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Meaning of Public and Publics. Opinion. Public Opinion. Attitudes in Opinion Formation. Changing Existing Attitudes. Formation of Public Opinion. Laws of Public Opinion. Public Opinion Research. Image Surveys. Motivation Research. Effectiveness Surveys. Individual Public Studies. Principles of Persuasion.

Meaning of Public and Publics
A public is “a group of people with a common interest.” It is rather loosely organized and conjoined grouping of people with a common interest.

According of Webster’s, Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Opinion is “a view, judgment or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.”

Public Opinion
Public Opinion means what a group of people with a common interest thinks collectively about something controversial. According to Bertrand R. Canfield it is a “Complex product resulting from the interaction of individual opinions occurring within a group faced with a controversial issue.” Walter Lippamann: In this classic book, public opinion Walter Lippamann remarks: “The picture inside the head of …human beings, the picture of themselves, of others, of their needs purposes and relationships are the public opinion.”

Attitudes in Opinion Formation
The main aim of public relations is to measure, analyze and influence public opinion which develops from individual’s attitude comprising the public. It is therefore, important to understand the meaning of attitudes, why attitudes are held by the people, and their role in the opinion forming process. Attitude is the feeling or mood of an individual for or against someone, organization, object or an issue. It is a way of looking at situations. An attitude that is expressed can be termed as an opinion. Attitudes represent the predisposition of an individual to evaluate controversial questions in a favorable or unfavorable manner.

Changing Existing Attitudes
When an existing attitude no longer provides a person with satisfaction or when his aspirations are raised, changes in attitude takes place. If an individual is not satisfied with his cherished beliefs, or he is frustrated or has problems, changes in attitudes takes place. Attitudes can also be changed by appealing to the physical, social and economic needs of the people.

Formation of Public Opinion
Public Opinion is formed by individuals who are a part of group who express their own opinion on a controversial issue. Public opinion is a composite opinion which results from the interactions of the individual opinion. One of the distinctive characteristic of public opinion process is the transformation of individual opinion into public opinion. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘Group Mind’. The Dictionary of Mass Communication defines public opinion as the expression of all members of a group who give attention to a given issue.

Public Opinion is brought about by transforming individual opinion into group opinion and by exerting influence of the members of a group on the individual’s opinion. The opinion of the people in a group are influences by: 3. Hear from opinion leaders and other members of the group or person from outside the group. 4. Read in newspapers, books and magazines. 5. See in life on television or about their own self. 6. Apart from these individual opinions are influenced by their own needs, emotions heredity, culture, experience, education and economic status.

Public opinion emerges out of the interaction of individual attitudes opinions and group opinions. Today as a result of education and improved communication public opinion is based more on rational thinking. More people weigh judgment until they have facts and evaluate the information they receive from various sources.

Laws of Public Opinion
Some years go Handley Cantril worked out some laws of public opinion on the basis of intensive study of the trends over a decade. He held that trends that were recorded by the polls support these generalizations. 2. In all the important events opinion is very sensitive. 3. Opinion is determined bye events than by words, unless the words are interpreted as events. 4. Public Opinion is colored by desires like the individual opinion. When the opinion is based on desire rather than information, it will show sharp shifts with the events. 5. People are able to form opinions more easily with respect to goals rather than the methods necessary to accomplish it. 6. People are less reluctant to have critical divisions of opinion made by their leaders.

6. When an opinion is not structured solidly or when an opinion is held by a simple majority, an accomplished fact will tend to shift the opinion in the direction of acceptance. 7. Opinions are not easily changed when self interest is actually involved. 8. Unless the people feel that their self interest is actually involved or opinion aroused by words is sustained by events, opinions does not remain aroused for a longer period. 9. Opinions do not anticipate emergencies, it only reacts to them. 10. When opinion is unrestricted or when people are open to suggestion and seek some interpretation from a reliable source, verbal statements and outlines of a course of action have the maximum importance.

Public Opinion Research
Public opinion research includes motivation research, image surveys, effectiveness surveys and individual public studies. Out of these two or more may be used concurrently in determining the character of an opinion. Opinion research seeks answer what people think about an organization, why they think so, their attitudes towards company policies and practices. In addition to this studies are made of opinion of a few selected members of the public such as stockholders, employees, dealers, education, etc.

Image Surveys
Image surveys determine the corporate image in the minds of the public by ascertaining the attitudes of the public towards an organization. They seek to understand the company’s reputation and what the public thinks about its products, services, advertising personnel and practices.

Motivation Research
This research seeks to find out why the public look with favor or disapproval upon a company. Through depth interviews with a representative sample of the population it seeks to dissolve which attitude of the public motivates them towards the organization. It is necessary to explore the psychological factors which shapes the individual attitude towards the company, if we want to understand the motives which influence an individual’s opinion. A company’s public image will not only be affected by its own actions and policies but also by the attitude of the public towards the industry to which the company belongs. Motivation studies are carried to find out the emotional factor that influence the public opinion of a company or industry.

Effectiveness Surveys
They are used to measure the impact made by the company’s public relations activities on the opinion. Before the start of the campaign a representative sample of the public is interviewed to find out the public attitudes and the extent of the public knowledge of the company. After the campaign the same people are again interviewed to see if there has been any change in their opinion due to public relation messages. Some public relations researchers have questioned the reliability of this type of survey because before interview the attention of the respondents is focused on the company. As a result, respondent are more conscious of the messages and their expressions of the campaign are not typical of the public as a whole. Effectiveness surveys are used to measure public opinion of specific events such as open house strikes, plant closing and other related activities.

Individual Public Studies
A number of corporation abroad and a few in India undertake periodic studies of the policies, practices, management, supervision and working conditions. The attitudes of the employee’s family are also surveyed. The most effective method of conducting employee opinion survey is to question all the employees in the group of 10-30 by asking then to complete questionnaires on the questions related to the organization and of their work.

Principles of Persuasion
Tentative principles of persuasion based on experimental research: 2. Acceptance of the message is a critical factor in persuasive communication. 3. If the suggestion meets the following it is more likely to be accepted. (d) If it meets existing personality needs and drives. (e) If it is in harmony with group norms and loyalties. (f) If the source is perceived as trustworthy or expert. 3. If the suggestion is accompanied by other factors underlying belief and attitude then change in attitude is more likely to occur.

4. It is more effective to give only one side of the argument when: (b) The audience is friendly. (c) One position is presented. (d) Immediate but temporary change of opinion is wanted. 5. It is more effective to present both sides of the argument when” (f) The audience disagrees. (g) It is probable that it will hear the other side from another source. 6. The one presented last will be more effective when equally attractive opposing views are presented one after another.

7. Sometimes emotional appeals and sometimes factual appeals are more influential. It depends on the kind of message and kind of audience. 8. In inducing a desired opinion change a strong threat is generally less effective than a mild threat. 9. The desired opinion change may be sometimes more measurable after exposure to the communication than right exposure. 10. Those people who you want most in the audience are likely to be least there.

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