عنوان مقاله [English]
Introduction and Problem of Study:
The objective of the present paper is to offer an analysis of the persuasion techniques used in the Iranian government’s media campaign on “Opt-out from Subsidy Plan.” The event took place in the first month of 1393SH (Iranian Calendar).
The “Opt-out from Subsidy Plan” turned out to be one of the main government’s media campaigns. The government introduced and launched it to motivate and encourage Iranian to withdraw their name from the list of beneficiaries, i.e., those who were receiving a monthly subsidy from the government. The campaign implemented in almost half month (16th to 31st) in early of year 1393SH and based on the statistic given by officials, only 3% of the people welcome the campaign and register their names to withdraw from the list of those who are receiving the monthly subsidy.
The organizers of such campaign tried to encourage and motivate people to participate in the campaign. The role of media and the contents, however, was one of the main reasons to contribute to its failure as there was evidence that shows neither media fully supported and participated in the campaign, nor the organizer used and implemented as much effective media and persuasion techniques on the content as expected. Had it been provided to attract people to follow the campaign objectives, the results may have been different.
As such, the main question of this study was to address the role of media (in terms of direction) in the “Opt-out from subsidy plan” campaign and also to offer an analysis of the most persuasion techniques used by the organizer (government) so to attract as many people to participate in this campaign as possible.
The results of this study will help the organizer, i.e., the Iranian government, to do a better job in designing and creating campaign messages, that is using more persuasive techniques as well as assigning more efficient communicator in its future campaigns.
Here, we used persuasion theory and persuasion techniques as the principal and conceptual framework. Persuasion Theory is a theory that deals with the elements of communication and their role in shaping and re-shaping the attitudes and behaviors of receivers. In this perspective, persuasive messages are thus able to activate an attitude change that can modify behaviors of the public in general.
In communication discipline and to justify the persuasion elements, there are communication models which deal and elaborating the meaning, concept, and function of each element and the way they interact in each situation.
To be more specific, all the elements of the communication process including Source, Communicator, Context, Message, Medium, Noise, and feedback are involved and playing a role in shaping and re-shaping public attitude. Each of these elements along with persuasive techniques can increase or decrease the efficiency of the media content. Also worthy of highlighting that, techniques like “fear,” “Authority,” “Pinpointing the enemy,” “Name calling,” “Glittering generalities,” “commitment and consistency,” “Social proof” etc. are among the most persuasive techniques used in almost all types of campaign.
The method of study was qualitative (Them analysis) and quantitative content analysis. Quantitative content analysis is a popular method among communication researchers who are investigating media contents. Krippendorff (1980) defined content analysis as a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from data to their context.
In this study, the researcher also approached the qualitative content analysis named “theme analysis.” Theme analyzing as a qualitative technique is defined as a method for the subjective interpretation of the content of text data through the systematic classification process of coding and identifying themes or patterns.
Altogether, we chose some 412 programs/news from one TV channels (TV1) and three mainstream dailies named “Kaihan,” “Iran” and “Etemad” to constitute the unit of analysis of the study. We selected some 196 programs/news randomly as samples on which we performed data collection and data analysis.
Based on the objectives of the study, the research instrument (Coding protocol) was developed by the researcher. The research instrument was tested - retested for reliability using Scott's pi (range between 0 - 1). All cases and after a few amendments, the result of Scott’s pi was 0.75 and above.
For the validity of the research instrument, the researcher follows the content validity where more than five experts in the area of media and communication approved the codes and structure of the research protocol to achieved the research objectives and measuring the research questions.
Findings and Discussion:
The result of the study shows that there was no consistency among media content toward this campaign overall. While 80.8% of the content in TV1 and 75.5% of the content of “Iran” newspaper was positive toward the campaign, 54.5% of the content in “Keihan” was negative, and also 56.3% of the content in “Etemad” newspaper was neutral. The result of the Chi-Square test (X2 = 100.9, P= 0.05) shows that there is a significant difference between the media and their direction toward this campaign.
In terms of the direction toward organizer of the campaign (Communicator), also media appear to be more neutral rather than be supportive. In overall, 64.3% of the content toward the government was neutral, 14.3% were negative, and only 21.4% were positive. Also, the statistic test was conducted, and the results show there were significant differences between media and their direction toward the organizer of the campaign (X2 = 72.7, P= 0.01).
Also from the qualitative content analysis, some major negative “themes” were identified which could justify the failure of the whole Campaign. For Example, “Kaihan” and “Etemad” have had some negative publicity regarding the “Organizer” which at the end resulted in disrespectful between the people and organizer.
While it was expected most persuasion techniques such as “Commitment and consistency,” “Social proof,” “Scarcity” and “Authority” appeared in the media content, the “fear” technique appeared to be mainly used especially at the early stages of the campaign. The most frequent used message carrying the element of “Fear” was “the possibility of a penalty for those who are not eligible to receive the monthly subsidy from the Government.” Even though from the middle of the campaign the organizer’s language has changed, and they tried to use more soft messages such as “denying the possibility of a penalty for recipients of the monthly subsidy” in approaching the people. Still, there was no confident “position” on what the government is going to do.
In terms of using persuasive techniques, the result of the study shows that the capacity of these techniques has not been properly used. In addition to using inappropriate persuasive techniques, some messages have been produced and published against the principals of persuasion theories. The techniques like “Scarcity” or "Social proof” were used inappropriately where could not lead the organizer to the target objectives.
Also, there was no certain standards or benchmark from the government on whom should register their name to be removed from the list of “subsidy list” and whom should remain on the list. On this basis, it can be highlighted that public perception of the whole plan was floating between force and persuasion.
Keywords: Persuasion Techniques, Opt-out from Subsidy Plan, Campaign, Government, Media Campaign, Communication Elements, Noise, Iran.
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