Public communication practitioners have been known to be very influential in nature and their expertise is usually employed to influence debates in the society in order to make a specific anticipated impact. Public communication practitioners are basically PR practitioners such as social media influencers (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010). PR practitioners have a greater influence in debates especially national debates since they have the capacity of influencing the public to shift their support towards a certain conclusion in the debate. Actually, public communication professions are normally depicted in the media as a big threat to the public interest. They are normally described as shady influence peddlers whose intent is to obstruct journalists from pursuing the truth and as well spoiling the democratic debate by involving themselves into any feature of public policy in matters concerning the public sphere (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010). Moreover, philosophers have also described PR practitioners as rhetorical mercenaries who propel corporate as well as government interests mostly at the expense of the public interest. However, public communication professions’ services have also been of great significance such as facilitating public discourse to assist government, businesses and not-for-profit organizations to have effective communication with one another, with the public including the media more effectively on critical issues that are of interest to all. This paper, therefore, discusses how public communication practitioners manage to influence the public debates for the not-for-profit organizations and for-profit organizations, the roles they are playing in facilitating or hindering access to as well as representing the public. The paper will also discuss a contemporary issue to support the arguments made.
2. The way public communication practitioners influence the public sphere
2.1 By promoting and supporting the public welfare
As the government and for-profit organizations utilize public communication professionals together with advertising currently in their communications processes to influence the public, it has been significantly criticized on the way in which public relations deals with matters concerning public importance (Roper, 2005). The public communication practitioners tend to influence public discourse by hiding their main intentions in the role of promoting the public welfare. Having hidden their true intentions, the public communication practitioners work to present the sense of interest of the public’s benefit just to impress the public thus influencing people to form a public opinion along with them for matters of public importance. Since the public sphere is an important aspect in society for generating public opinion derived from the rational-critical debate, several strategies practiced by public communication practitioners with an effort of influencing the public is vital (Roper, 2005). With regards to this, the public sphere has extensively been colonized by for-profit businesses, as public communication professionals work on behalf those who intend to manage public opinion conforming to their broader business, strategic and economic interests such that the subjects of their influence end up being something that seems to be in the public’s interest rather than private interest (Roper, 2005). This happens in a way that proceeds beyond advertising as the objective of the public communication professionals is to provoke quasi-political credit, which is respect that someone shows towards public authority.
2.2 Through marketing strategies
With the increasing competition in business, for-profit organizations have significantly adopted the use of public communication professional as a marketing strategy to advertise and influence the public to purchase their products. In this contemporary business, public communication practitioners tend to use social media to create public relations as well as to advertise products for for-profit businesses (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010). They use social networking platforms to target their consumers and influence them to make purchases or even turn them into loyal customers. Essentially, public communication professionals have the capacity of reaching out to new audiences with through social influencer’s platforms such as websites, blogs as well as the various social media platforms. Their main aim is to influence and transform the way people view a product of a certain business. Therefore, these public communication professionals set trends in social media platforms through posting adverts and initiating topics of discussion relating to the product they are promoting to be debated on. Moreover, they invite their followers to support them and also mostly prefer using most admired people such as musician to collaboratively work with them to influence the public to change their perspective towards a product and purchase it.
2.3 Use of protest songs
It would be a fallacy that only the conservative-minded governments and for-profit businesses exploit the services public communication professionals in influencing policy agenda, the media, and the public. Not-for-profit organizations also use public communication professionals to create some influence in society aligned to their operations and objectives. With an effort to seem more politically viable, not-for-profit organizations such as environmental NGOs as well as activist coalitions progressively use public relations strategies and depend heavily on public communication professionals to help them reach the hearts and minds of core public as well as policymakers (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010). Public communication professionals normally use protest songs to influence the public to get on board with their public opinion. Another method used by public communication practitioners is the usage of medial mind bombs to spearhead the movements of not-for-profit organizations in an extensive manner using media technology. For instance, one of the most outstanding environmental image event after Earth day during 1970, public communication professionals influenced the public by leading protests while wearing gas masks while marching in order to show the impact of the poor air quality (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010).
2.4 Participating in public debate
Although most community services offered by not-for-profit organizations are in-house initiatives modern not-for-profit organizations have increased the use of public communication professionals to streamline their messages to attract the attention of media and as well create an influence on the policy and public debate (L’Etang, McKie, Snow, & Xifra, 2015). For instance, in the United States, there has been a heated public debate about climate change which has been intensely problematic, therefore, environmental advocates ended up using the expertise of public communication professions to promote public relations which influences the public to side with a public opinion that focuses on mitigating climate change.
3. Roles of public communication professionals
3.1 Influencing the public sphere
Public communication practitioners play a role of impeding the access to representing people by diverting the attention of the public in a tactical approach. The public communication practitioners tend to influential in debates by hiding their main intentions in the role of promoting the public welfare (Holtzhausen & Zerfass, 2014). Having hidden their true intentions, the public communication professionals work to present the sense of interest of the public’s benefit just to impress the public thus influencing the public to form a public opinion along with them for matters of public importance. Through this, they manage to influence the public by diverting their attention unconsciously for their own benefits or for the benefit of those they represent.
3.2 Planning for publicity strategies
Among the duties of public communication practitioners is to plan for the publicity strategies and appropriate plans to use. It is the duty of a public communication professional to prepare an effective and lucrative plan that will efficiently influence public opinion in the public sphere. They also focus on design a campaign that is centered on influencing public opinion (Holtzhausen & Zerfass, 2014). Moreover, public communication professionals’ role is to represent those who seek their services. They speak on behalf of those they represent during interviews, presentations and also during press conferences. A public communication professional is an expert with a broad knowledge of public relations, therefore has the capacity of handling the interview, press conferences in a tactical manner that is probably to influence the listeners or the viewers and catch win their hearts and minds (Holtzhausen & Zerfass, 2014). Additionally, it is also their role to write and produce presentations and also make press releases. They exploit their knowledge on public relations to effectively make an influence on the public for the benefit of the individuals they represent.
4. Responding to the press and the public
Public communication professionals also have a duty to deal with all inquiries from the press, public, or any other relevant organization. This is because; they are in charge of developing advertising plans and advertisements, therefore, it is their roles to respond to deal with all inquiries and provide any support or advice needed by the public or the authority. Furthermore, they have a duty to organize and attend promotional events like press conferences and exhibitions (Holtzhausen & Zerfass, 2014). Due to their ability to influence the public, public communication practitioners is in charge of organizing and attending such promotional events so as to interact with the public, talk with them and consequentially influence them to support their public opinion or purchase their product.
5. Contemporary media issues
Pill testing at music festivals is the contemporary media issue chosen to back up the argument. Essentially, this is an issue that has raised a lot of debate. This issue is about rampant incidences of deaths caused by ecstasy drug overdose during music festivals. To reduce the incidences of deaths caused by drug overdose, the government established a pill testing strategy during music festivals. This pill testing would enable people in the festival who are planning to consume ecstasy pills, to test the pill for things such as toxic chemicals or dosage. Consequentially, this has raised a big debate on whether this approach would be effective (The World Staff, 2019).
The sources included in the story about the advertisement are chemists, policymakers, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Cate Faehrmann a member of New South Wales parliament and media, ABC radio.These sources definitely represent organizations, the chemists and health professionals at the field represents, the hospital, not-for-profit organization. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation represent a not-for-profit organization. Cate Faehrmann a member of New South Wales parliament represents the government and lastly, ABC radio represents the media a for-profit organization (The World Staff, 2019).
Among the public relation that may have contributed to this story is the use of social media particularly twitters by famous and popular individuals such as Cate Faehrmann a member of New South Wales parliament to influence everyone attending the music festival to test the pills. Another public relations activity applied in this situation is the campaign established to encourage everyone attending the music festival to go for drug testing (The World Staff, 2019). This public relations approach was meant to motivate and influence people to make sure that they go for pill testing so as to get to know about the harm that can be caused by the drug and also know about the dose to be administered. The advertisements made by ABC radio significantly helped in contributing more information about the already known about the dangers of ecstasy drug.
To sum it all, public communication practitioners contributes a lot to public discourse. It is evident that public influence is a very important aspect in all aspects; for-profit organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and the government. For things to get done efficiently, public influence is needed in order to gain support that will ensure the success of the project or the operation. Therefore, it is important to integrate public communication professionals in debates so as to create an influence that shapes the public opinion towards attaining public’s best interest.