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The persuasive effects of social media narrative PSAs on COVID-19 vaccination intention among unvaccinated young adults: the mediating role of empathy and psychological reactance

Youngjee Ko (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Hanyoung Kim (Department of Integrated Strategic Communication, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)
Youngji Seo (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jeong-Yeob Han (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Hye Jin Yoon (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Jongmin Lee (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Ja Kyung Seo (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 8 June 2023

Issue publication date: 10 November 2023

422

Abstract

Purpose

Successful social marketing campaign to promote COVID-19 vaccination for the unvaccinated relies on increasing positive reactions but also reducing negative responses to persuasive messages. This study aims to investigate the relative effects of narrative vs non-narrative public service announcements (PSAs) promoting COVID-19 vaccination on both positive and negative reactions. Using social media as a tool for disseminating marketing campaigns provides a great opportunity to examine the effectiveness of narrative PSAs on vaccination intention, especially among unvaccinated young adults, who were the target audience of the social marketing. This study explores the role of empathy and psychological reactance as underlying mechanisms.

Design/methodology/approach

An experiment involving unvaccinated young adults was conducted with a one-factor, two-condition (message type: narrative vs non-narrative) design.

Findings

Results indicated that the narrative (vs non-narrative) PSAs led to greater empathy. While no direct effects of message type emerged on psychological reactance or vaccination intention, results of a serial multi-mediator model confirmed that empathy and psychological reactance mediated the effects of message type on vaccination intention.

Originality/value

The study extends the understanding of narrative persuasion by examining an underlying mechanism behind narrative persuasion in a COVID-19 PSA. This study provides empirical evidence of the important role of empathy in processing narrative PSAs. Moreover, the current study expands narrative persuasion’s applicability to COVID-19 vaccination intervention messages for unvaccinated young adults, highlighting the effectiveness of narrative persuasion as a social marketing communication tool.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgement: None.

Financial/funding disclosure: None.

The authors report there are no competing interests to declare.

The manuscript has not been published previously.

Citation

Ko, Y., Kim, H., Seo, Y., Han, J.-Y., Yoon, H.J., Lee, J. and Seo, J.K. (2023), "The persuasive effects of social media narrative PSAs on COVID-19 vaccination intention among unvaccinated young adults: the mediating role of empathy and psychological reactance", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 490-509. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-09-2022-0185

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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