Public relations is often criticised for dictating and manipulating the role of a democracy, as it can be suggested that it endorses secrecy and manipulation within political parties. However, without public relations government discussion and debate cannot be projected through mass and social media, to connect with the public. Therefore without public relations, a democracy is unable to function effectively. There are four main areas in which public relations intersects with a democratic government. These four areas include:
- Media management, from government minders to pursue political objectives
- Promotion by government information officers to pursue public objectives
- Lobbying by corporations and interest groups to affect government policy
- The use of campaign techniques in the elections required to form governments (Johnston, 2014).
Governments utilise public relations techniques, in modern society, to strategically manage their interactions with the mass media, to gain support for government policies from citizens, to ensure that they will be re-elected in the next election. Media minders are in control of providing citizens with information about certain government parties. Media minders job description involves looking after their minister’s political wellbeing within the media on a regular basis (Johnston, 2014).
Public relations practises are also used to influence the outcome of in house government decisions. Lobbying also utilises public relations practices to assist a government’s ability to pursue certain goals. Lobbyists are in charge of organising complex campaigns to strengthen their client’s popularity.
Election campaigns often embody characteristics of the mass-marketing organisational theory, such as strategic game play and psychology, to ensure a successful and persuasive portrayal of government leaders. Campaign directors are involved with organising advertising, direct mail, speeches, social networking and viral marketing, to enable the government to elicit a positive and reliable image to its potential voters (Johnston, 2014).
To ensure political parties produce a strong and successful campaign, complex research strategies need to be implemented. These research strategies enable government agencies to understand their audience and to evaluate the impact of their campaigns. Research involves measuring the electorate’s quantitative and qualitative responses to their campaigns. The role of campaign research is to set the direction of future campaigns.
Here is an example of a successful government campaign that was released in February this year. The South Australian government noticed that an alarming number of fatalities on the roads were occurring in regional areas. This prompted them to join forces with the Motor Accident Commission and create a campaign that would deter people who live in regional areas from practicing dangerous driving habits, like drink driving and speeding. An enormous amount of research went into creating the campaigns, to ensure that the message would make a lasting impact on its target publics. Public Relations practitioners went to regional areas and asked what their most important values were, the main consensus was mateship. This influenced the government to create a campaign that showed people who live in regional areas promoting safe driving, through friendship.
“We want to encourage mates to speak up when they see another mate about to make a bad driving decision by giving them some examples of how they can do that.” (MAC, 2015)
Successful political campaigns aim to build a positive image of their candidate to appeal to targeted voters. Positioning candidates effectively is possible when the campaign is spun in a particular way, for example spinning involves constant repetition, refinement and redevelopment of a candidate position.
With the rise of social media, direct personal contact is often overlooked as a campaign strategy. However, personal contact is a fundamental way to establish a strong relationship with voters. Candidate’s most effective way of communicating, is on a micro level, for example being a spokes person for local issues, door knocking the electorate, speaking to community organisations and local opinion leaders. To ensure support from potential voter’s candidates need to maximise every opportunity to physically interact and meet voters to personally communicate the campaigns message and intention. It is suggested that John Howard’s success in 2007 was a result of his direct contact with the public. Howard was perceived to have an extensive insight into local issues and to have a strong network of connections within the community (Johnston, 2014).
The readings this week made me think more about public relations theory and practice because prior to reading them, I had little knowledge about how much PR practices were used in the government sector. I now understand the main areas in which PR intersects with the government and how they operate. I also now aware of just how much strategic pr planning goes into supporting political parties or specific leaders. Public relations is a perfect way for leaders to communicate and engage with the public. Research is also just as important within the government public relations sector, as it is with any other pr sector, because it allows parties to find out information about potential voters, to ensure that they are catering for their needs.
J. Johnston, M. Sheehan, 2014. Theory and Practice Public Relations. NSW, Australia.
Road safety campaign to Keep the Bromance Alive | MAC. 2015. Road safety campaign to Keep the Bromance Alive | MAC. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.mac.sa.gov.au/news/road-safety-campaign-to-keep-the-bromance-alive. [Accessed 27 October 2015].
Keep the Bromance Alive • Motor Accident Commission Ad 2015 • Trailer HD – YouTube. 2015. Keep the Bromance Alive • Motor Accident Commission Ad 2015 • Trailer HD – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSFAVDnnPVk. [Accessed 27 October 2015