Wikis > Patterns of informational tool use: the growth of exhortation and public information campaigns

It is now very much a matter of course for information campaigns to accompany many government initiatives. Expenditures, laws and programmes in this area have grown as they have been included in more and more policy designs. This is explicable given the non-coercive nature of this tool, which accords well with the ideology and imperatives of liberal-democratic governments and their preferred legal and corporatist-based governance modes.

Information dissemination remains relatively low cost in terms of financial and personnel outlays as well, but compliance with government urgings is a major issue – and as in all advertising (Pepsi, Coke, etc.) evaluating the impact of these campaigns is very uncertain (Salmon 1989a; 1989b). Consumers may not pay attention to information provided, for example nutritional or eco-labels, or may become inured to messages repeated too often (Howells 2005). Effective campaigns can also take some time to get started and evoke any behavioural response and behaviour can revert back to old habits and patterns once a campaign stops. Or, where too much information is provided (‘information overload’) intended targets may stop listening, also leading to diminishing returns over time (Bougherara et al. 2007). The political risks to government in using this tool may be high if such a high visibility instrument is perceived to have failed to alter behaviour in the desired direction, leading to demands for greater government efforts.