Diffusion Theory in Communications/Public Relations

I’m not an economics or business major. Much of the math we’ve been using has been lost, even simple algebraic principles, from not using it (it might have been a good idea to brush up before taking this class). Still, I’ve gained a better understanding of the underlying principles involved and have (somewhat) of an idea on how to apply and predict outcomes of diffusion in my field: communications/public relations/image management. Surprisingly, the content of the two classes has been somewhat hand in hand when discussing theory and process. Diffusion of Innovation, diffusion, diffusion theory–whatever you want to call it–is an important topic in PR; it explains how ideas are spread and can help to better plan marketing and public relations campaigns and the transfer of ideas/ideals/mission statements and public announcements.

The attached article is from the Journal of Consumer Research, so it is a bit lengthy, but it shows how what we’ve learned in class is applied to a business’ relations. One aspect of communications is that the practice has come to rely on the Two-Step Flow Model of influence. It applies the Triadic Closure Principle and gears campaigns, information (what-have-you), to the intervening and moderating publics. It is a better way to reach an audience, because if focuses on the stronger ties within the community, or network.

The article actually focuses on adoption a bit more than our text has and separates the different audiences; stating that those in influencing positions aren’t always the first to acquire the new technology, idea, etc. That “cascades triggered by hyperinfluentials are on average less successful than than those triggered in low-variance influential networks…” (but those in highly influential positions are still not to be discounted, because they can reach a major portion of the community in a shorter step).