PR Theory Part II SJB


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PR Theory Part II SJB

  1. 1. PR Theory and Publics II Case Study: Knockout Boxing by Selwyn Jerry Boston MA Public Relations, London College of Communication (UAL) December 2010Selwyn Jerry Boston 1
  2. 2. Selwyn Jerry BostonPR Theory and Publics II: Knockout BoxingDecember 2010AbstractThis paper will briefly analyse the public opinion on women in boxing, the sport inthe United Kingdom in general, assess the role the British media plays on thedebate and using Gregory’s ten point planning model, devise a strategicmethod to implement a successful campaign for the ban against boxing in theUK. To conclude, the paper will draw on the persuasion ethics of three modelsthat could be used for this PR campaign, and make a recommendation onwhich one of the strategies could be of definite use for any future PR activity.IntroductionBest practice in public relations calls for “input research” (Singh & Glenny, 2004,p.142) when a public relations campaign is being planned. Without it, PRpractitioners can be “reduced to taking, at best, educated guesses regardingthe problem and potential intervention programs” (Stacks, 2002, p.4). The inputresearch results guide programme planning decisions as to which model ofpersuasion could be used to change public opinion on views that are alreadyfirmly established. Many authors have promoted consensual dialogue as thegood towards which public relations ought to aim. This includes proponents oftwo-way symmetric communication (Grunig & Hunt, 1984), those who see publicrelations as the ‘ethical guardian’ of the firms they work for (L’Etang, 2003), andthose who promote Habermas’s communicative ethics (Leeper, 1996). Engagingin consensual dialogue is oriented towards reaching understanding, rather thanwinning an argument. The success does not depend on the presence ofcoercion, but on opportunities for all involved to participate in the conversationand raise issues of concern. Discussion and exploration of multiple perspectivesto reach understanding and consensus can result in creativereconceptualisations that would produce win-win outcomes. The debate in thispaper looks at a case study to ban professional boxing, and also raises theSelwyn Jerry Boston 2
  3. 3. question of whether amateur boxing should also be put in the firing line,Boxing in BritainMany responses to the articles written about the inclusion of women boxing inthe Olympics appear to be for than against. Some supporters of the sport call itprogress claim that if it were outlawed there would be more injuries caused byillegal boxing, undertaken without strict medical controls.Steve Smith from Norfolk, UK replied to an article in Journal of NeuroscienceNursing by Peter Hagell (2000) that “people should be allowed to make their ownchoice whether to participate in contact sports such as boxing, but in order todo so, they need to be fully informed and aware of what the risks are--evenbefore they begin training. There is a need for levels of awareness aboutneurologic disability, its effects, and the expectations for recovery to be raisedwithin the general public, who often shrug their shoulders and say "it wonthappen to me."Boxing promoter Frank Malloney does not believe there is a future for women inboxing looking at it from a commercial point of view. He does not think thatpeople will want to pay to see women get hurt in the boxing ring compared totheir male counterparts.The role of the media on the debateThe British media is both for and against boxing. Their debate lies on the freedomof choice for individuals to participate in whether it is non- or contact sports. Thisshows cognitive dissonance especially with the media’s knowledge of thedangers in participating in contact sports like boxing. The incidents of MichaelWatson and Paul Ingle are just samples in the long list of horrific injuries sufferedby professional boxers that are reported by the British media. There is a cognitivedissonance in the role the media plays in its report on boxing. Fatalities andprogressive changes in the sport - whether it is regarding women’s boxing beingincluded into the Olympic games or the BBC’s first broadcast of competitiveSelwyn Jerry Boston 3
  4. 4. women’s boxing - both have received extensive coverage in the mass media.Gareth Davies wrote in an article for The Telegraph (2009) that if the answer is‘no’ to women boxing, “we simply suppress the right of those individuals insociety who can, and do want to take part in the sport.”A recent article by Rachel Dixon at The Guardian (2010) clearly endorses theBBC’s announcement to broadcast women participating the sport almost asfeminist analyst focusing on the imbalance of the activity. Even professionalboxers like Amir Khan show a slight disapproval of women boxing, yet he happywith the social progress of the sport.Knockout Boxing PR planSelwyn Jerry Boston 4
  5. 5. AnalysisAlthough boxing is seen as a blood sport with long-term fatalities reportedbetween male professional boxers, a number of women are becoming moreinterested in taking it up either as a hobby or a profession. A recent survey bySport England revealed that 40% of boxing clubs run classes specifically forwomen. Out of the 149,000 people who participate in boxing once a month, onequarter are women. About 20,500 women box every week, compared with156,300 who play football.Objectives:- To initiate a four year campaign to raise awareness of the fatal dangers ofboxing- To challenge the public and media’s proponent view of women in boxing bybringing in tighter restrictions on amateur boxing- To lobby with the Government to bring in a complete on professional boxing- To persuade the Department of Culture and Sport to overturn it’s funding anddecision of including a women’s boxing squad at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio- To campaign for the national and local provision communal centres for youngpeoplePublics (primary and secondary):Primary - Boxers (registered professionals and hobbyists) Gyms and boxing clubs (boxing trainers) Academics and health opinion formers (neurosurgeons) MPs Medical (doctors, nurses) Parents and Schools MediaSecondary: British Medical Association (BMA) World Medical Association (WMA)Selwyn Jerry Boston 5
  6. 6. Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Schools Amateur Boxing Association (SAMA)Message:Knockout Boxing accepts that on the positive side boxing is good exercise and itfulfils the dreams of many youngsters. In a negative context, people get hurtwhile participating in the sport, and these injured people sometimes have to livewith long-term fatalities or die. At least 140 boxers, including two women, havedied worldwide due to injuries sustained in training or in bouts since 1990. Oneshould ask the question: “Is it ethical for the Government to allow thecontinuation of such a brutal, combative sport that puts the athlete at risk?”Case Study: Muhammad AliWhen Muhammad Ali was first diagnosed with Parkinsons Syndrome, he had togo through a series of tests at the renowned Mayo Clinic, and then at a numberof other highly respected institutions. The results indicated an astonishing amountof abnormalities, all of which seemed to be boxing related. It was found that Alihad a hole in the membrane separating the two sides of his brain. While this typeof abnormality is often congenital, being punched in the head repeatedly, if notcausing such a condition, can certainly exacerbate and worsen it. Furthercomplicating matters, Ali was shown to have a series of degenerative changesin his brain stem; a part of the brain that is linked with dopamine production, aneurotransmitter that is lacking in those afflicted with Parkinsons-like afflictions.Alis brain stem was shown to be significantly damaged, and his attendingphysicians, in a statement released at Muhammad Alis request, stated that theybelieved Alis brain damage to be boxing-induced.Excerpt from: “Muhammad Alis Battle Against Parkinsons Syndrome: Is Boxing toBlame?” by Jason Medina (2007)Case Study: Lonnie AliLonnie married Muhammad Ali in 1976 at the time he had just been diagnosedSelwyn Jerry Boston 6
  7. 7. with Parkinsons disease. As the condition progressed, it caused tremors, musclestiffness, slowed body movements, unstable posture, and difficulty walking. Aformer heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Muhammad didnt takeeasily to the idea that his body could fail him. The job of convincing Muhammadthat he needed to listen to doctors fell largely to his wife, who immediatelyslipped into the role of caregiver.Lonnie Ali: “Your day never begins or ends, because its a 24-hour thing, sevendays a week. [The person youre caring for] never leaves your mentalconsciousness even when you are away getting some respite. Youre alwaysthinking, is he okay?”Everyday Health (2007)Strategy:The Knockout Boxing group aims to use counter arguments with logical andrational points, highlighting the benefits of boxing as an exercise and fatality as acompetitive sport, and a moral narrative in the bid to ban competitive boxing.Tactics:- Lobby with MPs in bringing in tighter regulations or a complete ban on boxing- Television debates with sport professionals for and against boxing- Radio interviews with leading health and academic opinion leaders- Feature articles in opinion forming newspapers- Provide counter arguments – for and against boxingStakeholders:Internal: International Olympic Committee Department of Health Department of Culture, Media and Sport British Medical Association (BMA) World Medical Association (WMA) UK ParliamentSelwyn Jerry Boston 7
  8. 8. External: British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Michael Watson, former professional boxer Working-class youth (male and female aged 15-21)Political leaders: Hugh Robertson MP, Minister for Sport and the Olympics MP, Department of Health Paul Flynn, Labour MPOpinion formers: Professor Vanessa Nathanson, BMA Professor J Pearn Peter McCabe, Chief Executive, The Brain Injury AssociationChannelsThe media can be used as a “magic bullet” to send out uniform and directmessage to everyone. This may not have an immediate effect but using masscommunication with the right message through the mainstream media and sportorganisations could influence people to do just about anything. Here are a fewchannels the group intends to use:Newspapers: Claire Stocks, Olympic Sports Editor, BBC Sport Rachel Dixon, The Guardian The Daily MailTelevision: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Breakfast News Sky NewsRadio: BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 5 LiveMagazines: British Medical JournalSelwyn Jerry Boston 8
  9. 9. Sport organisations: Sports Council Sport England UK Sport, funding agency International Boxing Association Paul King CEO, Amateur Boxing Association of EnglandTimescales:Year 1 (2011): Campaign launch, employ PR agency, evaluate public opinion,conduct factual research, speak with former professional boxers, engage withother pressure groups against boxing, media briefingsYear 2 (2012):, Meet with sport organisations, media campaign, peaceful protestat London 2012 Olympic boxing matches with pressure groups against the sportYear 3 (2013): Start lobbying with MPs and PM, media campaign – pressbreakfasts, briefings and reportsYear 4 (2014): Campaign review, present campaign results to Parliament, mediacampaignResources:Knockout Boxing has recently appointed Mr Dominic Palumbo as chief executiveand currently has a budget of £350,000 set aside for the assistance of a publicrelations agency to execute the campaign.Evaluation:Depending on the progress of the campaign, Knockout Boxing will requirereports from the successful agency:- evaluating the success of the use of theories to the campaign- comparing the number of boxers (male and female) before and after thecampaign- disseminating a report on the progress of the campaign to organisationscampaigning for the boxing ban- a compilation report on the level of education, persuasion and acceptance ofyoung people about the pros and cons of professional boxingSelwyn Jerry Boston 9
  10. 10. - evaluation of short and long-term public opinion during the campaign and thepercentage of awareness before and after the campaign- budget evaluation for stakeholdersReview:This will be done in the year of the campaign. Using print, broadcast and onlinemedia, the campaign will be reviewed and presented to the Department ofMedia, Culture and Sport for reconsideration of a bill to ban boxing presented tothe House of Commons.Persuasion theory recommendationsPutting the debate into perspective, boxing is a sport that seems to attract alarge number of working-class youth but what these youths often fail to note,however, is that professional boxers are at risk of suffering high numbers of life-altering non-fatal injuries.There are a number of approaches to persuasion as suggested by Fawkes (2007)that “Knockout Boxing” could use to achieve its key objectives in changing thepublic’s attitude to the boxing.Rhetorical Perspective: Aristotle’s Model of CommunicationSelwyn Jerry Boston 10
  11. 11. Fig. 1 Source: Ehninger, Gronbeck and MonroeThis is one of the earliest definitions of communication that derived from theGreek philosopher-teacher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). Aristotle’s speaker-centeredmodel received perhaps its fullest development in the hands of Roman educatorQuintilian (ca. 35-95 A.D.), whose Institutio Oratoria was filled with advice on thefull training of a “good” speaker-statesman.This model features few elements but the main concepts of rhetoric are skills thatcan be utilised to achieve persuasive effects. - Ethos: a trustworthy speaker - Logos: the logic nature of the message - Pathos: the emotional response of the audience from the speaker style - Kairos: timing - knowing when to emphasise on the languageAs cited by Toth (1992) to use Sproules (1988) managerial rhetoric clearlyconnects to public relations, greatly focusing the use of the media tocommunicate to mass audiences rather than persuading one individual.Balance TheorySelwyn Jerry Boston 11
  12. 12. Fig. 2 Proposed by F. Heider (1958)The group will use the example of married couple - Oliver and Pam. Pam (21) hastaken up boxing as a sport and hopes to be one of the young womenparticipate in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is also a mother of two young childrenand this puts a lot of pressure on her husband Oliver who wants her to give upboxing. This causes a heavy strain on their marriage which resulted in separation.Theory of Reasoned ActionFig. 3 Source: Theory of Reasoned Action, Fishbein & Ajzen, (1980)Selwyn Jerry Boston 12
  13. 13. Aimed at professional boxers and hobbyists, the group will use this theory toevaluate the beliefs through to changing the behavioural intentions. We firstwant to find out why these people want to be involved in such a combativesport, produce case studies, facts, and figures of fatalities in order to persuadethem to change their behavioural patterns. These people could then becomeresourceful as campaigners against the sport. We could use five arguments forand against the sport:Arguments for boxing: 1. Professional and amateur boxers are not being forced into the ring. For many of these young men, boxing is ‘their life’ and they know nothing else. They know the risks involved and they accept that before stepping into the ring. 2. According to Dr Whiteson, former chief medical officer for the British Boxing Board of Control, injury is part and parcel of the sport. Chronic injuries and tragic cases are rarely. 3. Banning the sport could send it underground where fewer controls and restrictions would make injuries more acute. 4. Boxing is no more dangerous than some other sports, for example rugby, ski jumping or even sailing. 5. Amateur boxing is good as an exercise for example boxercise classes for are good for a aerobic and muscle-toning workout.Arguments against boxing: 1. Cuts and bruises are the most common injuries that lead to stitches and dental work being required. Body blows can lead to internal bleeding and broken ribs, but the most serious risk comes from the possibility of either catastrophic or gradual brain damage.Selwyn Jerry Boston 13
  14. 14. 2. Boxing at any level is not safe. Doctors may be able to treat injuries and prevent complication leading to death, but prevention is the best way to avoid damage being done. 3. Countries like in Sweden (1970) and Norway (1981) have banned boxing putting health concerns before individual choice. Surely the UK government should consider putting the health concern of the population first like such countries. 4. A number of tragic cases in which boxers have been fatally injured or killed by blows to the head have been reported. 5. The state should not be seen to fund such a brutal and combative sport. Duelling was banned, so should boxing.Elaboration Likelihood ModelThis model by Petty and Cacioppo (1981). suggests two ways to persuadeaudiences: central and peripheral routes. Fig.4 (Source: Kenrick, Neuberg, &Cialdini, 2002)The central route can be used to provide the audience with arguments in themessage, using reason and evaluation – carefully scrutinise the message contentSelwyn Jerry Boston 14
  15. 15. in debates using mainstream media for example television programmes, radio, orcomplete debates published for print and online media. The next step would beto evaluate both positive and negative sides to the debate, and change publicopinion.The peripheral route is typically used when personal relevance is low and: i)expert or emotional sources are used; ii) positive mood is created; iii)premessage expectations are disconfirmed; iv) the mere exposure effect is used.The peripheral route can be used to get health experts (neurosurgeons) andfamilies of former boxers that may have been fatally injured or died in the ring togive their stories to the mainstream media – print broadcast and online media.ConclusionThe Knockout Boxing public relations campaign plan is structured usingGregory’s ten point planning model including persuasion theories from Aristotle(4th century BC), Heider (1958), Fishbein and Ajzen (1980), and finally Petty andCacioppo (1981). The group will always have to analyse public opinion, timing tosee when it is right to launch a campaign, make sure the structure and contentof the message is clear, and use the right channels. Here are two more theorysuggestions that could be used for future PR activity:High Involvement Learning ModelBy supplying factual information and giving adults and children the opportunityto be actively involved in the campaign, Knockout Boxing may improve thepublic’s understanding and reaction to boxing as a competitive sport.Social Judgement TheoryKnockout Boxing could use this for future public relations activity. The latitude ofthe audience will have to be considered before trying to convince them with thegroup’s ideas. According to Sherif, if the gap between the group’s ideas andthat of public opinion is too wide, then the desired assimilation effect will notSelwyn Jerry Boston 15
  16. 16. happen. Having a credible speaker who is well prepared, able to providearguments in favour and against the sport, clear in conveying the message andhas complete handle of the language can stretch the audience’s latitude ofacceptance.Publics:Adults and children, men and womenPolitical leaders, for example MPs against combative sportsOpinion leaders, for example neurosurgeonsProfessional boxing and sport organisationsCelebrity endorsement for example former boxersMessage:Boxing kills. It may not be sudden, but if fatally injured, the participant will be leftwith gradual health deterioration.Tactics:- Use injured children, women and men who participate in boxing as part of ourmedia campaignChannels:Local and national mediaSpecialist medicine and health magazines based in the UKOnline media and social networking sitesAppendix 1Opinion I: United KingdomSelwyn Jerry Boston 16
  17. 17. This is an interesting question that raises all sorts of issues. In the United Kingdom,opinion is divided between those who want the sport banned and those whobelieve that it should be properly controlled and funded from boxing funds; i.e.,the consequences of boxing should be funded from within the sport and not bysociety at large. I favour the latter because I deplore the modern "nanny"society--you cannot eat this, you cannot drink that and you must not doanything that may harm you! Everest would never have been climbed andairplanes would never have flown if someone had not taken a risk. Boxing is acontrolled sport and should be left alone. Drunken driving should be banned.Encouraging the wearing of helmets and hard hats is a far more urgentcampaign as far as I can see. Let us keep the nanny police at bay!Christine Eberhardie London, UK, The Telegraph (2009)Appendix 2Opinion II: United KingdomBoxing is definitely a risky business. You get knocked down, you stand up, anddown you go again. But sometimes you win. Its a bit like life. Weve seen the joyof Londons Eastenders when Frank Bruno won their hearts, despite defeat byTyson. We saw the horror of Ivander Holyfield losing his ear to that same demon.Of course, weve also witnessed great tragedy. We watched the creativity ofMuhammad Ali, inspiring so many to turn from war, and now we are appalled athis sorrowful decline. So whats the answer? The BMA and the RCN have reachedstalemate. The BMA has a point: It isnt safe enough. Ali was allowed to competelong after he was unfit; fights go on after injury is sustained; and medics cant getto the ring when theyre needed. The RCN has a good point too. What aboutfreedom of choice? But choices should be informed. Matilda Sequeira, nursepractitioner at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability, has this to say, "Brain injuryacquired through sport is (too) often seen by nurses at this hospital."Steve Smith Norfolk, UK, The Telegraph (2009)Appendix 3Opinion 3: Barbaric Boxing Should Be Outlawed Like Dueling & CockfightingSelwyn Jerry Boston 17
  18. 18. The great, mercury-like Muhammad Ali was famous for eluding punches. But hedidnt elude them all. Ali has been reduced to a Parkinsonian shuffle, his oncefast tongue slurred. Practically all the other, more mortal pugilists take a harsherbeating that Ali ever did in any of his fights. Over 360 boxers died since 1945.Brain damage and other severe injuries are uncountable.Boxing should go the way of dueling. Like dueling, the participants in boxingagree to commit acts upon themselves that would be considered crimes in othervenues.Virtually all professional boxers are born into poverty. Like drug dealing, crapshooting, and prostitution, boxing seems like an easy route to quick money, but itis bad choice. Laws protect people from themselves who make bad choices.Because boxers pay a price themselves but so does society in healthcare for oldboxers. Other sports have deaths and severe injuries, but they are unfortunateby-products not the (2010)ReferenceSelwyn Jerry Boston 18
  19. 19. Brice, J., et al (1993) “The Boxing Debate.” British Medical Association. London:The Chameleon Press Limited. Available from:<>[Accessed on 30 November 2010]Davies, G.A., (2009) “Women boxing in the Olympics? A mistake? Or progress?”,The Telegraph. Available from:<> [Accessed on 30 November 2010]Dixon, R., (2010) “The rise of women boxers”, The Guardian; Available from:<> [Accessed on 19 November 2010]English, P., (2002, 2006) Should Boxing be banned? International DebateEducational Association. Available from: <> [Accessed on 10 December 2010]Fawkes, J., (2009) ‘Public Relations, Propaganda and the Psychology ofPersuasion’ in Tench, R., and Yeomans, L. Exploring Public Relations. Harlow:Prentice HallGregory, A., (2000) Planning and Managing Public Relations Campaigns.London: Kogan Page LimitedHagell, P., (2000) ‘Should Boxing Be Banned?’ Journal of Neuroscience Nursingon All Business. Available from: <> [Accessed on 10 December 2010]Harris, C., DiRusso, S., Sullivan T., and Benzil D. L., (2004) “Mortality Risk after HeadInjury Increases at 30 Years,” Journal of American College of Surgeons, 198:5,852-853; Available from <> [Accessed on 19Selwyn Jerry Boston 19
  20. 20. November 2010]Las Vegas Sun (2005) A brutal, vicious sport. Available at<> [Accessed on 19 November 2010]Leeper, R. V. (1996). ‘Moral objectivity, Jurgen Habermas’s discourse ethics, andpublic relations.’ Public Relations Review, 22(2), 133-150.L’Etang, J. (2003) “The Myth of the ‘Ethical Guardian’: An Examination of itsorigins, potency and illusions”, Journal of Communications Management Vol 8, 1pp 53-67Medina, J., (2007) Muhammad Alis Battle Against Parkinsons Syndrome: Is Boxingto Blame? Associated Content. Available from:,> [Accessed on 4 December 2010]McCabe, P., (2009) “Boxing is a dangerous sport and doesnt deserve statefunding”, The Guardian. Available from:<> [Accessed on 19 November 2010]Pearn J. (1998) Boxing, youth and children. Journal of Paediatrics and ChildHealth 34: 311-3. [Accessed on 19 November 2010]Ramnarace, C., (2007) My Life: Lonnie Ali. Everyday Health Available from:<>[Accessed on 10 December 2010]Singh, R., & Glenny, L. (2004). ‘Research and evaluation.’ In J. Johnston & C.Zawawi (Eds). Public relations theory and practice, Second Edition (pp.137-168).Selwyn Jerry Boston 20
  21. 21. Sydney: Allen & UnwinSvinth, J. (2007) “Boxing Injury Bibliography,” Journal of Combative Sport,2001-2007, Available from: <>[Accessed on 19 November 2010] Should boxing be banned? (Opinion 2: Barbaric BoxingShould Be Outlawed Like Dueling & Cockfighting). Available from:<> [Accessed on 07December 2010]Zazryn T., Cameron P., and McCrory P., (2006) “A Prospective Cohort Study ofInjury in Amateur and Professional Boxing,” British Journal of Sports Medicine 40,670-674 [Accessed on 19 November 2010]Selwyn Jerry Boston 21