In three phases, this study identifies and evaluates the major messages being used in communication campaigns focused on the ongoing drought in California. A literature review in Phase 1 resulted in a typology of 12 message strategies. Following this typology, trained coders in Phase 2 evaluated water conservation messages (N = 100) to determine whether each message utilized one or multiple strategies. The results revealed various frequencies of strategy application; and a correlational analysis rendered a pattern of strategy use in combinations. Phase 3 focused on a controlled message experiment applying the three most relevant strategies: conservation tips, loss aversion, and evidence of drought. Analysing data sampled from California residents (N = 180), conservation messages, regardless of the strategy, led to attitude change in a negative direction. Additional analyses revealed interesting patterns of combinatorial strategy effects. The results call for a re-examination of message strategies as they may lead to several unfavourable outcomes.
- Water conservation messages