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Building a stronger PRSSA chapter:
What Self Determination Theory tells us about the importance of
motivation and need satisfaction
Robert S. Pritchard, APR, Fellow PRSA
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Assistant Professor, Ball State University
Office: (765) 285-9104
Fax: (765) 285-7997
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Vincent F. Filak, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Ball State University
Office: (765) 285-8218
Fax: (765) 285-8248
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Lindsay L. Beach
Undergraduate Student, Ball State University
Email: [log in to unmask]
Submitted for presentation in the Public Relations Division for the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference
August 2005, San Antonio, Texas
Building a stronger PRSSA chapter:
What Self Determination Theory tells us about the importance of
motivation and need satisfaction
This study uses self-determination theory to predict the impact of
need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation on PRSSA members. While
higher levels of need satisfaction universally predicted more
positive ratings of both the PRSSA chapter and adviser, Teahan award
winners were significantly more positive in their ratings of all of
these variables. Furthermore, students who felt more intrinsically
motivated reported a greater likelihood that they would persist in
PRSSA and transition to PRSA upon graduation. Finally, the quality of
the educational experience the student reported receiving was
strongly predictive of the quality of their motivation, while
external rewards were negatively correlated with motivation.
Building a stronger PRSSA chapter:
What Self Determination Theory tells us about the importance of
motivation and need satisfaction
The Public Relations Student Society of America is one of the most
successful student organizations in the country. The organization is
comprised of more than 8,000 student members in 258 chapters and
works with its parent group, the Public Relations Society of America
(PRSA), to link classroom learning and professional experience
(Knighton, 2004). This relationship is beneficial to both groups, as
it provides students with access to professionals who help aid in
their development and it provides the professional organization with
a "minor-league team" of sorts, where future colleagues are cultivated.
Even with its successes, PRSSA has spent a good deal of time looking
for ways to push students to not only join, but also become active in
their chapters (Brookmeyer, 2005). In discussing the importance of
out-of-the-classroom learning experiences, King (2002) stated that
the experience only matters if it promotes student learning in
meaningful ways. Experiences that fail to do this could be improved,
she argues, if those in charge could find ways to provide a linkage
between the students' classroom experiences and their life-goals.
While PRSSA continues to thrive, there are those students who don't
recognize the value of PRSSA beyond meetings, fundraising events and
National conferences (Floris, 2004). There are also those students
who have fallen into ruts focusing only on rote repetition of
acronyms or adopting a narrow view of the profession (Floris, 2005).
Research on what makes for an active participant in professional
organizations is limited. Hall (1993) lists a series of ways in which
leaders can boost membership, including incentives and group
identity. While she acknowledges that offering coercive rewards, such
as free food or extra credit in a class, can provide an upswing in
"joiners," she notes that this system doesn't develop committed
members. Instead, she suggests that organizations offer members a
sense of affiliation and group cohesion. In this way, she argues,
individuals will be more likely to remain active members. McNally and
Harvey (2001) found that students who take part in vocational student
organizations are likely to make a successful transition to
real-world employment. They also argue that students need
opportunities to make decisions, take chances and experience success.
Additional research in this area offers anecdotal evidence as to what
makes individuals participate or simply discusses participation as
the key to garnering benefits.
In an attempt to take a deeper look at the value of active
participation in student groups, most specifically PRSSA, our prior
research (BLIND CITE, 2005) used aspects of Self Determination Theory
to assess motivation, engagement and persistence. SDT (Deci & Ryan,
1985; 1991; 2000) is a theory of motivation that seeks to explain
positive outcomes through psychological need satisfaction and
intrinsic motivation. This theory has shown positive results in
predicting enjoyment and growth in sports (Chatzisarantis et al.,
2003), medicine (Black & Deci, 2000) and classroom learning (Filak &
Sheldon, 2003). Furthermore, it has been key in outlining what makes
satisfying events satisfying (Sheldon, Elliot, Kim & Kasser, 1999)
and what makes for a good day (Sheldon, Ryan & Reis, 1996).
Additionally, Sheldon et al. (2003) has argued that SDT would be of a
great benefit to organizations who sought to improve their members'
motivation and task enjoyment.
This study is an attempt to support and extend our previous research
regarding SDT and PRSSA. Our earlier work demonstrated that need
satisfaction was predictive of positive ratings of both the adviser
and the organization. Furthermore, the more intrinsically motivated
the individuals were to participate in the organization, the more
likely they were to state a desire to persist in their membership,
ascend to roles of leadership and join PRSA upon graduation.
The sample for our previous study came from a targeted selection of
2004 Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Award winning chapters. One of our goals
in this paper is to assess whether differences in motivation exist
between individuals drawn from the general population of PRSSA and
our sample of students from these high performing chapters.
Furthermore, we plan to assess whether need-satisfaction and
motivational patterns remain consistent with this second group. Given
the limited research of SDT's application in organizations, this is
an important step toward adding legitimacy to the use of SDT in this
fashion. Finally, we hope to assess what drives an individual to
attain intrinsic motivation. While we have demonstrated a pattern
that shows this form of motivation drives improved persistence and
engagement in the organization, we now hope to be able to offer
advisers and leaders of PRSSA practical ways to increase quality
motivation within their chapters.
Self Determination Theory
Self Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory that seeks to explore the
elements within the human experience that create positive
motivational experiences for individuals. The theory approaches the
human experience from an organismic perspective (Deci & Ryan, 2000)
in which the total individual is involved in the process of
developing interests and skills. In other words, humans have an
innate need to grow, expand and learn until they've reached their
potential. The theory uses various sub-theories to examine the
varying reasons for positive outcomes. We will use two of these
theoretical perspectives in this paper: basic need satisfaction and
Basic need satisfaction: This theoretical proposition operates under
the assumption that all humans inherently possess three psychological
needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 1985,
2000). The needs are additive in nature and when satiated,
individuals operate at a premium level of motivation, much like a
plant would thrive upon receiving optimum levels of soil, water and
sunlight (Ryan, 1995).
Autonomy indicates that one is free from external control and can
function as he or she sees fit. Its satisfaction is often
misperceived as the fulfillment of an anarchic need (Ryan, Kuhl &
Deci, 1997), as some would incorrectly equate it to allowing everyone
to do whatever they want, whenever they want. This creates difficulty
for individuals who are attempting to implement need-satisfaction
strategies in a structured environment, like a classroom or a
work-place setting. In contrast to this misconception, SDT posits
that this need is more about feeling as though one's actions are
truly one's own. In other words, autonomy requires an individual to
be able to "buy in" to the decisions he or she is making.
Autonomy support is provided in three key ways: offering choice when
choice is possible, explaining why choice is not possible when it
isn't and taking a subordinate's perspective (Deci, Eghrari, Patrick
& Leone, 1994). In examining these options, it becomes clear that
autonomy support can be met even when an individual is being
controlled. The approach a superior takes in directing a subordinate
can determine whether this need is fulfilled. For example, if the
president of a PRSSA chapter needs a member to print off posters for
a group event, simply telling the individual, "Go down to the copy
center right now and get me 10 posters" fails to satisfy the need.
However, by taking the following approach to the subordinate, the
President can satisfy the subordinate's need for autonomy, while
still being directive enough to get the task completed efficiently:
"I need to make sure that we have posters so that we can promote this
event. I know it's not the most glamorous job, but it has to be done
properly and that's why I'm asking you for help. You can make the
posters any way you'd like, as long as we have them by Monday. You
will need to get them from the copy center downstairs, however,
because we have an account with them."
In this interaction, the president engages in perspective taking ("I
know it's not the most glamorous job"), offers choice ("You can make
the posters any way you'd like") and provides a rationale when choice
isn't possible ("You need to get them from the copy center downstairs
because we have an account with them.") This approach, while still
directed toward a specific goal, allows the individual in charge of
completing the task to operate effectively.
Competence is the easiest need to comprehend and quite often the most
difficult to satisfy. The desire to gain competence begins at an
early age (Stipek, 1988) and continues throughout one's life. Almost
every aspect of human engagement and competition holds with it ways
of measuring competence. Athletes seek to run faster or jump farther
than those who came before them. Students seek better grades than
other members of their peer group. Scientists seek new ways to make
technology smaller, faster and easier to use. Inherent to all human
activities is a need to take on and master challenges (Deci & Ryan, 1985).
To help fulfill this need, individuals need to feel as though they
are operating effectively in their actions. Leaders within an
organization must provide constructive feedback that seeks to improve
results by fostering growth in individuals (Deci, Cascio & Krusell,
1975). When an individual completes a task, a leader can aide in
competence satisfaction by outlining what worked well (positive
reinforcement) and what didn't work well and why (growth promotion).
Competence can also be aided by working with the subordinate to
outline a plan for future actions. This not only provides
opportunities for competence building but also aids in autonomy support.
Finally, relatedness is a need to feel valued by important others
(Deci & Ryan, 2000). Some have posited that this relationship is much
like a parent and a child, while other have described it as the need
to feel connected to others and worthy of the benefits that
individuals are affording them (Connell & Wellborn, 1991). Baumeister
and Leary (1995) have equated this need to a sense of belonging,
which fits well when discussing personal connections with
organizations and their members. Organizations that foster mutual
respect and admiration among their members are likely to meet this
need while those that seek an autocratic structure are likely to
undermine it. Furthermore, a strict reliance on power of position
will create a rift among members, making it difficult for the
rank-and-file to relate to the top leadership.
Hypothesis 1: Autonomy, competence and relatedness will independently
predict positive evaluations of PRSSA.
Hypothesis 2: Autonomy, competence and relatedness will independently
predict positive adviser evaluations.
Intrinsic motivation: SDT has always been a theory driven by a desire
to understand what motivates individuals to act or, in some cases,
not to act (Ryan, 1982). Deci & Ryan (1985) posited that while
motivation rests within an individual's discretion, it varies in type
and quality. The motivational spectrum ranges from extrinsic
motivation through intrinsic motivation, with the latter being
preferred as it has shown the greatest likelihood of predicting
continuing behavior (Lepper, 1981). Ryan and Connell (1989) proposed
four key points along this spectrum in an attempt to identify
palpable types of motivation. Each form is considered in turn,
ranging from the least self-determined to the most.
Extrinsic motivation is created through external forces that compel
choices that are not in line with the individual's desires. People
who act under this form of motivation will persist in the activity
only as long as the outside force remains present. Introjected
motivation is when an individual adopts a motivation that is not
truly his or her own. Colloquially speaking, this is motivation
attained through a guilt trip. While no physical reward or punishment
is present, as is the case with extrinsic motivation, the individual
feels little volition to enact the behavior of their own accord.
Internalized motivation takes place when an individual does not
necessarily enjoy the activity itself, but values the outcome or sees
a reason for participating. For example, an employee might take on a
new project at the behest of his boss, even though he doesn't have a
great deal of interest in it. However, he sees value in learning new
skills, gaining leadership experience and impressing the boss. Thus,
he is motivated to work very hard on the project. Finally, intrinsic
motivation is a desire to take part in activities because one enjoys
the activity itself. This is the best form of motivation, as it
sponsors enjoyment and persistence in the activity, regardless of
outside forces. While the first three types of motivation (extrinsic,
introjected and internalized) have some sort of tangible outcome
attached to them, internalized motivation is viewed as closer to
intrinsic because the motivation is more driven by one's own desire
than outside pressure.
A study by Sheldon and colleagues (2003) argues that organizations
should take a strong interest in the type of motivation their
employees possess. Too often, organizations seek to bribe individuals
with external rewards tied to task performance. Lepper, Green and
Nisbett (1973) found that external rewards that are tied to
performance can undermine intrinsic motivation. Individuals who would
have persisted in an activity simply because of their enjoyment will
be less likely to do so when given financial or other external
compensation. Regardless of whether the extrinsic motivation comes in
the form of a reward (Deci, 1971) or punishment (Deci, Nezlek &
Sheinman,1981), the introduction of external controls can severely
hamper intrinsic motivation and growth. Furthermore, external rewards
can transform productive individuals into organizational members who
perform rote activities without a desire to seek greater
understanding as to how they fit in the group's larger picture. Those
who remain intrinsically motivated, however, will be more likely to
persist in their behavior, regardless of the presence of punishment or reward.
Hypothesis 3: Individuals with higher levels of intrinsic motivation
will be more likely to state an intention to persist in their
association with the student and professional chapters of the organization.
In addition to our three hypotheses, we posited these research questions:
RQ1: Do significant differences exist between Teahan award winners
and the rest of the PRSSA population in regard to need satisfaction
RQ2: What experiential variables are most likely to predict higher
levels of intrinsic motivation?
We issued an email to the national leadership of PRSSA, asking them
to forward our survey request to their members. We requested all
members of PRSSA who had not won a F.H. Teahan Award in the past year
to take an online survey regarding their experiences in the
organization. No incentive was provided for participation.
We received 142 responses, but eliminated those cases in which less
than half of the survey was completed, leaving us with 124 cases for
analysis. Mean substitution was used to replace missing values. No
more than 5 percent of the data in any single variable was replaced
through this method.
Although PRSSA claims a membership of approximately 8,000 students,
the elimination of the award-winners reduced the population by more
than 500 members. Furthermore, several chapter schools were on Spring
Break while the survey was being conducted, eliminating them from
consideration. Spam filters and expired addresses also limit a survey
of this type, and thus, it is difficult for us to ascertain a
specific response rate.
The instrument was adapted from a previous study (Filak & Sheldon,
2004) and was used to examine the level of intrinsic motivation
participants felt in regard to PRSSA and whether they felt their
psychological needs were sated. We augmented this scale with a
section that sought to assess practical reasons for membership in
PRSSA. These items were drawn from literature on organizational
membership and participant satisfaction (Betz et al., 1971; Hall,
1993, McNally & Harvey, 2001).
Students' adviser and organization evaluations: Students were asked
to rate their overall feelings about their experiences in PRSSA.
Organization approval was defined with a two-item index ("Overall,
PRSSA is an excellent organization" and "I would recommend this
organization to a friend," alpha = .88). Adviser approval was
operationalized similarly ("Overall, the faculty adviser provides
excellent support to PRSSA" and "I would recommend this adviser to a
friend," alpha = .90). These items are representative of what
students have seen on course evaluations, and have shown validity in
their representation of positive outcomes in previous studies (Filak
& Sheldon, 2003).
Students' psychological need-satisfaction: The measure was based on
the Basic Psychological Needs Scale (Ilardi, Leone, Kasser & Ryan,
1993). The autonomy items used in the student survey were "I feel
like I had a lot of input in deciding how to participate in this
organization," "I was free to express my opinions in this
organization," and "The adviser took my perspective into
consideration in this organization," (alpha = .86). Competence items
were "I enjoy the challenges this organization provides," "Most of
the time, I feel a sense of accomplishment from doing work for this
organization," and "I do not think the tasks I do for this
organization are very stimulating," (last item was reversed; alpha =
.88). Relatedness items were "The adviser cares about me and my
progress," "The adviser was generally friendly towards me," and "I
don't feel the adviser understood me," (last item was reversed; alpha = .84).
Students' self-determined motivation: We also used a self-determined
motivation scale, based on the work of Ryan and Connell (1989), to
assess the types and levels of motivation participants had in regard
to their PRSSA experience. A four-item scale was used to measure the
level of external ("You participate in this organization because
somebody else wanted you to, or because the situation seemed to
compel it"), introjected ("You participate in this organization
because you would feel ashamed, guilty, or anxious if you didn't"),
identified ("You participate in this organization because you really
believe that it's an important organization to belong to") and
intrinsic ("You participate in this organization because of the
enjoyment or stimulation that it provides you") motivation the
student felt toward involvement in PRSSA. To craft a motivational
variable based on these items, we summed the external and introjected
items and subtracted them from the summed score of the internalized
and intrinsic motivation items. More positive scores are indicative
of a more intrinsic level of motivation while more negative scores
indicate an extrinsic, or controlled, motivation.
Persistence variables: We also asked students how likely they thought
they would be to continue in PRSSA, how likely they thought they
would be to take on or persist in leadership roles and to what degree
they thought they would continue in the professional chapter of this
organization (Public Relations Society of America) upon graduation. A
three-item scale was used to determine persistent behavior in the
organization. These items were: "I plan to be an active member of
PRSSA during my time in college," "I want to take on (or maintain) a
position of leadership in this organization," and "I plan to join
PRSA when I graduate or when I become a member of the workforce"
(alpha = .80).
Experiential and demographic variables: Finally, we asked students to
rate a series of statements that provided practical rationale for
their membership in PRSSA. We drew our experiential variables from
Betz et al. (1971) with linguistic adaptations to make the items
speak specifically to the participants' PRSSA experiences.
We identified three variables that had merit when considering
motivation in this arena. The first variable was comprised of four
items and spoke to the personal connections or affiliation the
individual felt toward the organization: "PRSSA is a big part of my
life," "PRSSA plays a significant role in how I define myself," I
spend a lot of time doing things for PRSSA" and "I feel a real sense
of connection to this group" (alpha = .90). The second variable
contained four items and spoke to the ability to shape the policy or
influence the direction of the group. These items were "This
organization gives me opportunities to participate in making
decisions about rules and regulations," "I am allowed to have input
in important decisions about this organization," " My opinion is
respected when the organization discusses important issues" and "I
see values in crafting policies and procedures in this organization"
(alpha = .88). The third variable included three items that spoke to
the quality of experience and the opportunities the organization
presents. These items were: "This organization gives me opportunities
to participate in activities that fulfill my personal growth," "This
organization gives me opportunities to work on my thinking and
reasoning skills," "This organization gives me a quality educational
experience" and "This organization prepares me for a future in this
field" (alpha = .89). Finally, we added a single item variable that
spoke to participating in PRSSA because of a tangible reward or
incentive to address the issues raised by Hall (1993) pertaining to
the impact incentives have on joining versus actively participating
Demographic information, including age, gender, number of semesters
in PRSSA and year in school, was also collected. (See Table 1 for
means and standard deviations of study variables).
We began by assessing the data we gathered specifically for this
study (n= 124). First, we examined a bivariate correlation matrix to
ascertain whether any demographic variables were co-varying with the
variables we wished to examine. We found that gender, the number of
semesters spent in PRSSA and the participant's year in school all
were significantly correlated with numerous variables and thus they
were retained for future analyses.
We then proceeded to reexamine our earlier findings regarding need
satisfaction and persistence based on intrinsic motivation.
Subsequently, we examined the data for any differences between the
award winners and the rest of the PRSSA population. Finally, we
studied the groups collectively to ascertain what aspects of PRSSA
best predicted higher levels of intrinsic motivation.
Hypothesis 1 stated that autonomy, competence and relatedness would
independently predict positive evaluations of PRSSA. We used a
hierarchical linear regression, which allowed us to account for the
three covariates, to assess the validity of this hypothesis. The
regression was strong and predictive (Full model Adj. R-square =
.56). We found autonomy (beta = .30; p < .01) and competence (beta =
.53; p < .001) acted as significant predictors in this model.
Relatedness (beta = .02, p < .5) was not significant in this
regression. Hypothesis 1 was partially supported.
Hypothesis 2 stated that autonomy, competence and relatedness would
independently predict positive adviser evaluations. We again utilized
a hierarchical regression, with gender, year in school and semesters
in PRSSA acting accounting for the first block and the three needs
accounting for the second. The regression, again, was strong and
predictive (Full model Adj. R-square = .55) with relatedness (beta =
.62; p < .001) serving as the only significant predictor. Autonomy
(beta= .18, p = .1) was marginally significant while competence (beta
= .07; p < .4) was not significant. Hypothesis 2 received partial support.
Hypothesis 3 stated that individuals with higher levels of intrinsic
motivation would be more likely to state their intention to persist
in their association with the organization. We used a three-step
regression, in which we accounted for the demographic covariates in
the first block, the trio of self-determined needs in the second and
the quality of motivation variable in the third. While autonomy and
competence were the only needs shown to impact persistence at a
bivariate level (r = .46 and .62, p < .01, respectively),
self-determination theory argues that all three needs are key to
positive outcomes. Additionally, SDT's theoretical model calls for
quality of motivation to predict need satisfaction and need
satisfaction to predict positive outcomes. Sheldon et al. (2003)
argues that self-determined motivation produces higher levels of buy
in, or persistence, and our own research (BLIND CITE, 2005) has found
this approach to be successful. We therefore felt that accounting for
the needs appeared to be important while still examining a direct
causal path between quality of motivation and persistence. The
regression was predictive (Full model adj. R-square = .45) with the
motivation variable serving as a valid predictor (beta = .18, p <
.05). Hypothesis 3 was supported.
Differences among groups
We sought to assess differences between participants who came from
the award-winning chapters and those who came from the rest of the
PRSSA population. This annual award is designed to recognize the
outstanding achievements of PRSSA chapters, its members, and
advisers. These chapters are presumed to represent the year's best
chapters. We combined the data from our previous study with the data
we collected in this study (collective n= 240) and used multivariate
analyses of covariance (MANCOVAs) to study this issue. A MANCOVA is a
robust test of differences among groups (Keppel, 1991), as it allows
the variance accounted for in the covariates to be removed so that
the variables of interest can be more clearly examined. Furthermore,
a MANCOVA regresses one dependent variable onto another, which
prevents the inflation of the region of significance and the
possibility that the researcher will make a Type I error (Tabachnick
& Fidell, 2001).
We first examined the need satisfaction variables as well as the
PRSSA and adviser approval variables for differences. A Wilks' Lambda
test demonstrated that the MANCOVA was significant (p < .001) and
that the correlative effect was moderately strong (eta = .28). An
examination of the individual ANCOVAs that contributed to this
statistic showed that significant differences existed for both the
adviser approval (F= 76.6, p < .001) and the organizational approval
variables (F= 26.1, p < .001). Significant differences also existed
for the three needs: autonomy (F= 7.00, p < .01), competence (F=16.4,
p < .001) and relatedness (F= 26.9, p < .001). An examination of the
descriptive statistics (see table 2) shows that in every case, the
Teahan award winners were more positive in their assessments.
A second MANCOVA was used to examine differences between the groups
in regard to the persistence and motivation variables. A Wilks'
Lambda test was not significant in this case (p > .5) and thus no
significant differences were found.
Given that no significant differences existed between the groups in
regard to motivation and persistence, we kept the groups together for
the final set of analyses (n= 240). We used a hierarchical linear
regression, accounting for gender, year in school and number of
semesters in PRSSA, to examine which experiential variables predicted
The regression was predictive (Full model adj. R-square = .28) and
offered some interesting insight. The strongest predictor of
motivation was the quality of experience variable (beta = .34, p <
.001). Interestingly, the personal connections variable, which speaks
to the level of affiliation an individual feels toward the group was
only marginally predictive (beta = .15, p = .09) and the incentive
variable resulted in a marginally significant negative relationship
(beta = -.11, p = .066).
Discussion and conclusion
This study provided several key findings regarding ways to improve
and develop a stronger PRSSA chapter. We solidified our earlier
findings regarding need satisfaction and positive feelings toward
PRSSA chapters and advisers. The data analyzed here further suggested
that the satisfaction of autonomy and competence predicted chapter
approval while the satisfaction of autonomy and relatedness predicted
adviser approval. These findings mimic our earlier work and fit a
sensible pattern. Relatedness is an interpersonal need while
competence is a structural need. Simply put, individuals relate to
one another but the desire to master challenges can be fulfilled
through participation in activities and organizations. Autonomy plays
a role in both human and organizational interactions and, as such,
its presence is logical in influencing both adviser and chapter
approval. We also solidified our findings regarding the importance of
quality motivation in gauging persistence in the organization.
Individuals who took part in PRSSA of their own volition are more
likely to persist in the organization and follow through with a
commitment to PRSA.
By expanding the scope of this study and the type of participants, we
were able to evaluate differences among the top-rated PRSSA chapters
and members of the general population of PRSSA. No significant
differences existed between the groups in regard to the level of
intrinsic motivation or the desire to persist in the organization.
However, Teahan award winners rated their chapter, their adviser and
their levels of need satisfaction more positively than did members of
other chapters. This offers some interesting fodder for discussion in
regard to the ways in which need satisfaction can drive a chapter to
greatness. As need satisfaction improves, students feel better about
their chapters. While we can make no causal claims that need
satisfaction can bring about a Teahan award, the connection between
these elevated ratings of need satisfaction in award-winning chapters
is worth further exploration.
Finally, we examined experiential variables for predictions of
self-determined motivation. We found that the quality of the
experience was the strongest predictor of high levels of quality
motivation. Tangible rewards were negatively correlated with
intrinsic motivation while the affiliation variable was weak and
marginal in its predictive power. This finding should be of interest
to officials in both the parent and student chapters of this group,
as it reflects a need to find ways to engage students as opposed to
attempting to force them to take part or coerce their participation
by bribing them. Furthermore, it offers advisers a practical solution
to diminished motivation. By offering students a clear sense of how
PRSSA will help them get a job, improve their skill sets and enhance
their personal growth, advisers can create an atmosphere in which
students feel motivated to actively participate in the organization.
Far too often in the collegiate realm, organizations take the
simplest path in seeking to inspire organizational dedication. From
the "free pizza" bribes to the extra credit that professors offer,
there tends to be a focus on tangible rewards to improve attendance
at organizational meetings or group activities. SDT has shown that
this approach is not only invalid in inspiring individuals to engage
in desired behavior, but undermines any hope that the participant
will persist once the reward is removed. This study has demonstrated
that students who see value in an organization are likely to participate.
Moreover, this study improves our knowledge and understanding of the
value of intrinsic member motivation to persistent in their
relationship with the Society can have broad implications for the
profession. Understanding how to get our PRSSA members to "convert"
their memberships to PRSA can be especially helpful in solving a
persistent concern of the Society. Knowing what members value in
terms of the outcomes of their experience in PRSSA and helping them
understand the importance of the organization in terms of career
goals can help PRSSA advisers gain "buy in" from members which in
turn will maintain consistent chapter membership. Further, PRSSA
advisors will be more successful in their very important roles of
inculcating appropriate professional values and principles, growing
future leaders and preparing the next generation of public relations
experts, passionate about what they're doing and equipped with a
solid foundation on which to become a successful pubic relations practitioner.
This study also provides a positive underpinning for future research
that will help faculty advisors and the Society at large understand
the types of activities that will help students develop more
intrinsic motivation. The obvious value in this understanding is the
ability to craft membership and recruiting materials that help
encourage greater participation in PRSSA.
Since it is apparent that motivation drives need satisfaction as well
as the desire to persist, it is up to the leadership of PRSSA to find
ways to convey the inherent value in participating. Given the
frequency with which public relations practitioners credit
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Table 1: Descriptive statistics for demographic, motivational and
Notes: Gender is male = 0, female = 1; Education level is based on
number of years spent in school; Level of motivation is on a +12/-12
scale; all other variables are measured on 7-point scales.
Table 2: Means for approval and need satisfaction variables between
Teahan award winners and other members of PRSSA