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Activist public relations in developing contexts where rules and norms collide: insights from two activist organizations against gender-based violence in Bangladesh

Habib Mohammad Ali (Department of Media Studies and Journalism, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Shima Saniei (Faculty of Arts and Media, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Patrick O'Leary (School of Health Sciences and Social Work, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)
Jennifer Boddy (School of Health Sciences and Social Work, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 27 April 2022

Issue publication date: 2 May 2022

66

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to broaden the understanding of activist public relations in developing contexts. The power of formal laws and policies in developing contexts diminishes by traditional norms and authorities, and therefore, a great deal of activist public relations efforts is devoted to controlling destructive norms and informal authorities. Activist public relations literature often assumes powerful formal institutions that are capable to control behaviors. The authors challenge this assumption by exploring activist public relations against gender-based violence (GV) in Bangladesh.

Design/methodology/approach

This study took an interpretative and social constructionist approach to examine public relations practices of two GV activist organizations in Bangladesh. The data were collected through observation, interviews and document analysis of four campaigns. The data were coded in NVivo.

Findings

The data show that the activist organizations used public relations campaigns for informal institutional work. The campaigns included educating various publics and storytelling to build supporting identities, norms and networks to address GV in Bangladesh.

Research limitations/implications

The study has been limited to advocacy campaign of the non-governmental organizations.

Practical implications

The knowledge from this study can be applied to the social development sectors where public relations is used to activate activism. In addition, the public relations practitioners and scholars can find how activists public relations is emerging in developing context.

Originality/value

The findings suggest that activist public relations in developing contexts carry out institutional work and create informal institutions to compensate for the formal institutional voids. In addition, this paper highlights the role of public relations in institutional work, to create and maintain contributory institutions or disrupt disturbing institutions.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: The lead author was awarded Griffith University International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Menzies Health Institute, Queensland, grant to undertake this study.

Ethical clearance: An ethics approval was taken from Griffith University, Australia, to conduct the study.

Conflict of interest: There is no conflict of interest among the authors or with any institutions for this research.

Citation

Ali, H.M., Saniei, S., O'Leary, P. and Boddy, J. (2022), "Activist public relations in developing contexts where rules and norms collide: insights from two activist organizations against gender-based violence in Bangladesh", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 149-165. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-09-2021-0101

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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