Changing behaviour – takes a long time?

August 27, 2007 at 8:05 pm 2 comments


In an interesting post by Tom Watson on the Dummyspit blog, he writes about the difficulty of changing behaviour through PR campaigns – in this case to encourage better eating habits in UK schools (staying away from hamburgers for example). He also notes the rather depressing statistic that PR campaigns normally have only a 0.04% success rate of changing behaviour! In setting campaign objectives, I encourage organisations to be realistic about the targets they set – for example, a modest 2 – 10% behaviour change for public health campaigns is cited as being a realistic target (Rice & Paisley 1982).

But before you abandon your PR activities in despair, we have to be clear about what we define as “behaviour change”. Changing eating habits is a long-term behaviour change. PR campaigns often focus on trying to change long term behaviour and don’t consider setting goals in terms of immediate responses – what can people be expected to do when reached by the campaign? In PR terminology this is called “outtakes” (different from long-term behaviour which would be “outcomes”).

Following are some practical examples of “outtakes” or immediate responses (which are short term behaviours) that can be measured. I believe that the percentage of change desired amongst a target audience can can be set at higher than 10% for many of these:

– % of people that sign a petition
– % of people that refer a web page to a friend
– % people that go online to participate in an online discussion
– % of organisations/individuals that publicly support a campaign
– % of people who report undertaking a new initiative as a result of a campaign


Entry filed under: Campaign evaluation, Communication evaluation, PR evaluation.

Output or outcome? Changing behaviour – immediate responses

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