The study aims at covering several aspects related to the shark culling procedure. It also aims at the procedure of getting rid of sharks, adopted by Western Australian Government. In the year 2014, the government officials of Western Australia took a major decision of killing sharks for minimizing the human attacks at the beach side. The decision was being taken by the government officials for countering the attacks of the sharks, which took place at the Australian beaches. Majority of the tourists were being attacked by the sharks, which led to the negative circumstances (Parsons 2016). The study will give a deeper analysis to the things, which happened. It will discuss about certain factors that has caused the public turn against Western Australian Government, the effectiveness of the government efforts at managing the whole issue and the lessons of this case. In addition to this, it will discuss about Grunig’s four models of Public Relations in accordance with the shark culling case. Lastly, it will also discuss about the advent of digital media and its usage in building reputation.
Public Opinion turning against Government
In December 2014, the government officials of Western Australia took the major decision of killing sharks all along the ocean line as well as in the waters of western coastal lines. The core purpose was to trap the sharks and kill them, to minimize the risks of human attacks. The overall process was regarded as rude and violent. This shark culling debate continued in the Australia as the shark bites on surfers or bathers became a sensitive reality. These are community-wide and personal tragedies, which changed the public opinion against the government officials. The goal was to minimize the accidents that took place at the beach side, by killing the sharks (Austin and Pinkleton 2015).
However, shark hunts and shark culling was not being accepted by the public and they considered this whole situation as ruthless. The government officials of the Western Australia decided to spend over two million dollars, to track, trap, catch and destroy the sharks that would prevent them from coming into the local waters. Herald Sun reported on the new poll of West Australian website, which found around 82% of the respondents were against the new killing plan and only around 13% supported the killing. Majority of the public was against the decision of shark culling as it would reduce their population and make the species a vulnerable one.
In addition to this, the massive catching and killing of the species led to the destruction of marine life, wildlife as well as national values. The government’s initiatives of managing the whole situation were not that effective as it led to the destruction of marine population. In this process of trapping the sharks and killing them, the entire aquatic life got affected. This entire process resulted in a nationwide debate. The individuals were totally against the idea of reducing the population and destroying aquatic life (Guth and Marsh 2016).
The reports from the government officials revealed that the marine life species, which were trapped and killed in the fish nets included whales, dugongs, dolphins and turtles as well. According to the reports, nearly 61% of the marine life got impacted and killed in the fish nets and maximum of them were the non-target species. Later on, it increased t0 64%. Therefore, it can be said that the government efforts were not at all effective, in terms of sustainability (Kunczik 2016). The key lessons of this case are that the officials lacked effective strategic points and implementation, which resulted into such crisis. Moreover, handling the overall situation by consulting good public relation personnel could have assisted in managing the crisis in the most effective manner (Doorley and Garcia 2015).
Grunig’s four models of Public Relations
Grunig’s four models of Public Relations in relation with the shark culling issue;
Press Agentry/ Publicity
The press agentry publicity model mainly follows a communication style that is one-way. In this type of communication, the information flows only from the sender to the receiver. The sender is however, not much concerned regarding the feedback of the second party, their reviews and more. In this model, the public relations personnel enhance the organizational reputation among the stakeholders, employees, target audiences and others through manipulation. This model emphasizes upon the creation of positive image through reasoning and arguments. The Western Australian Government officials have adopted this model as their communication was one-way.
Public Information Model
The public information model emphasizes on enhancing and maintaining the reputation of the company or organization by simply circulating meaningful and relevant information among the public. The public relations personnel mainly rely on news release, press releases and other mode of communication, to communicate with the target audience. However, the case of Western Australia in no way adopted this model, as the public relations officer did not take the public opinion into consideration and moreover, they were also not being provided with appropriate information.
Two-way asymmetrical model
The two-way asymmetrical model is regarded as something that is less manipulative in nature than press agentry model. However, this model successfully discusses about the bigger cause of the organizations (Seitel 2017). The Western Australian Government officials took a wrong step of killing the sharks, which was not at all effective. The whole situation worsened as the public began to raise their voice against the ruthless killing of the sharks. The government officials conducted this sort of communication to establish a public relation and to persuade the individuals to believe that the fact of killing sharks would solve the issue.
Two-way symmetrical model
The two-way symmetrical model is considered to be the most healthy and progressive method of building relations with the public. It is the model in which both the parties get highly benefitted, as their welfare is taken into consideration. Moreover, in this type of public relations, public relations is build by taking the well being of the individuals into account, rather than manipulating the facts or persuading them. This helps in building positive relations with the individuals (Grunig 2017). However, it can be stated that the Western Australian Government officials did not use this model into account and thus, they had to face severe consequences later.
Social media and Government Reputation
It can be stated that the entire situation of shark culling undertaken by the Western Australian Government officials led to several impacts and that too in a negative manner. The relation between the government and the public worsened the situation more and the individuals started demanding a proper solution. The public kept on alleging the government officials for taking inappropriate measures and asked them to stop such ruthless activities of killing the shark population. The Western Australian Government officials could have saved their reputation by utilizing the social media websites in an appropriate as well as effective manner (Kiesenbauer, Burkert and Zerfass 2015).
The government officials could have saved their image or reputation by organizing online survey methods or digital surveys through social media websites and applications. This would have helped them in gaining an understanding of the public opinion regarding the shark culling incident. The story of shark culling in Western Australia shed a negative light on the public relations in the new era of social media. The public relations personnel did not take any necessary steps for preventing the issue. Moreover, the ineffectiveness of the public relations personnel led to such a crisis situation. In addition to this, conducting a proper survey would have helped them in understanding public opinion regarding the issue (Protess and McCombs 2016).
In addition to this, it could have helped in saving several human lives by making the surfers and bathers aware of the incident. Killing the sharks is not the ultimate solution; rather necessary steps of preventing them would have been more suitable. This could have helped in shaving several lives including the marine life as well. With the advent of digital media, communicating with the public has become easier (Theaker 2017). From the public polls conducted on the social media websites, the government officials could have gained necessary information regarding public opinion and their feedbacks (Xifra and Heath 2015).
Moreover, it would have helped in saving the marine life population. In addition to this, it would have made the relations between the public and the government better. The debate on the shark culling remains unsettled due to the inappropriate use of social media websites. Therefore, proper initiatives need to be taken by the public relations personnel by constantly updating the public regarding the issues. Furthermore, it is important to take the public opinion into consideration, before taking any major step (Valentini 2015). Thus, the social media websites would have assisted in handling the whole situation in a better manner.
To conclude, the whole situation of shark culling in the Western Australia has been discussed in the entire report. The study has thrown light on the ineffectiveness of the public relations personnel in handling the entire situation. Grunig’s four models of public relations has been discussed in the entire report and linked with the shark culling case study. Last but not the least; the report has also thrown light on how the government could have saved their image with the help of digital media.
Austin, E.W. and Pinkleton, B.E., 2015. Strategic public relations management: Planning and managing effective communication campaigns (Vol. 10). Routledge.
Doorley, J. and Garcia, H.F., 2015. Reputation management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communication. Routledge.
Grunig, J.E., 2017. Symmetrical presuppositions as a framework for public relations theory. In Public relations theory(pp. 17-44). Routledge.
Guth, D.W. and Marsh, C., 2016. Public relations: A values-driven approach. Pearson.
Kiesenbauer, J., Burkert, A. and Zerfass, A., 2015. Mentoring in public relations: An international study on mentoring programmes of professional associations. Communication ethics in a connected world, pp.367-390.
Kunczik, M., 2016. Images of nations and international public relations. Routledge.
Parsons, P.J., 2016. Ethics in public relations: A guide to best practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Protess, D. and McCombs, M.E. eds., 2016. Agenda setting: Readings on media, public opinion, and policymaking. Routledge.
Seitel, F.P., 2017. Practice of Public Relations. Pearson Education.
Theaker, A., 2017. What is public relations?. In The Public Relations Strategic Toolkit (pp. 17-27). Routledge.
Valentini, C., 2015. Is using social media “good” for the public relations profession? A critical reflection. Public Relations Review, 41(2), pp.170-177.
Xifra, J. and Heath, R.L., 2015. Reputation, propaganda, and hegemony in Assyriology studies: A Gramscian view of public relations historiography. Journal of Public Relations Research, 27(3), pp.196-211.