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Health communication scholars have expressed a growing interest in the use of narratives as a persuasive tool to promote behavioral change in at-risk populations through the use of examples, detailed depictions of individual cases, and revealing the thoughts and emotions of characters within storylines (Green, 2006; Kim, Bigman, Leader, Lerman, & Cappella, 2012; Kreuter et al., 2007). An ample body of health communication scholarship indicates narratives are an effective strategy to deliver persuasive risk prevention messages to at-risk populations for a variety of diseases including: colorectal cancer (Robillard & Larkey, 2009), HPV vaccination (Hopfer, 2012), and HIV (Berkley-Patton, Goggin, Liston, Bradley-Ewing, & Neville, 2009). The 2016 Zika virus was a novel pathogen in the U.S. population with high levels of scientific uncertainty surrounding the transmission method(s), duration of contagion, and degree of risk posed by infected males. This experimental study uses a 2 message (narrative versus non-narrative/CDC educational) X 2 (identification versus none) design to determine the effectiveness of these persuasive appeals to elicit audience identification, empathy, disease-related knowledge and behavioral intentions to engage in preventative behaviors (e.g., testing, protection, and abstinence) in male populations throughout the Florida region. Identification was operationalized as perceived similarity. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions based on their self-reported ethnic identity. Messages were designed with similar features including: headline, story length, and message source Health Promotion Board. Only the visual pictures of characters, and characters_ names were altered to enhance perceived similarity. More than 200 male participants from impacted areas such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas were randomized into an online study hosted through the PSU Communication Research Lab using Qualtrics software for data collection. Amazon’s M(Turk) and TurkPrime were utilized for participant recruitment in November 2016. This presentation will report the findings of this study and discuss the implications for dissemination and implementation efforts relevant to future persuasive risk communication appeals and health communication campaign design. Keywords: health communication, Zika, prevention, narrative theory.

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