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New Research on Public Relations as a Global Strategy Function


New Research on Public Relations as a Global Strategy Function James E. Grunig, Professor Emeritus Department of Communication University of Maryland – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: New Research on Public Relations as a Global Strategy Function

New Research onPublic Relations as a Global
Strategy Function
  • James E. Grunig, Professor Emeritus
  • Department of Communication
  • University of Maryland
  • College Park, Maryland, USA

Types of Public Relations Research
  • Research IN public relations.
  • Used by practitioners in their work.
  • Research ON public relations.
  • Constructive, critical research by academic
    scholars on the practice of public relations.
  • Research FOR public relations.
  • Applied basic research to develop concepts and
    tools for the practice of public relations.

Two Paradigms of Public Relations
  • The symbolic, interpretive, paradigm.
  • The behavioral, strategic management, paradigm.

The Symbolic, Interpretive, Paradigm
  • Public relations manages how publics interpret
    the organizationto buffer the organization from
    its environment.
  • These interpretations include popular concepts
    such as reputation, brand, image, impressions,
    and identity.
  • This paradigm can be found in the concepts of
    reputation management in business schools,
    integrated marketing communication in advertising
    programs, and rhetoric in communication and
    public relations departments.
  • Emphasis is on publicity, media relations, and
    media effects.

The Behavioral, Strategic Management, Paradigm
  • Public relations participates in strategic
    decision-making to help manage the behavior of
    the organization.
  • Public relations is a bridging activity to build
    relationships with stakeholders rather than a set
    of messaging activities designed to buffer the
    organization from stakeholders.
  • Emphasis is on two-way and symmetrical
    communication of many kinds to provide publics a
    voice in management decisions and to facilitate
    dialogue between management and publics.

This Paradigm Adds Stakeholder Relations to
Strategic Management and Reveals the ROI of PR
  • The corporation is more than an extension of the
    basic human right to own property.
  • organizational wealth can be created (or
    destroyed) through relationships with
    stakeholders of all kindsthat is managing
    relationships with stakeholders for mutual
  • Corporations ARE what they DO.
  • (James E. Post, Lee E. Preston, and Sybille
    Sachs 2002, Redefining the the Corporation
    Stakeholder Management and Organizational Wealth,
    pp. 12, 1, 2.)

Purposes of My Research
  • Explain and measure the value of the
    communication function to organizations and to
    society (research on public relations).
  • Define the role of public relations in strategic
    decision-making and organizational governance
    (research on public relations).
  • Develop concepts, tools, and measures for
    communication professionals to use in strategic
    management (research for public relations.

Stages in My Intellectual Journey
  • Research on the behavior of publics and
    development of a situational theory of publics,
    beginning in the 1960s.
  • Research in the 1970s on how characteristics of
    organizations and their management affect the
    behavior of public relations practitioners and
  • Development of a theory of symmetrical,
    dialogical, public relations, 1970s-1980s.
  • Evaluation research in public relations for ATT
    in the late 1970s.
  • The IABC excellence project in the 1980s and
    1990s, which explained the ROI of public
    relations and articulated the strategic role of
    public relations.

Public Relations Contributes to Strategic
Management by
  • Participating in management decision-making to
    identify consequences that create stakeholders.
  • Segmenting stakeholders and publics.
  • Using communication to cultivate relationships
    with strategic publics.
  • Influencing management behavior.
  • Measuring the quality of relationships.

Ongoing Research Since the Excellence Study to
Develop Strategic Tools for Public Relations
Environmental Scanning
  • Chang (2000) study of corporate PR executives.
  • Most did not know what environmental scanning
    was, or they relied solely on media, polls, or
    published information.
  • Personal sources most useful customers, activist
    groups, journalists, and government officials.
  • Monitor websites, blogs, and other sources of
    information from activists.
  • Develop a database of issues for issues

Identifying Stakeholders
  • Identify stakeholders by monitoring the
    consequences of management decisions on those not
    making the decision.
  • A stakeholder is anyone who has something at risk
    because of an organizational decision, behavior,
    or lack of behavior.
  • Most common stakeholders found in the Excellence
    study were employees, customers, investors,
    community, government, members, media, and donors.

Stakeholders Can Be Segmented into Publics
  • Activist, active, passive, or no communication
  • The more active the public, the more likely are
    communication effects.
  • For example, the probability of an effect on
    behavior can be increased from .5 to about 50
    by selecting an active public rather than a

Environmental Publics Found for the National
Wildlife Federation
  • General environmental public.
  • Special-issue public air pollution.
  • Special-issue public superhighways.
  • Special-issue public killing of whales.
  • Hot-issue public energy shortage.

Employee Publics Found in Two Utilities
  • Management publics.
  • Routine behavior older employees.
  • Upwardly mobile, younger employees.
  • Apathetic employees.

Scenario Building (Sung 2004)
  • Learn from the past.
  • Envision possible futures.
  • Examine comprehensive future options for
  • Reduce the risk of decisions.
  • Case of two issues for an insurance company
    Credit scoring and national regulation.

Empowering Public Relations
  • The Excellence study showed that PR executives
    enter the dominant coalition and strategic
    management when they. . .
  • Develop extensive knowledge of their
  • Develop knowledge of public relations and
    strategic management.
  • Respond at times when their expertise is needed,
    especially during a crisis or when facing an
  • Berger (2005) found that coalitions change in
    corporations and that public relations is
    included when its expertise is relevant.

Evaluation of the Long-Term Value of Public
Relations Can Be Done by Measuring the Quality of
  • Trust
  • Mutuality of control
  • Satisfaction
  • Commitment

Relationships and Reputation
  • The concept of reputation has value when used in
    conjunction with relationships.
  • Reputation is a byproduct of organizational
    performance, as evaluated by stakeholders, and of
    relationships with stakeholders.
  • Open-End Questions Measure Reputations Best (In
    a sentence or two, please tell me what comes to
    mind when you think of organization.)

These Measures Have Been Applied by Strategy
  • Identify key stakeholders and measure
    relationships with each separately.
  • Ask qualitative questions about reputation and
  • Measure relationships quantitatively.
  • Explore cultivation strategies that improve the
    quality of a relationship.

Cultivation Strategies Are the Heir to the
Symmetrical Model
  • Access.
  • Positivity.
  • Openness.
  • Assurances of legitimacy.
  • Networking.
  • Sharing of tasks.
  • Win-win or no deal.
  • Being unconditionally constructive, even if the
    other side doesnt reciprocate.
  • Avoid contending, avoiding, or accommodating
    (asymmetrical strategies).

Case of Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Crisis over toxic waste.
  • Public relations department used symmetrical
    communication to consult with community
  • Issues management system established.
  • Importance of personal communication between
    employees and community.
  • Involving employees in community improved
    employee relations.

Expanding the Role of Public Relations in Global
  • Research in several countries has extended the
    Excellence theory to a theory of generic
    principles and specific applications.
  • Ni (2006) found that relationships with employees
    are better for multinational corporations in
    China with a local responsiveness strategy that
    those emphasizing global integration alone.

Moving to the Future
  • Research is needed on the institutionalization of
    public relations as a strategic management,
    bridging, function rather than its common
    practice as a symbolic, buffering, function. (Yi,