Melissa Zahorujko PR Assessment #2 - Essay Irresponsible drinking is no doubt a nation-wide problem in Australian society, particularly amongst our youth crowd. Australia-wide statistics show alcohol misuse “costs the Australian community over $15.3 billion each year when factors such as loss of productivity and premature death are taken into account.” In the Adelaide CBD, between 2008 and 2009 alone, South Australia Police (SAPOL) recorded more than half of the region’s victim-reported crimes were alcohol-related and also found over 190,000 South Australians “drink at harmful levels at least once a month.” When looking into drinking culture amongst the South Australian youth, SAPOL also discovered “those who are engaging in problematic consumption are doing so in far more overt and harmful ways at a younger age than was the case in the past,” noting “approximately 10,000 hospitalisations among youths aged up to twenty-five annually are attributable to alcohol” (South Australia Police 2012). In considering these hard-hitting facts, we cannot deny the visible need to reduce alcohol misuse in Adelaide’s CBD, with particular focus on young drinkers, so as to attain a higher level of safety amongst the community. Not only is it important to promote safe drinking in the CBD, but also to spread the message to young people in rural communities surrounding Adelaide, in order to reach a broader public. The public sector has taken responsibility of addressing concerns to Adelaide’s young alcohol consumers through use of public relations (PR) and communications techniques in attempt to curb alcohol-related issues around the area. South Australian Government bodies, including Adelaide City Council (ACC) and SA Health, as well as individual Member for Parliament (MP), Geoff Brock, have played a significant part in communicating information to young drinkers through the implementation of their own public relations strategies; the Green Team West End Youth Project by ACC, 'Drink too much, you're asking for trouble' campaign by SA Health and the Port Pirie community forum by MP, Geoff Brock. Each strategy developed by the three governing bodies demonstrates use of James Grunig and Todd Hunt’s Four Models of Public Relations and Àlbert Bandura's Social Learning Theory, whereby some have been used more effectively than others. Melissa Zahorujko PR Grunig and Hunt formulated the Four Models of Public Relations in 1984, identifying four categories of communication relationship including one-way press agency/publicity and public information, and two-way asymmetric and symmetric PR (Theaker 2012). While ACC and Geoff Brock strived for quite an effective two-way form of communication between stakeholders and organisations, SA Health aimed for a less influential one-way form of communication using the public information model to try and get the consequences of alcohol abuse recognised by the young public. The other technique, Social Learning Theory, is a psychological theory of communication established by Bandura in 1977 who states "behaviour is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning" where an individual is "is more likely to attend to and imitate those people it perceives as similar to itself" such as parents within the family or friends within the peer group (McLeod 2011). In combining their strategy with Encounter Youth, ACC managed to form a successfully influential peer group of young volunteers called the 'Green Team' whereas SA Health had complete absence of peer-to-peer interaction in their campaign and Geoff Brock's panel was populated by experts and business representatives non-relatable to youth. Despite this, all three government authorities put significant time, effort and research into their strategies, attempting to achieve a similar outcome, that is, to reduce alcohol-related trouble in Adelaide. The subsequent effectiveness of each approach will be analysed and evaluated in the following four paragraphs. The Adelaide City Council joined forces with non-profit organisation, Encounter Youth, introducing a successful public relations plan to reduce youth alcohol-related issues in Adelaide’s CBD by incorporating a two-way symmetrical approach to interacting with young alcohol-drinkers and integrating the idea of Social Learning Theory through use of “peers.” The Green Team West End Youth Project was launched in 2011 and is “funded by the National Binge Drinking Strategy to engage young people in Adelaide’s West End from midnight to 6am Sunday mornings to reduce binge drinking and its associated risks” (Adelaide City Council 2013). Young volunteers in green t-shirts and hoodies come together as a team and wander through Adelaide’s streets looking to support vulnerable alcohol consumers of a similar age range. The Green Team ensures these young binge-drinkers are kept safe from harm by acting somewhat like a guardian figure, making offers to walk kids home or to call ‘000’ if needed (Green Team 2013). The Green Team project underpins a two-way symmetrical approach to dealing with teen drinking problems in Adelaide as it Melissa Zahorujko PR generates “mutual understanding between an organisation and its strategic publics” through direct interaction with the source(s) of the issue: young binge-drinkers. This type of reciprocal interaction leads “to the formation of relationships that help the organisation succeed and survive” – a fundamental outcome of two-way symmetrical public relations (Kelly, Laskin & Rosenstein 2010, p. 191). The effectiveness of the project is further heightened by the ensemble of relatable members on the Green Team who are considered ‘peers’ of the targeted public. The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘peer’ as “a person of the same age, status or ability as another specified person,” suggesting young volunteers of the Green Team can be linked as peers with the public of teen drinkers through equal age range (Oxford Dictionaries 2014). As the Social Learning Theory implies, “people are most influenced by the ideas, opinions and behaviour of their peers” and, therefore, having the Green Team promoting safe drinking to people just like themselves is enhancing the impact of the message Adelaide City Council and Encounter Youth have been trying to communicate through implementing this program, ultimately making it a success (Mackey 2009). While SA Health’s public relations campaign was carefully and strategically planned using a public information approach to reach the targeted audience, it cannot be considered as influential as the Green Team program because negative one-way communication is less effective than positive two-way and, in terms of Social Learning Theory, having no peer interaction lowers the campaign’s effect on the audience. ‘Drink too much, you’re asking for trouble’ is a campaign introduced by SA Health in 2011 which “graphically depicts the serious consequences of drinking too much” and is aimed at “males aged 18 to 39 and females aged 18 to 29” who are “most likely to drink at risky levels” (SA Health 2012). It includes four fifteen second advertisements on television, two radio commercials and four posters dispersed around Adelaide, majority of which painted a graphic and almost offensive image of the targeted, young alcohol-drinking public. According to SA Health (2012), the campaign: “… aims to make people sit up and take notice of the negative impacts of drinking too much in terms of health/safety, legal and social harms so they start to think about whether they need to reduce their alcohol consumption.” Melissa Zahorujko PR This campaign harnesses the public information procedure from the ‘four models’ approach as it releases factual information to the public and, although it is important to provide publics with true information, “there is no option of feedback from the audience or receiver” (Johnston & Sheehan 2014). Subsequently, young drinkers may not necessarily respond to the advertisements as they are not actively engaging with the campaign, unlike the face-toface involvement of the Green Team. Negative imagery adds to the ineffectiveness of the campaign as psychological research suggests showing disturbing images to a targeted audience can potentially have an undesired, opposite effect. Bolls, Leshner and Wise (2011) conducted an experiment in regards to a similar issue – smoking – and discovered that “showing viewers a combination of threatening and disgusting television public service announcements caused viewers to experience the beginnings of strong defensive reactions” (ScienceDaily 2011). SA Health’s posters and television advertisements contain graphic scenes of alcohol drinkers vomiting, hospitalised and passing out, and viewers with a drinking problem are likely to have the same defensive response as smokers had to negative imagery, which could be highly detrimental. Furthermore, when considering peer connection as an influential form of communication, SA Health is a governing body of authority with no relation to the target audience of youth drinkers. Social Learning Theory asserts that people “do not directly or passively absorb the ideas and thinking transmitted in the communication of the unknown messengers of corporations and governments” (Mackey 2009) which essentially makes SA Health’s public relations campaign, in conjunction with the one-way communication and unpleasant images, even less effective by nature. The Local MP for Port Pirie conducted a public forum encompassing a two-way communicative approach to addressing alcohol abuse in the local community however, the forum lacks effectiveness as there is a power imbalance between publics and, according to the Social Learning Theory, an expert panel may not be considered relatable to teens with a drinking problem. In “2012, local MP, Geoff Brock brought together an expert panel addressing harm minimisation messages and answering questions from the local community” in regards to alcohol behaviours in the region (Attorney-General’s Department, South Australia 2012). According to the Attorney-General’s Department, South Australia (2012), “the government encourages communities to work together to find solutions that work for them” as “programs developed by local communities addressing an immediate concern can have significant impact” on improving safe alcohol consumption across the state, including Melissa Zahorujko PR the CBD. As Minister for Sport Tom Kenyon states, “the advantage of a smaller community is that it has the ability to promote changes quicker” (Lustosa 2012). The forum prompted an organised discussion between representatives from agencies, government affiliates and members of the community about drugs, alcohol and violence issues concerning youth in particular. This type of two-way communication is majorly effective, involving all relevant stakeholders in one, massive conversation which could “lead to an organisation’s management to exchange views with other groups, possibly leading to both management and publics being influenced and adjusting their attitudes and behaviours” (Theaker 2012). Of course, it is obvious the forum cannot be entirely two-way symmetric due to the fact that government affiliates and company representatives still retain a powering authority over the voices of the community, which tends to sway communication towards a somewhat two-way asymmetric model of public relations. In addition, similar to that of SA Health’s ‘Drink too much, you’re asking for trouble’ campaign, Geoff Brock’s expert panel includes SA Police, ambulance officers and Drug and Alcohol Services officers who are all considered ‘authority figures’ and are not necessarily ‘peers’ of the targeted audience. Consequently, the forum would have a lesser impact on the adolescent participants than, say, if the opinions were being expressed by classmates or family members considering Social Learning Theory suggests young people are inclined to model most of their behaviour on peers (Borsari & Carey 2009). Despite an imbalanced power relationship and absence of peer influence, the communication was still fully reciprocal between all stakeholders who attended the forum to hear each other’s opinions and views, essentially upholding a successful, two-way form of communication. While public information can be an efficient strategy to delivering the facts straightforward, it does not support a call-to-action approach which is evidentially where SA Health's 'Drink too much, you're in trouble' campaign primarily fails in communicating to young South Australians. Furthermore, a community forum may be an excellent way to engage older citizens in the decision-making processes of government, but it may not be the best way to get adolescents actively involved in improving their alcohol habits. A young audience may potentially find the presentations given by experts uninteresting, or may be turned off before even coming to the event by simply assuming it is a 'boring government thing.' It is evident that through incorporating a highly two-way symmetrical model of public relations in coordination with a prominent use of peer-to-peer interaction as a communication technique, Melissa Zahorujko PR Adelaide City Council have formulated the ultimate strategy to conquering alcohol problems among youth in Adelaide's CBD. The proactive engagement of ACC's Green Team surmounts most other strategies because the team members can directly grow relationships and engage in reciprocal communication with the troubled youth, which is the most important factor of public relations practice in general. Therefore, with a closer, more trusting relationship between organisation and the targeted public, ACC can have a stronger impact in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence, abuse and social isolation in our juvenile society. Reference List Adelaide City Council 2013, ‘How can we ensure we have a vibrant and safe Adelaide nightlife?’, Submission to the Citizen Jury, Adelaide City Council, pp. 1-25, viewed 11 May 2014, <http://saplan.org.au/media/BAhbBlsHOgZmSSIhMjAxMy8wNy8xMS8yM18yN18zOF81 MzhfZmlsZQY6BkVU/23_27_38_538_file>. Attorney-General’s Department, South Australia 2012, Late Night Safety in South Australia, Government of South Australia, viewed 13 May 2014, <http://www.agd.sa.gov.au/sites/agd.sa.gov.au/files/documents/Initiatives%20Announcement s%20and%20News/Late%20Night%20Safety/2012-Late-Night-Safety-%20InformationPaper%20(1).pdf>. Bolls, P, Leshner, G & Wise, K 2011, ‘Motivated Processing of Fear Appeal and Disgust Images in Televised Anti-Tobacco Ads’, Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, vol. 23, no. 2, p. 77. Borsari, B & Carey, K 2009, ‘How the quality of peer relationships influences college alcohol use’, Drug Alcohol Rev., vol. 25, no. 4, p. 361-370. Green Team 2013, Who are the Green Team?, Encounter Youth, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://greenteam.org.au/green-team-about>. Johnston, J & Sheehan, M 2014, Public Relations Theory and Practice, 4th edn, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest. Melissa Zahorujko PR Kelly, S, Laskin, A & Rosenstein, G 2010, ‘Investor Relations: Two-Way Symmetrical Practice’, Public Relations Research, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 182-208. Lustosa, C 2012, ‘Brock’s community forum, a success’, The Port Pirie Recorder, 15 October, viewed 12 May, < http://www.portpirierecorder.com.au/story/397699/brockscommunity-forum-a-success/>. Mackey, S 2009, ‘Public relations theory’ in J Johnston & C. Zawawi, Public relations theory and practice, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest. Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters 2014, Dictionary – peer, Oxford English Dictionary, viewed 12 May 2014, < http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/peer>. SA Health 2012, Drink too much, you’re asking for trouble, Government of South Australia, viewed 11 May 2014, <http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/protecti ng+public+health/health+promotion+and+protection/drink+too+much+youre+asking+for+tro uble+campaign>. McLeod, S 2011, 'Bandura - Social Learning Theory', Simply Psychology, viewed 13 May 2014, < http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html>. South Australian Police 2012, Alcohol and Other Harms, South Australia Police, South Australian Government, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://www.sapolice.sa.gov.au/sapol/safety_security/alcohol_and_other_drugs/alcohol_and_ other_harms.jsp>. ScienceDaily 2011, Extreme negative anti-smoking ads can backfire, experts find, ScienceDaily, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822121721.htm>. Theaker, A 2012, The Public Relations Handbook, 4th edn, Routledge, New York.