Assignment 2 Essay

Melissa Zahorujko
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
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
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
“… 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
Melissa Zahorujko
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
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
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
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
Attorney-General’s Department, South Australia 2012, Late Night Safety in South Australia,
Government of South Australia, viewed 13 May 2014,
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,
Johnston, J & Sheehan, M 2014, Public Relations Theory and Practice, 4th edn, Allen and
Unwin, Crows Nest.
Melissa Zahorujko
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
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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, <>.
SA Health 2012, Drink too much, you’re asking for trouble, Government of South Australia,
viewed 11 May 2014,
McLeod, S 2011, 'Bandura - Social Learning Theory', Simply Psychology, viewed 13 May
2014, <>.
South Australian Police 2012, Alcohol and Other Harms, South Australia Police, South
Australian Government, viewed 12 May 2014,
ScienceDaily 2011, Extreme negative anti-smoking ads can backfire, experts find,
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Theaker, A 2012, The Public Relations Handbook, 4th edn, Routledge, New York.