Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

20
Using Media Campaigns
for Health Promotion
Charles T. Salmon
Michigan State University
Charles Atkin
Michigan State University

DEFINITION OF A CAMPAIGN

Given its historical origins and colloquial usage, the term campaign is in some ways a curious moniker for describing the activities of the contemporary health-communications practitioner. The Latin word campus and the Late Latin word campania both meant “flat country” and these were the antecedents of the Old Northern French word campagne and the English word campaign (Partridge, 1966). Why flat country? Because that was the typical setting in which battles were fought. In the days of antiquity, a campaign was a specific military intervention defined in both topography and time. More than a battle but less than a war, a campaign would endure for a period of one or two years, during which time troops commonly would remain in flat country, sometimes a single field, to fight toward some objective—a river, a walled city, perhaps a port—whose capture was deemed of particular strategic importance for the larger war effort (Scott, 1864). With success, an especially harsh winter, or the end of their term of active service, troops would return to quarters, an event signaling the end of the campaign.

Although the original usage of the term may no longer hold currency, its military connotations are indisputable and easily spotted in numerous contemporary references to the campaign process. Consider the many aggressive images evoked when using the term campaign in the context of public health, a helping profession: “Armies” of public health professionals (or health “crusaders, ” as they are sometimes called) design “surveillance systems, ” actively “gather intelligence” through formative research, set “objectives, ” engage in “strategies” and “tactics” involving “scattershot” messages or highly “targeted” “magic bullets, ” “mobilize and deploy” resources, and attempt to “trigger” change, “overcome resistance” and “neutralize the defenses” of “target audiences. ” In special cases in the

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