Abrams (1951) began to note that corporations also have responsibilities to employees, customers, suppliers, lenders, and the general public or society. Freeman and Reed (1983) and Freeman (1984) said that the term “stakeholder” was first used in an internal memorandum of the Stanford Research Institute in 1963—“those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist” (Freeman & Reed, 1983, p. 89). Freeman and Reed provided the most widely used definition of a stakeholder. In a wide sense, they said, a stakeholder is “any group or individual who can affect the achievement of an organization’s objectives or who is affected by the achievement of an organization’s objectives” (p. 91).

Stakeholders assumed a major role in management theory as it evolved from a theory of financial management to a theory of stakeholder management, which Preston and Sapienza (1990) described as “achieving satisfactory levels of performance for all major groups of stakeholders.” As a result, stakeholders are now prominent in theories of strategic management (e.g., Freeman, 1984) as well as in public relations theories.

Generally, public relations scholars and professionals use the concepts of stakeholders and publics interchangeably, and management scholars prefer to refer to stakeholders rather than publics because it is a term they invented. J. Grunig and Repper (1992), however, distinguished between the two in a way that is useful for planning communication programs. Most theories in the management literature define stakeholders in a general way. As a first step in strategic management, they suggest that managers should make a map of their organization’s stakeholders. These maps consist of such groups as shareholders, suppliers, lenders, employees, competitors, society, government, customers, and other organizations in an industry (Mendelow, 1987). Stakeholder maps are similar to what Grunig and Hunt (1984) called linkages in the public relations literature.

J. Grunig and Repper (1992) defined publics as “nested” within these categories of stakeholders. They maintained that different kinds of publics can be found within each stakeholder category. They also theorized that different publics in each category communicated differently—actively, passively, or not at all—and that the concept of publics therefore provides more information for segmentation than does the stakeholder concept. At least one stakeholder theorist (Mendelow, 1987) incorporated communicative activeness into his theory of stakeholder analysis.

Audiences and Publics in the Mass Communication Literature

Most early theories of mass communication were based on a model of the communication process that depicted messages moving from sources through channels to receivers, with feedback returning to the senders. Audiences or publics were the receivers in these models, but as Livingstone (2015) pointed out, mass communication scholars have been much more interested in the senders (or sources) of messages than in the receivers. Similarly, Ettema and Whitney (1994) wrote that the predominant theoretical view of receivers was “to receive”—to attend to or be influenced by messages from sources (communicators, especially journalists) that send messages to audiences. Ettema and Whitney (1994) pointed out that most studies of journalists show that they have only a vague conception of their audiences. Usually, journalists write more for themselves or for their editors and view their audiences as an afterthought. As a result, media scholars have been much more interested in how the media affect audiences of different types than in how receivers (in the form of a mass, an audience, or a public) seek out and use information provided by the media. An exception is the uses and gratifications tradition in mass communication research (e.g., Blumler & Katz, 1974).

A debate has been ongoing, however, for more than 25 years over how active or passive media audiences are (Livingstone, 2015). The more active the audience, the more likely it is to control its media use and less likely to be easily influenced by the media. The more passive the audience, the more likely it is to be influenced, manipulated, or victimized by the media or by professional communicators such as public relations practitioners.

Webster and Phalen (1994) identified three models of audiences in the mass communication literature—the audience as a victim, consumer, or commodity. In the first model, the effects model, theorists believed that audiences are easily affected by media content that might be vulgar, dangerous, or otherwise not in their best interests. In the second model, the marketplace model, audiences are viewed as rational, well-informed individuals who choose media content that meets their program or message preferences. In the third model, the audience is seen as a coin of exchange. The media choose programming that creates an audience, and this audience then is sold to advertisers. Webster and Phalen used these three models to examine the role of government regulation of the media and the future of media. As a theory of audience behavior, however, the three models can be interpreted as ranging from passive audiences (victims) to attentive audiences (commodities) to active audiences (consumers).

Livingstone (2015) used the terms “audiences” and “publics” to distinguish between passive and active users of media content. She explained: “In both popular and elite discourses, audiences are denigrated as trivial, passive, individualized, while publics are valued as active, critically engaged, and politically significant” (Livingstone, 2005, p. 18). Livingstone also pointed out that audiences are “mere aggregates of individuals,” while publics are “collectivities, more than the sum of their parts” (p. 25). Publics also participate in what Jurgen Habermas called the public sphere—the space where individuals come together to form publics and to create public opinion (L’Etang, 2008). Livingstone went on to argue, however, that audiences and publics cannot easily be distinguished in the new media environment—that audiences sometimes act as publics and publics as audiences. She added that media might reach out to audiences to transform them into publics or distract publics by inviting them to escape into a private world of audiences.

The Situational Theory of Publics

The extent to which the receivers in communication theories are active or passive pervades the literatures of public relations, mass communication, stakeholders, management, and marketing. Indeed, calling receivers “receivers” suggests that they are passive. When receivers are active, they often become senders of messages among members of publics to organize the publics into collectivities or to bring the problems they experience to the attention of organizations and the media.

In the 1960s, J. Grunig (1966) provided an alternative to the passive view of publics that prevailed at the time in such theories as the diffusion of innovations, communication and development, public communication campaigns, and media effects. Initially, he constructed a theory of individual communication behaviors based on Dewey’s theories of thought (cognition) in the book How We Think (1910), human behavior in the book Human Nature and Conduct (1922), and inquiry (active communication behavior) in the book Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938) as well as from microeconomic and behavioral economic theories of information and decision making. J. Grunig theorized that communication behavior was a problem-solving process. With Dewey, he theorized that both human thought and information seeking (inquiry) begin when a person experiences an indeterminate situation—a felt difficulty. When a person recognizes and defines an indeterminate situation, it becomes a problematic situation, which in turn motivates the person to solve the problem by seeking information and using the information to think about solutions to the problem.

J. Grunig first applied the theory in two studies of the communication behaviors and economic decision-making processes of large landowners and peasant farmers in Colombia (J. Grunig, 1969, 1971). In these studies, he took a public-centered view of development communication programs, which contrasted with the prevailing view that government, development organizations, and the media could disseminate messages that would transform traditional peoples into more modern ones. He examined the situations in which farmers in a developing country found themselves; thus, he called the theory a situational theory. He concluded that the farmers he studied paid little attention to messages directed at them by development communicators because the messages were irrelevant in the highly constrained situations in which these people lived and made decisions. Farmers did communicate actively, however, when governments or other agencies changed the situation and created opportunities for which information was relevant. Situations could be changed, for example, through land redistribution, credit programs, changes in markets, or improved storage and transportation of agricultural products.

J. Grunig later began to use this theory of individual communication behavior to identify publics as defined in Dewey’s book The Public and Its Problems (1927). As in other theories of publics, J. Grunig conceptualized that publics begin as disaggregated groups of individuals experiencing similar problems. Although members of these publics might not be aware of each other, they respond in a similar way to the consequences of organizational behaviors or to the problems they might bring to the attention of organizations. As members of publics solve problems, however, they begin to communicate with each other as well as with formal organizations. As a result, disaggregated active publics can become activist publics—members of activist groups or other groups that develop the properties of a formal organization. In this sense, the situational theory of publics allows public relations professionals to segment publics by predicting the differential responses most important to an organization—responsiveness to problems and issues; amount of and nature of communication behavior; effects of communication on cognitions, attitudes, and behavior; the extent and quality of organization-public relationships; and the likelihood that publics will participate in collective behavior to pressure organizations.

Expressed formally, the situational theory of publics consisted of two dependent variables (active and passive communication behavior) and three independent variables (problem recognition, constraint recognition, and involvement recognition). The theory also specified that active and passive communication behaviors lead to different cognitive, attitudinal, behavioral, and relational outcomes. J. Grunig also has called the two dependent variables, active and passive communication behavior, information seeking and processing. Information seeking is premeditated—“the planned scanning of the environment for messages about a specified topic” (Clarke & Kline, 1974, p. 233). Information processing is message discovery— “the unplanned discovery of a message followed by continued processing of it” (p. 233). Later, J.-N. Kim and J. Grunig (2011) began to call information processing information attending to avoid confusing the concept of information processing as a communication variable with cognitive theories of the mental processing of information.

The independent variables are situational variables because they measure the perceptions that people have of specific situations, especially situations that are problematic to them. As described in J. Grunig (1997), the three independent variables are:

  • Problem Recognition. People detect that something should be done about a situation and stop to think about what to do.

  • Constraint Recognition. People perceive that there are obstacles in a situation that limit their ability to do anything about the situation.

  • Involvement Recognition. The extent to which people connect themselves with a situation.

According to J. Grunig (1997), high problem recognition and low constraint recognition increase both active information seeking and passive information attending. Involvement recognition increases information seeking, but it has less effect on information attending. Stated differently, people seldom seek information about situations that do not involve them. Yet, they will passively attend to information about low-involvement situations, especially if they also recognize the situation as problematic. Because people participate more actively in information seeking than in information attending, information seeking and the independent variables that precede it produce communication effects more often than information attending. In particular, people communicating actively develop more organized cognitions, are more likely to have attitudes about a situation, more often engage in a behavior to do something about the situation, are more likely to develop a relationship with an organization, and are more likely to join with other members of the public in an activist organization.

The Role of Publics in a Strategic Management Theory of Public Relations

Public relations theories generally can be placed into two categories that are based on different views of the role of the public relations function and, secondarily, on views of the activeness or passiveness of publics. J.-N. Kim, Hung, Yang, and J. Grunig (2013) named these categories the symbolic, interpretive paradigm and the strategic management, behavioral paradigm. The symbolic paradigm views public relations as a means to influence how publics interpret the behaviors of organizations after they occur and believes that its purpose is to secure the power of the decision makers who chose those behaviors. These cognitive interpretations typically are described as concepts such as image, reputation, brand, and impressions—interpretations that can be shaped by one-way, asymmetrical messages.

In contrast, the strategic management, behavioral paradigm focuses on the participation of public relations executives in an organization’s strategic decision-making processes so that they can help manage the behavior of organizations rather than only interpret it to publics (J. Grunig, 2014). This paradigm emphasizes two-way, symmetrical communication of many kinds to provide publics a voice in management decisions and to facilitate dialogue between management and publics both before and after decisions are made. The strategic management paradigm does not exclude traditional public relations activities such as media relations and the dissemination of information. Rather, it broadens the number and types of communication activities and fits them into a framework of environmental scanning, research, and listening. As a result, messages reflect the information needs of publics as well as the advocacy needs of organizations. In addition, this perspective on public relations suggests that public relations executives should counsel members of top management about the likely consequences of policy decisions on publics. They give voice to and empower publics in organizational decision making by identifying strategic publics, conducting research to understand their problems and interests, and then communicating their views to senior management.

Although the nature of publics is not always explicit in symbolic-interpretive theories, the unstated assumption is that the publics targeted by such communication programs are passive. In contrast, the strategic management approach emphasizes the need to identify stakeholders; to segment them into different types of publics, both active and passive; and to construct both inward and outward communication programs developed for each of these publics. (See the diagram in J.-N. Kim et al., 2013, p. 203, for a complete conceptualization of this process.)

The strategic management theory of public relations also differs from recent theories of strategic communication—a concept that integrates public relations, marketing communication, advertising, corporate communication, and similar communication functions and “accentuates . . . the use of communications to reach the overarching goals of a specific organization or social actor” (Holtzhausen & Zerfass, 2013, p. 283). Like the strategic management approach, strategic communication does not assume that publics are passive, and it emphasizes the segmentation of different kinds of publics. However, strategic communication is more asymmetrical in that it emphasizes the use of communication solely to achieve organizational objectives and treats publics as targets, whereas the strategic management theory of public relations is more symmetrical and emphasizes the use of public relations to build relationships with publics and to integrate them into organizational decision processes (de Bussy, 2013).

Types of Publics

In a number of studies from 1970 on, J. Grunig developed a methodology to identify publics arising around situational problems (J. Grunig, 1997, 2003). A typical study began by identifying several related problems about which an organization might need to communicate with its stakeholders. For example, two studies of environmental publics began with eight problems (such as air pollution, extinction of whales, and strip mining). Canonical correlation then was used to simultaneously correlate the independent variables (problem recognition, involvement recognition, and constraint recognition) with the dependent variables (active and passive communication behavior) for all of the situations—thus testing the basic theory. Canonical correlation produces one or more canonical variates that are much like the factors that result from factor analysis, and these variates revealed a profile of different kinds of publics relevant to the organizations studied.

Originally, researchers believed that publics identified in this way would be unique to each set of situations studied. However, the canonical variates consistently identified four kinds of publics that are relevant for most organizations:

  • All-issue publics. Publics active on all of the problems.

  • Apathetic publics. Publics inattentive to all of the problems.

  • Single-issue publics. Publics active on one or a small subset of the problems that concerns only a small part of the population. Such problems, for example, have included the slaughter of whales or the controversy over the sale of infant formula in Third World countries.

  • Hot-issue publics. Publics active only on a single problem that involves nearly everyone in the population and that has received extensive media coverage (such as a national gasoline shortage, drunken driving, toxic waste disposal, or the 911 attack on New York City).

The situational theory has been applied widely in academic research on public relations, environmental communication, risk communication, and health communication. Studies have been published on employee publics of an electric utility and a telephone company, scientific organizations, educational systems, a community college, local governments, members of an association, consumer publics of a supermarket chain, community publics of a hospital, a prison, environmental publics, agricultural publics, readers of a specialized agricultural magazine, student publics for an economic education program, reporter publics for business issues, corporate publics for social responsibility issues, publics for campaigns on drunk driving, AIDS, fire safety, users of an information service for the disabled, publics of the Federal Reserve System, readers of science news, an issues newsletter, a university magazine, donors for a fund-raising program, publics for the election of a governor, publics in Hong Kong related to the return of the colony to China in 1997, and publics arising from a natural disaster (for references to these studies, see J. Grunig, 1997; Aldoory & Sha, 2007).

Research based on the situational theory has been conducted in many countries and cultural settings, and both the independent and dependent variables have been found to be relevant in these settings (e.g., Tkalac, 2007). However, Sha (2006) found that avowed cultural identity (the culture with which a person identifies) produced significant differences in problem recognition, involvement recognition, and levels of passive and active communication behavior—thus creating distinct publics. Vardeman-Winter, Tindall, and Jiang (2013) extended theorizing about identity and publics by pointing out that publics are defined by multiple identities—an intersectionality of gender, race, age, class, nationality, disability, and religion. Thus, communicators should understand that groups with different identities perceive problems differently and form distinct publics that must be engaged with separately from other groups.

Research also has applied the situational theory specifically to risk and health situations. For example, Aldoory, J.-N. Kim, and Tindall (2010) used the theory in a study of perceived risk from food terrorism. They found that members of publics who perceived that they experienced similar risk as victims of terrorism portrayed in the media or with media spokespersons had higher levels of involvement and problem recognition, but not constraint recognition. Similarly, in a study of female publics for health problems, Aldoory (2001) found that women’s involvement recognition varied with their consciousness of everyday life situations, such as motherhood and pregnancy; racial, cultural, and gender self-identity; concern for their personal health; preferences for different sources of information; and the way they cognitively analyzed the content of health messages.

Special Publics

Three kinds of special publics (activist publics, hot-issue publics, and inactive publics) have been researched because of their special relevance to professional communicators and their importance in understanding the effects of media and communication programs. They are especially relevant for communicators working with risk and health-related problems because of the frequency with which publics make issues out of these problems and the likelihood that these issues will become crises.

First, researchers have addressed the question of why and how publics become activist groups. Publics begin as loose groupings of individuals, but as they become active and communicate with each other, they begin to function as a collectivity. At that point, members of active publics typically join or form activist groups and coalitions of activist groups. Activists and coalitions of activists then make issues out of the consequences that an organization’s decisions have on them or the consequences they seek from organizations—behaviors that are especially relevant for programs of issues management and crisis communication.

J. Grunig (1989) found that members of an activist group, the Sierra Club, were found in three types of publics—all-issue, single-issue, and hot-issue publics. As could be expected, none were members of apathetic publics. In addition, members of the Sierra Club who were most active in the organization and who belonged to other environmental organizations were most likely to be found in the all-issues public. Members of the all-issues public also were most likely to communicate actively about the issues, to construct organized cognitions about the issues, and to engage in individual behaviors related to the issues. Therefore, membership and activity in the Sierra Club added participation in collective behavior to this list of effects. J. Grunig also used the term “delegation of activism” to explain why members of active publics join activist groups. Instead of acting individually, they delegated that activism to the activist group in order to affect policy collectively, even though they often believed that they might not benefit personally from the change in policy.

Activist publics are especially important stakeholders that organizations need to recognize and build relationships with as part of their strategic management processes. Research shows that organizations that have mechanisms to recognize activists, listen to them, and actively and symmetrically communicate with them are most likely to build good relationships with the activists and to report success in working with these groups (L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002, Chapter 10; J. Grunig & L. Grunig, 1997).

Hot-issue publics, secondly, are important special publics because they appear when a triggering event such as an accident, crisis, or media controversy occurs—thus making a crisis communication program necessary. When such an event involves nearly everyone in a population and the media devote a great deal of attention to it, nearly everyone seems to be a member of an active public when, in fact, they are instead members of a less-active hot-issue public. Communicators often blame the media for creating these special publics. However, hot-issue publics generally go away when the media stop paying attention to the triggering event.

Aldoory and J. Grunig (2012) researched the question of whether hot-issue publics can evolve into active publics because media attention to the event might increase their levels of problem, involvement, and constraint recognition—thus creating publics of more concern to organizations than hot-issue publics. Aldoory and J. Grunig found that problem recognition increased more than the other variables because of the media coverage and that hot-issue publics generally did not become active publics after the issue dissipated. Because of the increased problem recognition, however, hot-issue publics did remain aware of the issue and were more likely to become active publics again if the issue recurred. As a result, Aldoory and J. Grunig suggested that organizations need to communicate actively with hot-issue publics at the time of a crisis to cultivate a short-term relationship and to continue to communicate with them to build a longer-term relationship with this more aware public in case it later becomes an active public.

Two studies of controversial issues in Korea and Taiwan (J.-N. Kim, Ni, S.-H. Kim, & J.-R. Kim, 2012; Chen, Hung-Baesecke, & J.-N. Kim, 2016) shed further light on hot issues and hot-issue publics. Both studies showed that problem recognition was universally high for nearly everyone in the population when hot issues occurred and that it therefore did not distinguish types of publics. Although typical hot-issue publics, which quickly dissolve, did result from the hot issues, active publics also were present that engaged in protests and demonstrations. The studies also showed that antecedent variables such as interest in politics and party identity increased involvement recognition and lowered constraint recognition—producing active publics. Thus, the research showed that party and political identity, like other forms of identity, can produce differences in the activeness of publics and that these differences are exacerbated when a controversial triggering issue occurs.

The third special public is of concern because communicators often try to communicate with publics that are uninterested in the organization or in the cause they represent. The situational theory of publics generally tells professional communicators that they mostly need to pay attention to active and aware publics and that they can ignore apathetic, inactive publics. The general principle is that one can only communicate with someone who also wants to communicate with you. Because an organization or problem is not relevant to inactive publics, they will not seek or attend to information even if organizations try to lure them into paying attention. For example, such a situation occurs often for health communicators who try to disseminate information to publics who do not perceive the information to be relevant because they do not consider a health concern to be a problem or that it involves them.

Hallahan (2000), however, argued that inactive publics are important and that organizations should strive to communicate with them. He proposed a typology of publics that included active, aware, aroused, inactive, and nonpublics. His communication strategies for all of these publics, except for inactive publics, are similar to those suggested by the situational theory. He added, however, that organizations should seek out and try to communicate with inactive publics by enhancing their motivation and ability to process information and by creating opportunities for communicating with them and building relationships.

Theories of the Communicative Interactions of Members of Publics

A number of public relations scholars, especially those who come from the rhetorical and critical branches of the discipline, have proposed theories that go beyond the individual communication behaviors of members of publics to examine how communicative activities, discourse, and identities define publics as symbolic groups or even as organizations in themselves. Most of these scholars have criticized other theories of publics, including the situational theory, as organization- or management-centered (e.g., Leitch & Neilson, 2001; Jones, 2002). Instead, they have called for and proposed theories that define publics from the perspective of publics themselves. In Jones’s words, theories of publics “reflect the managerial and normative traditions prevalent in the discipline” and fail to “consider the internal dynamics of publics, assuming that they are information processing individuals who react to organizationally defined issues” or fail to consider “the idea that publics might emerge without organizational action” (p. 50).

Although these “organization- or management-centered” critiques do apply to many theories of publics found in public relations textbooks or in the minds of communication professionals, they do not apply to Dewey’s early theory of publics or to the situational theory of publics that evolved from it. Those theories of publics define publics from the perspective of publics or, at a minimum, from the perspective of interactions between organizations and publics. The situational theory also goes beyond the perspective of individuals to explain how publics organize into activist groups.

At the same time, rhetorical and critical theories of the communicative interactions of members of publics add an important component to the situational theory of publics—explaining in more detail how publics move beyond loosely structured groupings of individuals who experience common problems but who may not be aware of one another. In addition, these theories amplify our understanding of how cultural, ideological, or political identities transform publics into groups that cannot easily be communicated with by members of organizations that do not share those identities.

Vasquez and Taylor (2001), for example, used the situational theory to initially define publics but then added a homo narrans perspective, based on Ernest Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory, to explain how “individuals create, raise, and sustain a group consciousness around a problematic situation” (p. 146). Cozier and Witmer (2001) similarly used Anthony Giddens’s structuration theory to explain how publics create themselves and structure themselves into organizations such as activist groups—emphasizing the role of digital media in the process. They also called for theories to explain how publics use ideology to construct a shared reality. Leitch and Neilson (2001) used Jurgen Habermas’s concept of the public sphere to explain how publics develop their own identities within what Habermas called the lifeworld and form organizations that interact with and often challenge what Habermas called system organizations. They also suggested that a theory of publics should explain how organizations and publics use “power, strategy, objectives, and manifold (other) ways . . . to construct and deconstruct and organize and disorganize the other” (p. 134).

Jones (2002) used the German sociologist Ulrich Beck’s concept of the risk society as a framework for his theory of publics as a subpolitical arena. He explained that, because individuals can no longer rely on institutions in society such as government or business to solve environmental or other risk problems in the normal political arena, they now take on the responsibility themselves and are active in making their own decisions about their future. Jones added that “all publics are organizations in so far as they are collectivities of people who share an identity, which they try to build and maintain.” To Jones, publics are created through communication: “This symbolic approach allows us to conceive of publics as communities who come together through common concerns (issues), but which are maintained through a collective sense of identity and a particular world view sustained through their discourse” (p. 56).

There are many similarities between these theories and research based on the situational theory of publics that has explained why individuals join activist groups and has shown that racial, cultural, and political identities influence the problems perceived by publics and the solutions they propose. Together, both sets of theories explain how publics move beyond an individual stage to become a collectivity. The rhetorical theories, however, also explain how identities and communicative styles separate publics from the organizations that might want to communicate with them. For example, Jones (2002) suggested that attention to a certain set of problems might provide an identity for a public—such as environmental problems for an environmental activist group. Jones also explained that to communicate with such discourse-defined publics, organizations must adopt the public’s style of discourse rather than a managerial discourse.

The Situational Theory of Problem Solving

The situational theory of problem solving (J.-N. Kim, 2006; J.-N. Kim & J. Grunig, 2011) originated from and expanded upon the parent situational theory of publics. The theory connects two human phenomena, problem solving and communicative action. When people enter into a problematic situation, they try to understand the causes and conditions of the situation and behave in ways that allow them to deal with the problematic state and resolve its consequences. This theory of problem solving inherits the following theoretical assumptions from the situational theory of publics: Communicative actions are a purposive coping behavior aimed at problem resolution, a variable human behavior across life situations (vs. the assumption of perfect, constant knowledge commonly found in microeconomic theories of decision making), that is jointly influenced by one’s subjective perceptions, cognitive conditions, and life contexts.

The situational theory of problem solving conceives of communicative actions as being epiphenomenal—a parallel phenomenon to problem-solving behavior. For example, asking a doctor for advice and solutions about Type II diabetes, a communicative action about the health problem, may or may not correlate with implementing the doctor’s medical advice, which would constitute behavioral action applying acquired solutions.

Like its parent theory, the situational theory of problem solving departs from the “audience control paradigm” (McQuail, 1997) of early mass communication research that portrayed people as passive receivers of messages who often lack knowledge and need guidance or knowledge aids from experts and credible social institutions. Instead, the situational theory of problem solving assumes that, even though individuals may lack requisite knowledge or may even be biased, they actively control their own cognition and communication about specific problems they face. For that reason, institutional or organizational communicative attempts to control public behaviors are often ineffective and even illusory. Both situational theories conceive of the rise of issue-specific publics as a phenomenon that starts from individuals experiencing changes in their perceptions and motivations about problems that lead to changes in their communicative and cognitive efforts.

The situational theory of problem solving further explains how individuals’ motivated communicative actions may help create common problem perceptions in their respective social networks through information acquisition, selection, and transmission about the problematic situations—an aspect of a theory of publics called for by rhetorical and critical theories of publics. Communicative action in problem solving consists of searching and selecting, questioning and probing problems among people with similar interests, and mobilizing attention and resources from organizations with power or responsibility. In essence, members of publics as problem solvers engage in informational interactions with other social entities such as governments, corporations, and rival or counterpublics and engage in informational actions such as (re)problematizing consequences, (re)synthesizing problem solutions, and (counter)arguing and debating.

As a dependent variable, the theory of problem solving contains a second-order, generalized construct of communication behaviors—communicative action in problem solving—which consists of six individual information-related behavioral variables (J.-N. Kim, J. Grunig, & Ni, 2010). Explicitly, the theory conceptualizes the social dynamics of problem solvers in action (e.g., how loose individuals evolve into a collective) and the ways in which their information-related behaviors generate narratives and discourses en route to problem resolution (e.g., approaching as well as avoiding certain elements of data/knowledge). Despite its many strengths, the situational theory of publics did not theoretically explain how individuals recognizing similar problems connect with each other and construct a common sense of a problem, and, further, how they coordinate their perceptions and resulting cognitions to solve problems. The situational theory of problem solving added theoretical concepts, such as information sharing and information forefending, to explain in detail how members of a public develop a problem-focused shared identity and organize themselves to behave as a social entity with shared goals. Thus, the situational theory of problem solving has a generalized conceptualization of communicative actions beyond just information consumption about a problem. Publics, as they engage in problem solving, exhibit multidimensional communicative actions such as information search, selection, and transmission to others as a way of problem solving.

Figure 1 provides a formal statement of the situational theory of problem solving for comparison with its parent theory. The situational theory of problem solving consists of six dependent variables (active and passive communication behavior in three domains of information behaviors—information acquisition, transmission, and selection), four independent variables (problem recognition, constraint recognition, involvement recognition, and referent criterion), and one mediating variable (situational motivation in problem solving).

The communicative action in problem-solving model transforms what constitutes communicative actions for problem solving and helps reorient its theoretical premise from (individual) decision making (J. Grunig, 1966) to (social) problem solving. The earlier situational theory posited an individual actor as more of an economic man facing a decision situation. As a result, the conceptualization of communicative actions emphasized the acquisition of information so as to satisfice one’s decisions for utility or satisfaction within life’s constraints. In contrast, the situational theory of problem solving shifts the focus more explicitly to problem solving, which consists of multiple decisions (cf. battles) one would make as part of solving a problem (cf. a war). Members of an active public not only seek out information but also review, synthesize, and modify information and diligently propagate selected and digested information to others. The situational theory of problem solving thus generalizes communicative action in three domains—information acquisition, information transmission, and information selection—rather than information acquisition alone. The new theory posits individual actors as problem solvers as well as social actors who purposefully use multifarious information actions such as asking for, approaching, and avoiding some information; modifying or synthesizing information using an emerging referent criterion; and propagating chosen and processed information en route to problem resolution.

The referent criterion (a decision rule or previous solution to a problem) was part of early versions of the situational theory of publics, but it was dropped because it did not predict information acquisition. In the new theory, the referent criterion plays an important role in information selection. The situational theory of problem solving now better explains how publics use communication behaviors individually and collectively to ideate and effectuate solutions; it describes the role of cognitive frames and processes (by conceptualizing the types of and strength of subscription to a referent criterion); and it explains better how cognition and communication take place between members of publics and the communicative mechanisms that occur as activist publics develop. Furthermore, the new informational variables, such as information forefending or permitting, help to explain chronic conflicts and social divisions related to sociopolitical issues.

The independent variables are the three situational variables from the situational theory of publics and two additional variables—the referent criterion and situational motivation in problem solving. The three independent variables are defined in a slightly different way from the situational theory of publics:

Publics Approaches to Health and Risk Message Design and ProcessingClick to view larger

Figure 1. The situational theory of problem solving and the situational theory of publics.

  • Problem Recognition. The magnitude of discrepancy between experienced state and expected state followed by the recognition of the absence of an applicable solution to it.

  • Constraint Recognition. The extent of perceived obstacles that limit one’s ability to do anything about the problem recognized.

  • Involvement Recognition. The extent of one’s perceived closeness to the problematic situation.

Referent Criterion. The extent of close subscription to or dependence on a situationally relevant knowledge system mobilized and applied to the problematic states that are activated or improvised at an early stage of problem solving. A referent criterion has been further differentiated as two types –a more factual or experiential referent criterion and a more affective or expectational referent criterion. The first type usually comes from previous experience solving a similar problem, and thus it is stored as a situation-general cognitive frame. The second type of referent criterion is more situation specific—often improvised at an early phase of problem solving. Both types can coexist, and they are functionally equivalent in guiding communicative efforts during problem solving. Both are used to judge the relevance or utility of newly found data or to revise and reinforce solution sets one develops during a current problem-solving experience.

Situational Motivation in Problem Solving. The level of cognitive interest and epistemic readiness to comprehend and influence the outcome of a problematic situation one encounters—derived from problem, constraint, and involvement recognition.

The dependent variable is a second-order construct with six variables subsumed under communicative action in problem solving. The first domain is information acquisition. Communicative action in problem solving inherits two variables from the situational theory of publics—information seeking (a proactive search for information about a problem) and information attending (a rather passive encountering of information about a problem).

Four new variables contain two dimensions that are parallel to the active and passive forms of communication behavior. Two variables relate to the transmission of information. Information forwarding is proactive and premeditated information transmission—the planned giving of selected messages about a problem. Information sharing is reactive and random—the unplanned giving of one’s knowledge and personal ideas about a problem when solicited by others or by external cognitive triggers. Two additional variables relate to the selection of information. Information forefending is the more active form of selection—the amount of communicative effort one expends to both avoid and approach certain sources and content as one develops and uses a subjective sense of relevance in dealing with information. Information forefending is more common in later phases of problem solving. As problem-solving efforts continue, individuals develop personal cognitive rules for using information and become systematic and specific as they search for information—they pursue information that fits their emerging sense of relevance in judging information. Information permitting is a more passive type of selectivity that occurs when individuals consider and use any information as long as it is related to the problem. Notably, information permitting is not “communicative inaction” or indifference to a problem, but rather one’s procedural diffidence en route to a new referent criterion or a conscious effort to avoid information bias that would lower one’s problem-solving capability.

The theory of problem solving states that, as people encounter a problematic situation, they become motivated to understand its causes and consequences and make an effort to influence the problematic state and resolve its consequences. The four situational perceptual variables jointly influence situational motivation for problem solving. The extent to which an individual subscribes to a referent criterion and his or her situational motivation, in turn, triggers and guides the communicative actions one takes for problem solving. The communicative actions include motivated learning of what causes and might change a problematic state; motivated giving of selected information to others so that they reproduce similar problem perceptions; and coordinated efforts to construct similar problem-solving actions by other people who might facilitate and expedite the resolution of the problem.

The situational theory of problem solving explains that problem solvers, both lay individuals or more educated experts, display similar characteristics. As active problem solvers, they personally control what information is relevant and useful to them; they construct problem-related cognitions; and they select, synthesize, and spread information to others who might help them solve the problem. The situational theory of problem solving, with its conceptions of communicative actions, explains the social communicative processes of a public—that is, how a public arises from loose aggregations to become active social entities. With motivated informational behaviors, members of publics construct preferred solutions to problems, attempt to reproduce a similar problem perception among others, coordinate their behaviors through a problem-focused collective, and negotiate and economize the costs of problem solving with responsible organizations or resourceful social institutions.

Applications of the Situational Theory of Problem Solving

The situational theory of problem solving is a communication theory that cuts across various communication contexts beyond public relations. The theory explains how and why individuals communicate and is thus applicable in various communication situations such as health and risk communication. (A more comprehensive review of the theory can be found in J.-N. Kim & Krishna, 2014.)

J.-N. Kim, Shen, and Morgan (2011) tested the situational theory of problem solving and its key hypotheses in three health-related donation issues—the shortage of organ donors, blood donors, and bone marrow donors. The study identified a problem chain-recognition effect among members of a public about the issue of donor shortages. The study hypothesized that individuals active about an issue are likely to recognize other related issues as problematic and to be motivated to acquire information about them. J.-N. Kim et al. (2011) found that the more people are motivated about the shortage of organ donors, the more they are likely to have higher problem and involvement recognition for other shortage issues such as bone marrow donation. For risk or health communication, this problem chain recognition effect can be used to prepare an effective multipronged communication strategy. For instance, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a common hereditary neuromuscular disease that is unknown to most people, particularly its risks and the need for early detection. However, health communicators can use a better-known disease, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), to identify an active or aware public for that issue and prepare education/prevention messages that connect ALS and SMA, such as “SMA is the children’s version of Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Although the hereditary mechanism is different, lay publics whose interest in Lou Gehrig’s disease might have been piqued by the Ice-Bucket Challenge in 2014 may be more likely to pay more attention and react to other related hereditary illnesses such as SMA.

The situational theory of problem solving showed that motivated active publics not only acquire information but transmit information to others. They may also enable, to a limited extent, peer health learning and the spreading of a preventive method such as a quick and simple screening test for hereditary risk before pregnancy. Using more salient health risks as an anchoring issue, health and risk communicators can break down a large population into more strategic (active/aware) segments and invest communication resources into programs for them. In that way, messages are more likely to increase awareness of linked but less salient health risks and are more likely to reach passive (latent) publics.

The situational theory of problem solving also has been used to examine the effect of communicative actions on the health of patients with chronic health problems. J.-N. Kim and Lee (2014) proposed the idea of “cybercoping.” As chronic patients actively sought and forwarded information about their illness in digital communication networks (e.g., blogging), they also engaged in emotion-focused and problem-focused coping with their illness, which in turn enhanced both affective and physical outcomes. The findings showed that although clinical intervention is crucial for chronic health problems such as diabetes, cancers, and depression, active communicative behaviors help patients cope better by using social and relational resources as well as knowledge resources—resources that may complement the clinical intervention. Another study found that the cybercoping effect extends even to caregivers. Jeong, Y. Kim, and Chon (2016) applied the key hypotheses to caregivers of dementia patients and reported that the coping effect extended to caregivers and thus further helped the dementia patients for whom they were caring.

The new theoretical variable, information forefending, has been used to explain why people make troubling and directional use of digital information in risky health behaviors. Information forefending serves problem solving in two ways. In some cases, information forefending is used to solve a meta-problem—that is, it is a way to reduce excessive information about a problem when one’s epistemic motivation increases and a problem-solving period drags on. In this case, information forefending enables problem solvers to economize their cognitive and communicative efforts after they have reached cognitive competence. In other cases, information forefending may be a way to reduce cognitive dissonance, decreasing negative emotion when a person faces intractable perceived constraints. Often, this type of information forefending optimizes a person’s cognitive preference, even though it may not be the best way to resolve the problem (e.g., wishful or willful thinking).

J.-N. Kim, Oh, and Krishna (2016) conceptualized this latter type as justificatory information forefending and tested the effect of the concept for people who continue risky health behaviors. They found that people who engaged in risky behaviors such as habitual drinking or chain smoking also engaged in justificatory information forefending, which increased most when they were exposed to contradictory media information. The more one engages in justificatory information forefending, the more likely he or she will be to continue risky health behaviors. In digitalized information environments, lay publics are able to control their use of information, and confirmatory information search and interpretation leads to self-sealing informational conviction eventuating in greater health risks.

The term “lacuna individuals” refers to those members of a controversial issue public who are highly motivated in their communicative actions while holding extreme attitudes and deficient problem-related knowledge (Krishna, 2016). Earlier, J.-N. Kim and Krishna (2014) defined lacuna publics as a special type of public that is likely to influence other lay publics with its misconceptions or biased beliefs. Krishna (2016) found that lacuna individuals engaged in individualized activism for two issues—vaccine negativity in the United States and homonegativity in India—and compared their perceptions, motivations, and behaviors with nonlacuna individuals. The study conceptualized lacuna individuals using the situational theory of problem solving and examined their motivated information transmission, selection, and acquisition vis-à-vis cross-situational variables such as dogmatism and religiosity. It also investigated how knowledge deficiency amplifies biased beliefs and triggers communicative actions about these controversial issues.

Such ill-informed but vocal publics pose problems for health and risk communicators. In risk and health communication, lacuna individuals are likely to be social influencers among nonexpert citizens (e.g., spreading inaccurate or biased knowledge). Daily conversations about emerging risk and health issues (e.g., vaccination or severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS]) with acquaintances are a powerful channel for spreading health misconceptions, often outweighing the information from mass media or experts. Risk and health communicators should be aware of the phenomenon and of how to cognitively infiltrate these lacuna individuals so that they do not generate public hysteria with ill-guided information.

The situational theory of problem solving also may be used to enhance the explanatory power of existing communication and social cognitive theories (e.g., the theory of planned behavior; Ajzen, 1985) in social media campaigns. The theory includes explicit information about behavioral variables, such as information forwarding and information sharing that other communication or cognitive theories have not conceptualized. Yet, these are crucial aspects of communication behavior that public health campaigners should understand when they plan and evaluate health information campaigns, especially via social media. Yoo, J.-N. Kim, and Lee (2016) used the communicative action in the problem-solving model (J.-N. Kim, J. Grunig, & Ni, 2010) as the basis for an integrated social media communication model to test the role of self-efficacy, subjective norms, perceived risks, and behavioral intention for a human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination campaign.

Publics are problem-specific, situational entities that are systematic and effortful in their cognition and communication. Finding those more effortful individuals and groups who form around problems makes it possible to effectively and efficiently manage public relations and communication programs. J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) introduced four subtypes of publics that exist for each problem/issue: activist, active, aware, latent, and nonpublic. In the past, subpublics related to each issue were identified using canonical correlation (e.g., J. Grunig, 1982). Although the method is powerful, it requires statistical training, which practitioners often lack. Accordingly, J.-N. Kim (2011) proposed a “summation method” that uses the situational perceptual variables (problem, involvement, and constraint recognition) and dichotomizes them to classify individuals into four types of subpublics based on their situational perceptions of an issue.

Ni and J.-N. Kim (2009) further classified aware and active publics, particularly those arising from chronic controversial issues, based on three dimensions of problem solving: openness to approaches in problem solving, extent of activeness in problem solving, and time or history of problem solving (Figure 2). The eight types of publics are closed-situational activist public, closed-chronic activist public, closed-situational active public, closed-dormant passive public, open-situational activist public, open-chronic activist public, open-situational active public, and open-dormant passive public. Chronic and controversial social problems beget more or less open- and closed-minded publics (cf. lacuna publics), and knowing their information behaviors, such as permissiveness to new ideas, may help to make communication efforts more effective and ethical. This new typology of publics helps in conflict resolution and in tracking the outcomes of interventions as it shows the change in the composition of publics.

Publics Approaches to Health and Risk Message Design and ProcessingClick to view larger

Figure 2. Illustration of public evolving from three key problem-solving characteristics.

Y. Kim (2016) and Y. Kim, Miller, and Chon (2016) applied the situational theory of problem solving and Ni and J.-N. Kim’s (2009) new typology of publics to crisis communication. They examined different information behaviors among the types of publics and evaluated the crisis-related behaviors of responsible organizations. Chon and J. N. Kim (2016) modified the summation method (J.-N. Kim, 2011) and proposed another procedure to classify aware and active publics in controversial issues when using survey methodology (summation method II).

Publics generally are not created by messages or campaigns. The situational theories and their studies over five decades have found that publics mostly create themselves as a result of their perceptions of problems. However, even though it is difficult, governments or other organizations often need to communicate and invest resources to create publics related to problems or issues. J.-N. Kim and Ni (2013) dealt with this necessity by introducing two common public relations situations related to publics. The most common situation is public-initiated PR (PPR) problems, in which publics have recognized a problem either emerging from organizational decisions or a problem irrespective of organizational action or in which publics approach an organization to help solve their problems. PPR problems typically are triggered by self-identifying publics and often result in controversies and conflicts that may be resolved by a policy or the mobilization of resources to meet the needs of publics. The communication and management goal in such situations is to demotivate or “decreate publics” through facilitating and assisting publics’ problem solving and helping them reach closure in their problematic situation.

In contrast, organizations sometimes realize the need for a public to rise about an issue and take action—a type of public that Hallahan (2000) described as an inactive public because recognition of the issue has not yet taken place. In such situations, recognition of the problem at hand would benefit the organization as well as the publics. Driving awareness about fundraising is an example of what J.-N. Kim and Ni (2013) called organization-initiated PR (OPR) problems. These problems typically do not involve any conflicts or organized actions by passive (latent) publics, and so organizations need to inform and educate publics to obtain a sense of problem and urgency. The communication and management goal in this situation is to motivate or “create publics” about a problem.

Both types of communication situations are relevant and are commonly found in a risk and health communication context. Often, public health offices anticipate potential threats or risks to citizens, even though no one has arisen and organized to demand solutions and action from them. Although the nature of publics makes the task difficult, it is the normative duty for the government or the offices to try to engage inactive publics. The situational theory of problem solving explains when and why publics communicate—that is, if and only if they recognize that something is problematic, that it is connected to their life, and that there are few barriers to doing something about it. Communication programs and interventions aimed at changing these perceptions must motivate them cognitively and communicatively.

In contrast, when challenging public health issues occur, publics are motivated and often exacerbate their fear because of the urgency of the situation and their lack of available information to deal with the challenges. Demotivating anxious publics is mostly not only informational (providing necessary information for themselves) but also behavioral (providing due attention to and resources to publics). Using the situational theory, both PPR and OPR problems may be better dealt with for risk and health communication.

Using L. Grunig, J. Grunig, and Dozier’s (2002) strategic management of public relations model, public-initiated PR problems call for communication programs to decrease problem and involvement recognition, whereas organization-initiated PR problems require an increase in problem and involvement recognition and a decrease in constraint recognition of those target passive publics. J.-N. Kim and Ni (2013) further discussed how to use information variables from the situational theory of problem solving as ways to track communication effectiveness. They also suggested how to use the theory of relationships (Hon & J. Grunig, 1999, Huang, 2001) as a strategy to attract attention from those passive but affected strategic publics (see Figure 3).

Publics Approaches to Health and Risk Message Design and ProcessingClick to view larger

Figure 3. Two types of communication situations and the links to strategic management of public relations.

Employees are one of the most critical stakeholders in an organization who affect and are affected by organizational behaviors. Employees’ routine communicative behaviors have the potential for strategic opportunities and threats because they are constituents who are linked to the organization itself and because they further liaise with other stakeholders and strategic publics. J.-N. Kim and Rhee (2011) used the situational theory of problem solving to capture and define the concept of megaphoning—employees’ external communication behaviors about their organization. While the situational theory of problem solving explains problem-specific information behaviors, megaphoning explains organization-specific information behaviors. To illustrate, when employees engage in positive (negative) megaphoning about their organization, their communicative contents come from their prior to present experiences and interactions with their organization and its management. In contrast, in the situational theory, information efforts are geared toward a given problem one encounters and its resolution.

J.-N. Kim and Rhee (2011) also studied employees’ voluntary information attending and seeking over time with regard to their work procedures and interactions with external stakeholders and publics. Because employees usually have tacit knowledge based on their working experiences, they often develop referent criteria related to their job responsibilities. Based on their informal and formal interactions with strategic constituencies, employees can “scout” business intelligence, conceive innovative ideas, and share their processed information with other members of their organization. Park, J.-N. Kim, and Krishna (2014) studied the conditions (e.g., quality of an organization–employee relationship) that drive intrapreneurship and motivate business information seeking and sharing—scouting—among employees, a behavior that can lead to a bottom-up process of rebuilding an innovative organization.

Finally, J.-N. Kim and Rhee (2011) explained how positive megaphoning and scouting as well as further advocacy efforts can work in favor of an organization. Employees other than public relations managers usually are not chosen to be liaisons between the organization and external members of publics and stakeholders. However, when organizations cultivate and maintain good relationships with their employees, they are more likely to play a non-nominated boundary spanner role—microboundary spanning. They spread messages about the positive aspects of their working organizations, search for and share beneficial information from internal and external stakeholders and constituencies, and pass around acquired information internally with relevant parties in their organizations. Employees’ communicative actions generate invisible and strategic assets for their organizations: They become sources of positive reputational information to external stakeholders, serve as a wellspring of innovative ideas, and soften adversarial impacts from environments.

The phenomenon of megaphoning also has been observed among consumers and foreign publics. Foreign citizens and diasporas engage in positive and negative megaphoning about their host countries and become sources of reputation for the countries. Vibber (2014) and Tam (2015) examined communicative actions about their host country by foreign students and foreign citizens echoed to their friends and family members back in their home countries. Such communicative actions and activism provide a key source of “soft power” for hosting countries, and they are a core influencer of reputational relationships for those who are not directly experiencing, or experienced with, the hosting countries.

Discussion of the Literature

For at least 100 years, communication theorists, researchers, and practitioners have known that “receivers” play a role in the communication process. However, “senders,” the messages that they send, and the effects of the messages on receivers have gotten much more attention in the communication literature. Nevertheless, theories of publics and other groupings of receivers have been proposed over the last century—beginning with a debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey early in the 20th century. Whereas Lippmann believed that receivers of messages were passive, inattentive, and unlikely to form into publics, Dewey believed that publics were active, that they formed when individuals experienced consequences from the decisions and behaviors of others, when they recognized these consequences as problems, and when they communicated and organized with others to resolve a problematic situation.

Ever since, communication scholars have continued the debate over whether publics are active or passive. Like most either-or questions of this nature, scholars have found that publics can be either active or passive and that the same individuals can be members of active or passive publics in different situations. The two most prominent theories of publics in the last 50 years, the situational theory of publics and its successor, the situational theory of problem solving, have developed independent and dependent variables to explain the conditions under which publics are active and passive, the nature of their communicative activities, the kinds of messages they are likely to seek or acquire, the effects of messages on different types of publics, and how publics communicatively interact to organize into activist groups or other types of organizations. Other communication scholars have developed symbolic, rhetorical theories of the communicative interactions of publics that they have argued are different from the situational theory of publics. Although the situational theory of publics did address how individual members of publics communicate and join activist groups, the new variables added to the situational theory of problem solving explicitly explain how communication takes place within publics and transforms them from loose groupings of individuals into more formalized groups.

Public relations, communication, and management scholars also have debated whether a theory of publics should be organization-centered or public-centered. Theories of audiences, stakeholders, linkages, and markets, for example, usually are organization-centered. That is, the organization decides with whom it would like a relationship or who it needs to persuade to behave in a way that benefits the organization. Most public relations textbooks written over the years have defined publics from the organization’s perspective. Likewise, most public relations and other communication professionals have defined their own publics. Often, organization-centered publics are segmented by demographics or similar means, or they are simply viewed as a general public or mass audience. Critical communication scholars also have argued that the situational theories are organization-centered, even though, from their origins in Dewey’s theory of publics, these theories have been based on the assumption that publics arise on their own—although they often arise because of consequences that organizations create for individuals or fail to solve for individuals.

In its many applications over the years, the situational theory of publics has looked at publics both from the point of view of the organization and the public. Sometimes, public relations professionals working for organizations identify publics from the perspective of problems the organization recognizes or believes to be relevant to publics. In most cases, however, these problems do not result in publics unless potential members of a public perceive them to be relevant. Thus, ultimately publics decide what messages are relevant to them and how they use the messages. They seldom are persuaded by messages to do things they do not want to do or that they perceive as irrelevant to them.

The situational theory of problem solving incorporates most of the questions and distinctions that have been addressed about publics over the years. It explains how individuals who perceive the same problems in similar ways develop as disorganized groups of individuals, communicate for themselves and with others, form into organized publics, and interact with formal organizations. It explains when organizations face public-centered communication problems and when they face organization-centered public relations problems. Like the situational theory of publics, it has been applied to a number of health- and risk-related problems. It helps communication professionals to manage both inward- and outward-bound communication programs, explains when communication effects are likely to occur, and helps organizations cultivate relationships with publics in an individual stage as well as with publics that have communicated themselves into a public organization.

Further Reading

Aldoory, L., & Grunig, J. E. (2012). The rise and fall of hot-issue publics: Relationships that develop from media coverage of events and crises. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 6, 93–108.Find this resource:

Aldoory, L., & Sha, B.-L. (2007). The situational theory of publics: Practical applications, methodological challenges, and theoretical horizons. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The future of excellence in public relations and communication management: Challenges for the next generation (pp. 339–355). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems. Chicago: Swallow.Find this resource:

Ettema, J. S., & Whitney, D. C. (Eds.) (1994). Audiencemaking: How the media create the audience. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1997). A situational theory of publics: Conceptual history, recent challenges and new research. In D. Moss, T. MacManus, & D. Vercic (Eds.), Public relations research: An international perspective (pp. 3–46). London: International Thomson Business Press.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (2003). Constructing public relations theory and practice. In B. Dervin & S. Chaffee, with L. Foreman-Wernet (Eds.), Communication, another kind of horse race: Essays honoring Richard F. Carter (pp. 85–115). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (2014). Replacing images, reputations, and other figments of the mind with substantive relationships. In T. Muzi Falconi (Ed.), Global stakeholder relationships governance: An infrastructure (pp. 56–82). New York: Palgrave Pivot.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E., & Repper, F. C. (1992). Strategic management, publics, and issues. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 117–158). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive publics: The forgotten publics in public relations. Public Relations Review, 26, 499–515.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N, & Grunig, J. E. (2011). Problem solving and communicative action: A situational theory of problem solving. Journal of Communication, 61, 120–149.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Grunig, J. E., & Ni, L. (2010). Reconceptualizing the communicative action of publics: Acquisition, selection, and transmission of information in problematic situations. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4, 126–154.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Hung-Baesecke, C-J. F., Yang, S-U., & Grunig, J. E. (2013). The strategic management approach to reputation, relationships, and publics: The research heritage of the excellence theory. In C. E. Carroll (Ed.), The handbook of communication and corporate reputation (pp. 197–212). Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Krishna, A. (2014). Publics and lay informatics: A review of the situational theory of problem solving. In E. L. Cohen (Ed.), Communication yearbook 38 (pp. 71–106). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Ni, L. (2013). Integrating formative and evaluative research in two types of public relations problems: A review of research programs within the strategic management approach. Journal of Public Relations Research, 25, 1–29.Find this resource:

Leitch, S., & Neilson, D. (2001). Bringing publics into public relations: New theoretical frameworks for practice. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 127–138). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Livingstone, S. (Ed.) (2005). Audiences and publics: When cultural engagement matters for the public sphere (pp. 17–42). Bristol, U.K.: Intellect.Find this resource:

References

Abrams, R. W. (1951). Management’s responsibilities in a complex world. Harvard Business Review, 29, 29–34.Find this resource:

Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhi & J. Beckmann (Eds.), Action-control: From cognition to behavior (pp. 11–39). Heidelberg: Springer.Find this resource:

Aldoory, L. (2001). Making health communications meaningful for women: Factors that influence involvement. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 163–185.Find this resource:

Aldoory, L., & Grunig, J. E. (2012). The rise and fall of hot-issue publics: Relationships that develop from media coverage of events and crises. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 6, 93–108.Find this resource:

Aldoory, L., Kim, J.-N, & Tindall, N. (2010). The influence of perceived shared risk in crisis communication: Elaborating the situational theory of publics. Public Relations Review, 36, 134–140.Find this resource:

Aldoory, L., & Sha, B.-L. (2007). The situational theory of publics: Practical applications, methodological challenges, and theoretical horizons. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The future of excellence in public relations and communication management: Challenges for the next generation (pp. 339–355). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Allport, G. W. (1989). Dewey’s individual and social psychology. In P. A. Schilpp & L. E. Hahn (Eds), The philosophy of John Dewey (3d. ed., pp. 265–290). LaSalle, IL: Open Court.Find this resource:

Bernays, E. L. (1923). Crystallizing Public Opinion. New York: Boni and Liveright.Find this resource:

Blumer, J. (1966; originally published in 1946). The mass, the public, and public opinion. In B. Berelson & M. Janowitz (Eds.), Reader in public opinion and communication (2d ed., pp. 43–50). New York: Free Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Blumler, J. G., & Katz, Elihu (Eds.). (1974). The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research. Sage annual reviews of communication research, Volume III. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Chen, Y.-R., Hung-Baesecke, C.-J. F., & Kim, J.-N. (2016). Identifying active hot-issue communicators and subgroup identifiers: Examining the situational theory of problem solving. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.Find this resource:

Chon, M., & Kim, J.-N. (2016). Understanding active publics and their communicative action through public segmentation: Applying situational theory of problem solving to public segmentation in an organizational crisis situation. Journal of Public Relations, 20(3), 113–138.Find this resource:

Clarke, P., & Kline, F. G. (1974). Mass media effects reconsidered: Some new strategies for communication research. Communication Research, 1, 224–270.Find this resource:

Cozier, Z. R., & Witmer, D. F. (2001). The development of a structuration analysis of new publics in an electronic environment. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 615–623). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

De Bussy, N. M. (2013). Refurnishing the Grunig edifice: Strategic public relations management, strategic communication and organizational leadership. In K. Sriramesh, A. Zerfass, & J.-N. Kim (Eds.), Public relations and communication management: Current trends and emerging topics (pp. 79–92). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems. Chicago: Swallow.Find this resource:

Ettema, J. S., & Whitney, D. C. (1994). The money arrow: An introduction to audiencemaking. In J. S. Ettema & D. C. Whitney (Eds.), Audiencemaking: How the media create the audience (pp. 1–18). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman.Find this resource:

Freeman, R. E., & Reed, D. L. (1983). Stockholders and stakeholders: A new perspective on corporate governance. California Management Review, 15, 88–106.Find this resource:

Garcia, C. (2010). Rethinking Walter Lippmann’s legacy in the history of public relations. Prism, 7. Retrieved from http://www.prismjournal.org.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1966). The role of information in economic decision making. Journalism Monographs No. 3.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1969). Information and decision making in economic development. Journalism Quarterly, 46, 565–575.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1971). Communication and the economic decision making processes of Colombian peasants. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 19, 580–597.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1982). The message-attitude-behavior relationship: Communication behaviors of organizations. Communication Research, 9, 163–200.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1989). Sierra club study shows who become activists. Public Relations Review, 15, 3–24.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (1997). A situational theory of publics: Conceptual history, recent challenges and new research. In D. Moss, T. MacManus, & D. Vercic (Eds.), Public relations research: An international perspective (pp. 3–46). London: International Thomson Business Press.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (2003). Constructing public relations theory and practice. In B. Dervin & S. Chaffee, with L. Foreman-Wernet (Eds.), Communication, another kind of horse race: Essays honoring Richard F. Carter (pp. 85–115). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E. (2014). Replacing images, reputations, and other figments of the mind with substantive relationships. In T. Muzi Falconi (Ed.), Global stakeholder relationships governance: An infrastructure (pp. 56–82). New York: Palgrave Pivot.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1997, July). Review of a program of research on activism: Incidence in four countries, activist publics, strategies of activist groups, and organizational responses to activism. Paper presented to the Fourth Public Relations Research Symposium, Managing Environmental Issues, Bled, Slovenia.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E., & Hung-Baesecke, C-J. F. (2015). The effects of relationships on reputation and reputation on relationships: A cognitive, behavioral study. In E-J. Ki, J-N. Kim, & J. A. Ledingham (Eds.), Public relations as relationship management: A relational approach to the study and practice of public relations (2d ed., pp. 63–113). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Find this resource:

Grunig, J. E., & Repper, F. C. (1992). Strategic management, publics, and issues. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 117–158). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Dozier, D. M. (2002). Excellent public relations and effective organizations: A study of communication management in three countries. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive publics: The forgotten publics in public relations. Public Relations Review, 26, 499–515.Find this resource:

Holtzhausen, D. R., & Zerfass, A. (2013). Strategic communication: Pillars and perspectives of an alternative paradigm. In K. Sriramesh, A. Zerfass, & J.-N. Kim (Eds.), Public relations and communication management: Current trends and emerging topics (pp. 283–302). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Hon, L. C., & Grunig, J. E. (1999). Guidelines for measuring relationships in public relations. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations.Find this resource:

Huang, Y. H. (2001). OPRA: A cross-cultural, multiple-item scale for measuring organization-public relationships. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 61–91.Find this resource:

Jeong, J.-S., Kim, Y., & Chon, M.-G. (2016). The importance of online communication behaviors for coping processes and outcomes of dementia patients and their caregivers. Health Communication.Find this resource:

Jones, R. (2002). Challenges to the notion of publics in public relations: Implications of the risk society for the discipline. Public Relations Review, 28, 49–62.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N. (2006). Communicant activeness, cognitive entrepreneurship, and a situational theory of problem solving. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N. (2011). Public segmentation using situational theory of problem solving: Illustrating summation method and testing segmented public profiles. PRism, 8. Retrieved from www.prismjournal.org/homepage.html.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Grunig, J. E. (2011). Problem solving and communicative action: A situational theory of problem solving. Journal of Communication, 61, 120–149.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Grunig, J. E., & Ni, L. (2010). Reconceptualizing the communicative action of publics: Acquisition, selection, and transmission of information in problematic situations. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4, 126–154.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Hung-Baesecke, C-J. F., Yang, S-U., & Grunig, J. E. (2013). The strategic management approach to reputation, relationships, and publics: The research heritage of the excellence theory. In C. E. Carroll (Ed.), The handbook of communication and corporate reputation (pp. 197–212). Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Krishna, A. (2014). Publics and lay informatics: A review of the situational theory of problem solving. In E. L. Cohen (Ed.), Communication yearbook38 (pp. 71–106). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Lee, S. (2014). Communication and cybercoping: Coping with chronic illness through communicative action in online support networks. Journal of Health Communication, 19, 775–794.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Ni, L. (2013). Integrating formative and evaluative research in two types of public relations problems: A review of research programs within the strategic management approach. Journal of Public Relations Research, 25, 1–29.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Ni, L., Kim, S.-H., & Kim, J. R. (2012). What makes people hot? Applying the situational theory of problem solving to hot-issue publics. Journal of Public Relations Research, 24, 144–164.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Oh, Y. W., & Krishna, A. (2016). Justificatory information forefending in digital age: Self-sealing informational conviction of risky health behavior. Health Communication.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., & Rhee, Y. (2011). Strategic thinking about employee communication behavior (ECB) in public relations: Testing the models of megaphoning and scouting effects in Korea. Journal of Public Relations Research, 23, 243–268.Find this resource:

Kim, J.-N., Shen, H., & Morgan, S. (2011). Information behaviors and problem chain recognition effect: Applying situational theory of problem solving in organ donation issues. Health Communication, 26, 171–184.Find this resource:

Kim, Y. (2016). Understanding publics’ perception and behaviors in crisis communication: Effects of crisis news framing and publics’ acquisition, selection, and transmission of information in crisis situations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 28, 35-50.Find this resource:

Kim, Y., Miller, A., & Chon. M. (2016). Communicating with key publics in crisis communication: The synthetic approach to the public segmentation in communicative action in problem solving. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 24, 82–94.Find this resource:

Krishna, A. (2016). Polarizing issues, polarized publics: Explicating lacuna publics’ issue-specific motivations, perceptions, and communicative behaviors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Purdue University.Find this resource:

L’Etang, J. L. (2008). Public relations: Concepts, practice and critique. London: SAGE.Find this resource:

Leitch, S., & Neilson, D. (2001). Bringing publics into public relations: New theoretical frameworks for practice. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 127–138). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Livingstone, S. (2005). On the relationship between audiences and publics. In S. Livingstone (Ed.), Audiences and publics: When cultural engagement matters for the public sphere (pp. 17–42). Bristol, U.K.: Intellect.Find this resource:

Livingstone, S. (2015). Active audiences? The debate progresses but is far from resolved. Communication Theory, 25, 439–446.Find this resource:

McQuail, D. (1997). Audience analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Mendelow, A. L. (1987). Stakeholder analysis for strategic planning and implementation. In W. B. King & D. I. Cleland (Eds.), Strategic planning and management handbook (pp. 176–191). New York: Van Nostrand and Reinhold.Find this resource:

Ni, L., & Kim, J.-N. (2009). Classifying publics: Communication behaviors and problem-solving characteristics in controversial issues. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 3, 1–25.Find this resource:

Park, S., Kim, J.-N., & Krishna, A. (2014). Bottom-up rebuilding of an innovative organization: Motivating employee intrapreneurship and scouting and its strategic values. Management Communication Quarterly, 28, 531–560.Find this resource:

Preston, L. E., & Sapienza, H. J. (1990). Stakeholder management and corporate performance. Journal of Behavioral Economics, 19, 361–375.Find this resource:

Price, V. (1992). Public opinion. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Sha, B.-L. (2006). Cultural identity in the segmentation of publics: An emerging theory of intercultural public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18, 45–65.Find this resource:

Tam, L. S. (2015). Strategic public diplomacy: Cultivating relationships with foreign publics and measuring relationship outcomes using the Relationship Assessment of Diplomatic Interaction Outcome (RADIO) scale. Unpublished PhD diss., Purdue University.Find this resource:

Tkalac, A. (2007). The application of the situational theory in Croatia. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The future of excellence in public relations and communication management: Challenges for the next generation (pp. 527–543). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.’Find this resource:

Vardeman-Winter, J., Tindall, N., & Jiang, H. (2013). Intersectionality and publics: How exploring publics’ multiple identities questions basic public relations concepts. Public Relations Inquiry, 2, 279–304.Find this resource:

Vasquez, G. M., & Taylor, M. (2001). Research perspectives on “the public.” In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 139–154). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Vibber, K. S. (2014). Advocates or adversaries? An exploration of communicative actions of within-border foreign publics and their effect on the host country’s soft power. Unpublished PhD diss., Purdue University.Find this resource:

Webster, J. G., & Phalen, P. F. (1994). Victim, consumer, or commodity? Audience models in communication policy. In J. S. Ettema & D. C. Whitney (Eds.), Audiencemaking: How the media create the audience (pp. 19–37). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Yoo, S-W, Kim, J., & Lee, Y. (2016). The effect of health beliefs, media perceptions, and communicative behaviors on health behavioral intention: An integrated health campaign model on social media. Health Communication.Find this resource: