Public relations professionals play a critical role in influencing debate in the public sphere. According to Gower (2018), these professionals have a critical role of influencing public opinion and protecting the image of organizations they represent in the public domain. They can also help in championing for or against a given issue that is of national and international interest. A recent report by Balasubramanian (2020) shows that cases of domestic violence have been on the rise since the COVID-19 outbreak became a pandemic in Australia. Most of the victims of the violence are women. The primary source of information about domestic violence during this period has been not-for-profit organizations and various government organizations receiving reports about assaults, such as the law enforcement agencies. These sources tend to represent these organizations as they struggle to fight domestic violence during these trying times. Public relations activities which have contributed to these stories include deliberate advertisings in the social media and debates on mass media platforms to bring to the attention of the public dangers of domestic violence. In this paper, the focus of the researcher is to discuss how these public communication professionals influence the debate on domestic violence in the public sphere.
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Public Relations and Advertising
In most of the major debates in the public sphere, the opinion that the majority tend to develop depends on the information that they get from both mass and social media platforms. As such, government entities and not-for-profit organizations are often keen on defining public opinion by using representatives who can champion for a given idea. McNair (2018) defines public relations as a practice that deliberately focuses on the management of spread of information that is favorable to the image of an organization. On the other hand, advertising refers to the practice of developing and spreading commercials meant to promote a brand or a given message to the masses Public communication professionals often use various forms of media to influence what people think, how important an issue is, and how publics think about an issue. They achieve these goals through public relations, as discussed below.
How Public Relations and Advertising Influence What People Think
One of the principal goals of public relations is to influence what people think about a given issue. Currently, domestic violence has emerged as a major concern during this COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of public relations experts is to redefine the perception of society towards domestic violence (Balasubramanian, 2020). There is a deliberate attempt to remind these people that violence cannot be the best approach to solving domestic problems. They have to understand that it is normal for people to disagree, but using violence only worsens the situation. By influencing how people think about the issue, there is the hope that cases of domestic violence will reduce during this period.
How Public Relations and Advertising Influence How Important an Issue Is
Public relations and advertising often influence how members of the public believe an issue is important, as Johnston (2016) observes. When there is a regular advertisement and communication from various government authorities, it creates the impression that the issue is of great importance. The government of Australia has been spending a significant amount of resources to sponsor advertisements on various platforms to champion domestic violence. Non-profit organizations such as Mission Australia and Australian Women against Violence Alliance have also been keen on using public relations to educate the masses on the dangers of domestic violence. These debates have helped in emphasizing the importance of this issue and the need for members of the public to take it seriously.
How Public Relations and Advertising Influence How Publics Think About an Issue
Public relations and advertising can also help in defining how members of the public think about an issue. According to Presot (2019), some of the perpetrators of domestic violence often believe that assaulting a spouse physically is a demonstration of their superiority in their houses. Public relations can redefine how these people think about the use of violence. Constant messaging can be a reminder to these people that they do not have to use violence to assert their positions in the family. Instead, they can use dialogue to achieve their goals. Whenever conflicts arise, they can use different non-violent measures to ensure that there is a consensus over various family-related issues.
Parameters, Limitations, and Opportunities Specific to Different Sectors
Defining the parameters, limitations, and opportunities specific to different sectors mentioned above is crucial when using public communication professionals to fight domestic violence in the country. Both non-profit entities and public organizations have to define parameters that have to be observed in their public relations in terms of financial investment and time (Chilcutt and Brooks, 2019). In both cases, the investment made may be limited because of the budget set aside for such activities. Non-profit organizations often rely on donations to fund their activities. They have to ensure that they spend what they can afford. The emergence of social media platforms helps both government entities and non-profit organizations to communicate with the public without making heavy investments.
Their Effect on How Public Communication Professionals Do Their Work
The parameters, limitations, and opportunities in the two sectors have a major effect on how public communication professionals do their work. According to Deželan and Vobic (2016), these professionals often need time and financial resources to develop effective messages and use appropriate platforms to reach out to various audiences. When time and resources are limited, they may not have the capacity to effectively influence the debate in the public sphere. A desirable impact can only be achieved if the right platform is used and the message is released at regular intervals over a considerable period.
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How Entities Use Public Communication Professionals to Fight Domestic Violence
Government entities and non-profit organizations in Australia have been keen on fighting domestic violence in the country, especially during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission Australia and Australian Women against Violence Alliance are some of the not-for-profit institutions at the forefront of the fight against the vice in the country. Law enforcement agencies have also used various platforms to discourage men and women from using violence to solve their problems (Presot, 2019). Public communications professionals have played a major role in passing appropriate messages to the masses. Advertising and public relations in not-for-profit entities and public organizations have been crucial in influencing the debate over domestic violence in the public sphere. These entities rely on the expertise of public communication professionals to develop effective messages and select effective communication platforms to reach out to the masses with the right information.
Media Effects Theories and Research
Understanding media effects is important when discussing how communication professionals influence the debate on the public sphere in important issues such as domestic violence in Australia during this pandemic period. Domestic violence is an issue that has attracted the attention of researchers over a long period of time. Issues such as causes, prevalence, and effects of the problem are adequately published (Powell and Bromley, 2020). The current trend is worrying, especially because of the progress that had been made in the fight against this problem.
Media Agenda-Setting Theory
It is necessary to review some of the theories relevant to this discussion. The agenda-setting theory is particularly relevant to this topic. Kenski and Jamieson (2017) explain that this theory focuses on the ability the importance that is placed on specific topics, which are of public interest. Currently, one of the main issues of public interest in Australia is the increasing cases of domestic violence during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The defining principle of this theory is the importance of focusing on a specific issue and eliciting debate about it. In this case, public communications professionals should focus on domestic violence and encourage debates about the issue. The goal is to promote alternative means of solving disputes instead of using violence. Using this theory, public communications professionals can promote dialogue and reliance on counselors to solve domestic disputes among partners in a family instead of the use of violence.
Information on the Different Sectors and Public Communication Practice
Public organizations and not-for-profit entities have taken the issue of domestic violence in the country seriously and are taking various measures to address the problem. According to Schlosberg (2017), each of these sectors has taken almost a similar approach of disseminating information to the public about the issue. They are using both mass and social media in their public communication practices. Facebook has become a major platform for communicating to younger couples in a platform where they can share their views on the issue. The interactive platforms help these organizations to understand some of the common causes of domestic violence during this unprecedented period and strategies that can be used to solve the problem. Other popular social media platforms that these entities use to communicate to the public include YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Mass media has also remained relevant in such campaigns. Television and radio commercials are still important in passing important information to the targeted audience in the country.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the global community has had an unprecedented impact on many families. In Australia, studies have shown that the stress and frustrations have led to increased cases of domestic violence, often against women. Cases of physical abuse among partners are at an all-time high, which is a worrying trend given the milestone that the country had achieved in the fight against this vice. Government entities such as law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations such as Mission Australia and Australian Women against Violence Alliance have taken a leading role in the fight against this vice during this period. They have used public communication professionals to promote national debate in the public sphere against domestic violence. People are given opportunities in both mass and social media platforms to share factors that have led to the rise in domestic violence. The same platforms are then used to promote alternative conflict resolution strategies.
Balasubramanian, M. (2020) Covid 19: The new age pandemic. Chennai: Notion Press.
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Deželan, T. and Vobic, I. (eds.) (2016) Revolutionizing political communication through social media. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Gower, K. (2018) Legal and ethical considerations for public relations. 3rd edn. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Johnston, J. (2016) Public relations and the public interest. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kenski, K. and Jamieson, H. (eds.) (2017) The political handbook of political communication. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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Powell, W. and Bromley, P. (eds.) (2020) The nonprofit sector: a research handbook. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Schlosberg, J. (2017) Media ownership and agenda control: the hidden limits of the information age. New York, NY: Routledge.
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