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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 organization—to 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 kinds…—that is managing relationships with stakeholders for mutual benefit.” • “Corporations ARE what they DO.” (James E. Post, Lee E. Preston, and Sybille Sachs , 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 departments. • Development of a theory of symmetrical, dialogical, public relations, 1970s-1980s. • Evaluation research in public relations for AT&T 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 management.
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 behavior. • 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 nonpublic.
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 decision-making. • 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 organization. • Develop knowledge of public relations and strategic management. • Respond at times when their expertise is needed, especially during a crisis or when facing an issue. • 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 Relationships • 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 One/Edelman • Identify key stakeholders and measure relationships with each separately. • Ask qualitative questions about reputation and relationships. • 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 doesn’t 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 stakeholders. • 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 Strategy • 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, 2005)