Mass Media

What is this Tool?

  • Means of public communication that can "broadcast" to a large number of people at one time. Examples include social media like Facebook and Twitter, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, flyers and utility bills.

Why Would You Use It?

  • Because the mass media provide a cost-effective method for reaching large audiences with your messages.

When Would You Use It?

  • Consider using the mass media in the six situations discussed below. Almost every program will involve one or more of these situations.

In some situations involving relatively minor barriers such as inertia or lack of information, mass media can be one of your primary tools of change.

1. Minor barriers, substantial direct benefit

If the barriers to adopting the behaviour are relatively minor and if there is a clear and substantial direct benefit to the person making the change, you can rely on the mass media as your primary tool for bringing about the desired behaviour.

None of the Case Studies on this Web site provide a good illustration of this first situation. As one example, consider a campaign to promote a less expensive green product that is similar in every other way to traditional, less sustainable alternatives.

2. Minor barriers, no direct benefit

If the barriers are relatively minor but there is no clear, direct benefit to the person making the change, or if the benefit is not large enough to be taken seriously, you can use the mass media as one of a few key tools for bringing about the desired behaviour.

For example, Get in the Loop - Buy Recycled advertised extensively through the media to promote the purchase of recycled-content products. The other key element in its program was in-store prompts.

In situations with significant barriers, you will need to rely on a number of the other tools described in this Workbook. The media can nonetheless be very helpful in the following five situations.

3. To create receptivity to your program

If you need to raise awareness or provide basic information in order to promote receptivity to your program, consider the mass media.

For example, JEEP ran a broad public awareness campaign throughout its program. This ensured that the JEEP teams were not making cold calls and that the residents were already predisposed to hearing about the details of the program.

In contrast, Be Water Wise found that their public education program did not prepare residents adequately for the sale of subsidized water conservation retrofit kits during their 20-minute home visits.

4. To draw people to your program

If you want to draw people to an event, or notify them of an opportunity such as home visits or incentive programs, use the mass media.

For example, ReCAP found that 29 percent of home visit bookings came from newspaper articles, and that an additional 19 percent were from tax and utility bill inserts.

5. For seasonal reminders

If people are generally committed to doing the activity but have not done it for a while, a seasonal reminder through the media may prove helpful. For example, seasonal reminders can be used to promote putting out leaves for community-wide composting. The mulching of Christmas trees is another example.

6. To stimulate face-face conversations

A good media campaign can get people talking with one another about the issues and/or actions you are trying to promote. This can reinforce your use of the other Tools of Change.

7. To show participation and results

Once your program has gained participation and has started to show results, the mass media provide excellent opportunities for providing group feedback, strengthening norm appeals and building motivation.

For example, Quinte Regional Recycling provided positive feedback to its citizens through radio spots, video presentations on local television stations, and newspaper articles. These featured stories about citizens and local businesses that participated in the program and contributed to their community.


How Would You Use It?

1. Using the right-hand column as a guide, consider some ways you might work with the media.


BRIDGE, COAST, Drama Downunder, and the Healthy Penis Campaign all used mass media to encourage people to get tested for STIs.

BRIDGE used its Radio Diaries campaign to help reduce stigma associated with HIV / AIDS.

When air pollution concentrations approach unhealthy levels, Spare the Air notified people living and working within the San Francisco Bay Area, and encouraged them to avoid activities that pollute the air. Television and radio stations, newspapers, participating employers and individuals registered with the network, were notified by phone, fax or email. Television stations announced Spare the Air days in their news and weather reports. Radio stations mentioned them in their news reports, and disc jockeys announced them during their shows. Local newspapers included Spare the Air advisories in Air Quality Index reports, published articles about the program, and displayed the Spare the Air Day slogan on their mastheads, at the top of the front page.

Kamloops' WaterSmart organized a "Tip of the Week" contest with the cooperation of a local newspaper and radio station. Once a week, a water-saving tip was published in the newspaper, and radio listeners were invited to call in the tip. The first person to phone with the right answer received either a WaterSmart t-shirt, a mug,or a low-flow shower head.

Tip: Do not forget local community newspapers.

Your Program

Which of the following might make sense for your program?

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Advertising in newspapers, radio, television

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Inviting the media to cover a program launch or special event

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Involving a celebrity in your program and arranging for related media coverage

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Arranging a quiz or contest in cooperation with the media

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Inserts and messages directly on utility bills

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Regular newspaper columns

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Radio spots

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change Video clips for television