Mass communication is a means of transmitting messages to a large segment of a population. Electronic and print media are commonly used for this. The word 'media' is currently used to refer not only to broadcast media such as radio, the internet and television — but also to print media such as papers, magazines, leaflets and wall posters. Remember also the importance of local folk media such as local art, songs, plays, puppet shows and dance (Figure 9.2). The powerful advantage of mass media over face-to-face contact is the rapid spread of simple facts to a large population at a low cost. The main effects of mass communication are the increased knowledge or awareness of an issue, the potential influence on behaviours at the early stages and the possibility to communicate new ideas to early adopters (opinion leaders).
The other benefits of mass communication are accuracy and plausibility. Think of the influence of a newspaper article, giving the opinion of a highly respected person. However it also has limitations. These include the lack of feedback because the broadcaster transmits this message without knowing what is going on in the receiver's mind. There is also the danger of selective perception because the audience may only grasp part of the message, or selectively pick up the points that they agree with and ignore others. Mass communication does not differentiate between targets and so some people may think. 'This does not concern me'. It only provides non-specific information because it is broadcast to the whole population, and it is difficult to make the message fit the local needs of your community, whose problems and needs may be different from the rest of the country.
For an effective mass media communication, the message or advice should be realistic and pre-tested so that it is transmitted accurately without distortion. The message should be useful in creating awareness, and has to be followed by individual or group approaches to achieve positive behaviour change.
Why do you think you should organise the content of your health messages in different ways for different types of audiences?
Because not everyone responds in the same way, what might persuade you to change your behaviour might be quite different from what might persuade another person. Also people learn in different ways. Some people may listen and be persuaded, some may watch and some may read. If you use a variety of different approaches you will reach more people.