ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Theories Behind Media & The Message

Updated on March 3, 2013

Did you learn something new from this article?

See results

Media is a convenient tool for public relations ability to communicate with massive audiences. With technology rapidly on the rise, it appears that there will be an infinite number of options to reach a particular public in the near future. However, the older theories that support the idea of how a message is recieved have mainly stayed consistent. One-step flow, two-step flow and multi-step flow are a few of the many theories that are relevent in transmitting a message. There are arguments as to what the message really is though. Regardless, the fact is that the public wants to be informed and heard, and both can be accomplished through the media.

The theory of one-step flow is basically that a sender sends a message to a receiver and the receiver takes action. According to Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics, this is a form of the bullet theory, which means that a receiver does exactly what the medium says and does not consider any outside factors. This obviously is not likely to happen for any company, including public relations departments. The two-step flow theory explains that after a sender releases a message through a medium it is then analyzed by an opinion leader who deems it credible or not. Based on the opinion leader's thoughts about the message, the receiver of the message will then decide what action to take. For example, a public relations department puts out a statement to the public stating that their company is helping in the fight against world hunger in order to raise awareness. The opinion leader (who may be a father, friend, neighbor, etc.) of the reciever of that message may approve of what they are doing and claim that they are a good, philanthropic company, so the receiver will also share those thoughts.

The final, and most realistic, concept is the multi-step theory. With this theory the sender puts out a message through the medium and it is determined by multiple opinion leaders, who have been influenced by their opinion leaders, that a message is credible or not. Then, based on the ideas of the multiple opinion leaders, the receiver will act accordingly. It should be understood by people in Public Relations that mass audiences are affected by many opinion leaders and outside sources. Therefore, those similiar groups of individuals within the mass audience may need to be catered to differently in order to get the message approved and acted on as desired. In some cases, that even means getting creative and utilizing messages in different ways.

Philosopher Marshall McLuhan would argue that the medium used is the message. He claimed that media has expanded communities into a "global village". In other words, the advancements in media technology allows us to experience events, as they happen, together. However, McLuhan also said that the media helps in some areas and hurts in others, such as the type of medium that is voluntarily or involuntarily utilized. This couldn't be more applicable for public relations practitioners. With the popularity of viral videos on the rise, good or bad publicity can be spread extremely quickly which either gives people in PR something to boast over or come up with some sort of damage control. Another concept that McLuhan created is "hot" and "cool" mediums. A hot medium is one where there is more sensory data and allows for complexity in the message. A cool medium is just the opposite. In public relations, it is crucial to use the hottest medium possible in order to get the desired message accross. However, since McLuhan's death there have been great advancements in technology which provide for more hot mediums, resulting in the ability for more complex messages.

Ove Westin contested that the audience is the message. His point was that since media's main purpose is generate a profit, it was important to expand the audience as much as possible in order to charge more for advertising. Relating to television, Westin said it was important to have the least objectional programming so people would feel comfortable and have no reason to change the channel. Public relations practitioners clearly must take note of this theory because it correlates with the principles of PR. If a company's publics are accurately informed and feel comfortable with their way of communicating, there is no sense in changing it because they are running the risk of making the publics feel unsure.

William Stephenson's "play theory" insisted that the use/application determined the message. In other words, people have a need to interact and feel involved. This is why any public relations effort should attempt to make the general public aware that their input was heard and made a difference in the outcome. Also, the internet has made it possible to have two-way communications with the people, which is a very direct method of addressing issues.

Of course, there are those people that reject all of these theories as potential tools. They simply claim that the message is the message. The truth of the matter is that no individual concept is good enough to disgard the other tools that can be used in public relations. Like work tools, the PR tools that one chooses to use must depend on the job that it will be trying to accomplish.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)