Public Relations has a lot of different parts to it, including several theories or processes. Two of these are very similar, those would be the diffusion theory, and the adoption process. Some instances of these theories are thought to be continuous, in an article by Phillip J. Kitchen, he talks about how PR adopted the internet, he says,
In fact, adoption of the internet for PR purposes could be considered a continuous (as compared to discontinuous or incremental) innovation, although such use is now mainstream. Adoption and diffusion processes are not, however, a one-time instantaneous event simultaneously affecting all practitioners. Instead, adoption can be a long slow process, and following Rogers (1995), the way an innovation (product, process, system or idea) diffuses through a social system over time is just as important as the innovation itself. (2010, para 5)
Towards the end of the quote, Kitchen is talking about how the process in which something enters a social system can be just as important as the thing itself, which is why it’s so important to know the difference between the adoption process and the diffusion theory.
When people are making a purchase, it’s generally pretty thought out, of course, everyone makes an impulse purchase here and there, but for the most part people think about stuff before they buy it, “therefore, the strategy behind an organization’s product or service must also be calculated to obtain the most effective results possible” (Diffuse This, 2011, para 3). Both the diffusion theory and the adoption process are very carefully planned processes, and although they are very similar, they have their distinct differences.
One difference is the main usage of the theories, the diffusion theory is generally used for ideas or products, whereas the adoption process usually for issues or products. The other differences happen within the process of the theories. Both start with the awareness stage, this is when someone finds out about a product, they usually hear about it because of an advertisement or a news story, somewhere in the media. Following awareness is interest. The interest stage is when someone would be intrigued by the product/idea/issue and they’d be seeking out more information.
After Interest, is where the two theories vary. The diffusion theory would then go to trial, then evaluation, while the adoption process would go to evaluation, then trial. This means that in the diffusion theory, the people would try the product and then evaluate it, whereas in the adoption process, they would evaluate the process to see if it’s even worth giving it a try.
Although they happen in a different order, the ideas are the same. During the evaluation stage they would be looking deeper into a product, and evaluating it based on their wants and needs, they would also be talking to family and friends to see if it is something they should consider. The trial stage is when they actually try the product. They’d generally start with a sample, or a demo, but the product would be in their hands so they could physically give it a try.
The final stage is the same for both theories. This is the adoption stage. At this point, they’ve done all their research, and they’re ready to integrate the product/idea/issue into their daily lives. Sometimes during this theory, they also talk to their friends about the product/idea/issue and would generally be talking very highly about whatever they had just adopted which would in turn make their friend or family more likely to start one of these processes on their own.
These processes are also very important because “Marketing tools may change, the way consumers discover products may change, and consumer behaviors may change, but the 5 stages that make up the consumer adoption process will always remain the same” (Chandra, 2014, para 1). So no matter how much technology advances, this process will remain the same. The way the processes are executed may change, but the five main steps will be identical.
Chandra, N. (2014, October 28). 5 Stages to the Consumer Adoption Process [Expanded].
Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://welink.com/blog/2014/10/27/the-consumer-adoption-process-never-changes/
Kitchen, P.J., (2010), Online public relations: The adoption process and innovation challenge, a Greek example. Public Relations Review, Volume 36(3).
Diffuse This. (2011, January 11). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://elwinpr.wordpress.com/tag/diffusion-theory/