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Literature Review on Public Relations

This chapter begins with the definition of Public Relations, which broadens our vision of the concept, as its definition encompasses what Public Relations, as a whole, is about. Some of the main events that led to the evolution of the concept from Publicity to Public Relations, as a Profession, are also highlighted. The literature review then moves on to establish a link between the goals of the organization and that of Public Relations, its role as Management function and its association with the field of Marketing.

“The purest treasure mortal times afford are spotless reputation. ” Shakespeare Reputation is essential if one wants to remain competitive in today’s market. It is a major asset that makes one stand out and gives one a competitive edge. Company reputation can be managed through effective Public Relations, which aid in the communication process as well as in the process of building relationships with the stakeholders of the organization. 1 A more in-depth look into Public Relations shows that it is a profession that requires just as many insights and skills as other professions.

The adaptive effects of Public Relations on society are made through a mechanism of presentation of a clearer view into different social entities. Public Relations is able to do a number of things such as quiet rebellious nonconformists, kill unfounded gossip, encourage good health habits, rally for safety, and endorse praiseworthy advances in politics. Over all, Public Relations is necessary and helpful to three different parties: the practitioner, the manager and the consumer. (Reilly, 1981) Walter F Seifert describes the usefulness of a Public Relations expert through the following statement:

“In today’s atmosphere of charge and countercharge the public relations expert is a necessary as any other firefighter. But long before the fire begins, he is needed to build a backlog of goodwill that minimizes misadventures. ”2 2. 1 Definition of Public Relation Achieving a definition of Public Relations is one way of understanding its usefulness. Numerous definitions have been written in an effort to best portray the essence of Public Relations. Most scholars have tried to capture the essence of PR by keeping a record of the different activities and processes that are involved in the practice of Public Relations.

Rex F. Harlow, an esteemed Public Relations scholar and leader, collected nearly 500 written definitions of Public Relations. These definitions had been written between the early 1900’s and 1976. Harlow identified the key elements that made up these definitions. This identification allowed him to arrive at a conclusion on the identity of Public Relations, what PR is, without having to center only on the functions of Public Relations, what PR does (Cutlip et al. 2006). One definition of Public Relations states that it is a distinctive management function.

It is defined to be a function that aids in the establishment and maintenance of lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between a given organization and its public domain. Public Relation involves the handling of different problems and issues. Through this function, management is able to remain informed on and responsive to public opinion. Management is reminded of its responsibility to cater to and meet the public’s interests. Management is also able to keep track of change, which allows them in turn to effectively employ the implications of these changes.

Public Relations are able to serve all these functions through early warning systems that help in the anticipation of trends. The tools of Public Relations are research and sound ethical communication. 3 Many other definitions of Public Relations have been developed. This included a definition agreed upon by the 1978 World assembly of Public Relations Association in Mexico: “Public Relations is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders and implementing planned programs of action which will serve both the Organization and the public interest.

”4 The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which was established in 1948, is the UK’s leading Professional body for Public Relations Practitioners. The institute formulated an initial definition of Public Relations in 1987. This initial definition was then extended in order to account for concepts that were already present in the more current scenarios. The revised definition is as follows: “Public relation is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behavior.

It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. ” The literature on Public Relations, in this deliberately selective review, asserts that Public Relations are indispensable elements of a firm’s management framework especially when taking into consideration the modern day turbulent marketing environments (Moore and Kalupa, 1985). 2. 2 Evolution of Public Relation Before one can truly understand Public Relations, however, one must first view the history behind its usefulness and definitions.

Public Relation, although regarded as a phenomenon of the twentieth century, is actually a relatively old art. Its techniques and mechanisms are older than the term’s actual recorded history. Proof of these can be seen through the following cases of lives of historically famous individuals: Caesar and Alexander were both rulers who employed the aid of publicists. Lloyds and the Rothschild practiced a variant of fundamental and basic financial Public relations. Ancient kings and emperors frequently staged special events and had special gathering in order to boost the images they had with their people.

Catherine the Great of Russia was recorded to have hired connoisseurs who would advice her on the art purchases she made. These purchases were a means to get her into the admission and acceptance of Europe’s then social elite. (Reilly, 1981) Although its techniques could be seen in pre-written history, Public Relations officially started in Britain on 1809, when the British Treasury first appointed an official Press Spokesperson. In 1854, the Post Office also stated in its first annual report the need to explain its services to the Public.

Another of the very first uses of Public Relations tactics came in 1912 when the British Government led by Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gathered a robust group of lecturers who would serve as a means of explaining a new “old age pension scheme”. It is clear from these records that the earliest documentation of Public Relations focused on Press agentry and Publicity (Adams, 1902; Smith, 1915; McCauley, 1922; Long, 1924). A later development in the field of Public Relations came when Bernays (1931) appealed for the separation of the Public Relations counselor from the Press Agents.

In 1948, which was a historic year for Britain, the Institute of Public Relations was established (Jefkins, 1998). This was the first official institution for Public Relations. The importance of Public Relations was fast becoming recognized in society. In the years after the Institute of Public Relations was established, during the 1950’s to be exact, Public Relations was acknowledged as an independent profession. Public Relations continued to evolve, however, and the late 1980’s gave birth to a near exponential growth in the UK public relations agency sector.

The sector accelerated from 106 million in 1986 to 216 million in 1989. This was an astounding growth rate of 103%. (Kitchen, 1997). Today, it is evident that the world of communication is large, complex and omnipresent. This largely dictates the direction of Public Relation’s evolution. Modern day individuals are constantly met with a barrage of words, sounds, and sights; all of which are able to provide various different kinds of communication. These individuals are often expected to be able to express relevant opinions of a variety of issues.

Not only has communication become omnipresent but fresh fields of economic consideration have been made open to public argument; arguments that a generation ago were reserved only for the discussion of experts. The increase in activity of Public Relations at the present is greatly caused by recent drastic lifestyle changes and communication innovations. The field of Public Relations can be expected to continue in its development as it continues to fill in more modern needs of the society at large (Marston, 1979). 2. 3 Role of Public Relation

The rich history of Public Relations and the established definitions of the term provide one with a general sense of the function of Public Relations in society. This section will provide a more detailed understanding of the role of Public Relations in society in general and in management in particular. Public Relations (PR) practitioners have also often been called “image makers” and “spin doctors”. These alternative names attest to the role that PR practitioners play in creating and developing the social reality it is applied to.

1 Numerous academicians have studied and investigated the role of PR in order to grasp a clearer view of the subject. Broom and Smith (1979) conducted the first scholarly research investigation that was bent on establishing the role of the Public Relations Practitioner. Dozier (1992) conducted a review of the previous literature in order to base his understanding of the PR role on empirical findings. Dozier (1922) started his collection with the works of Broom and Smith (1978, 1979).

The search for the true delineation of the PR practitioner’s role was continued by Cutlip et al. (1994:42). It was Cutlip et al. (1994:42) who suggested that Public Relations practitioners adopt specific roles in the organizations that they are members of. The roles they take on exhibit specific patterns of behavior that allow them to deal more efficiently with recurring types of situations. These behavioral patterns are also exhibited in order to accommodate the expectation of others who are also within the same situation. The roles that Cutlip et al.

(1994) said was taken on by PR practitioners were four all in all. First was the role of Expert Prescriber. When a practitioner takes this role, he or she is seen as an expert in the field and is considered best qualified to handle PR-related problems. He or she is also made to identify solutions for the said problems. Second was the role of Communication facilitator. Here, the PR practitioner is seen as a perceptive listener and as a broker of information who primarily acts as a go-between in relationships. Third was the role of Problem Solving facilitator.

It is this role that enables collaboration with other managers. Collaboration between managers in a given system helps the organization define and resolve communications problems. Lastly there was the role of the Communication Technician. In this role, the practitioner acts as a messenger of decisions made by the Dominant management coalition. (Kitchen, 1997) Hage (1980) stated that the dominant coalition was formed as a result of an increase in environmental issues. The term “inner circle” was used to refer to this group.

(Thompson, 1967) Mintzberg, on the other hand, categorized coalitions into different types including a classification of internal and external coalition. Mintzberg viewed Public Relations as having only a supportive role whose main source of power in the management operations was its ability to oversee, manipulate, and establish communication. Although Cutlip et al (1994) were the first to establish that PR practitioners took on roles; their identified roles were not accepted by all those in the field of Public Relations.

Dozier (1992) broadcast criticisms on the flimsy theoretical bases of the four roles established by Cutlip et al (1994). Using what he considered to be stronger conceptualizations, Dozier (1992) brought the four role categorization down to two factors. These two factors put the focus only on the Manger and the Technician. Dozier defined both roles clearly, “Managers make policy decisions and are held accountable for public relations program outcomes,” whereas “technicians carry out the low-level mechanics of generating communication products that implement policy decisions made by others”(p.

333). It should be noted, however, that Cutlip et al. (1994) suggested that the roles of expert prescriber, communication facilitator, problem solving facilitator fit together to form a single multi-faceted role, whereas the communication technician role stood alone. The organization’s operating environment is a big factor in the role choice available to and taken by practitioners. Although there have been many categorizations of roles and behavioral patterns taken on by PR practitioners, there are specific tasks that these individuals take in an organization.

These tasks also dictate the roles of the Public Relations practitioner. One of the main tasks fulfilled by Public Relations Personnel is that of Boundary Spanning. This involves the linking of all levels of individuals within the organization from those who interact with the environment, to those who gather, select and relay information from the environment and even to those who make the decisions in the dominant coalition (Aldrich and Herker, 1977) .

White and Dozier (1992) pointed out that the greatest contribution of a PR practitioner can make the biggest contribution to any given organization through the accomplishment of the task of boundary spanning. They are able to contribute to the system through an assessment of the organization, which allows for management of exchanges across organizational-environmental boundaries. These boundaries are present between the interfaces of both organization and its surroundings.

Boundary spanning practitioners serve as the antennae of the organization and as such are able to act as early warning systems detecting new issues that posit potential risks to the current and future situation of the organization. (Kitchen, 1997) 2. 4 Public Relation as part of the Organizational system Although Public Relation has specific roles and has a unique identity, it still functions as a part of a larger system. As such, it cannot be discussed and understood without looking first into the system to which it belongs.

Also, the dynamics between Public Relation and the said system must also be explored. Let us first take a look at the broader classification of systems. All mechanical, organic and social systems can be classified in terms of the nature and amount of interaction they have with their direct environment. The classification ranges from closed systems to open systems. Closed systems characteristically have boundaries that are impermeable and that do not allow the exchange of matter, information, or energy with the direct environment.

Open systems, on the other hand, are characterized as two-way approaches exhibiting symmetry. These systems have the capacity to initiate remedial action within the organization and with directly related programs. It is able to affect knowledge, inclinations and behavior of the public. The outcomes sought in an open system are the achievement of goals that reflect the mutual interest of organization and their publics while those sought in a closed system are technical and perceived to be optimal (Cutlip et al. 2000). According to Hazleton & Long (1988, p.

80), Public Relations is assessed by its own model to be an Open type of system. The particular type of Open system to which Public Relations belongs is said to be composed of three different subsystems as well as a multidimensional environment. At the macroscopic level, Public Relations simply serve as processes mediating the inputs from the environment to the system, which at this level is the environment. The environment then transforms the inputs mediated by PR into communication goals, objectives, campaigns and message outputs for the target audience.

PR also mediates the reaction generated in the target audience by the output of the system. The reactions serve as the stimuli that encourage the maintenance of the organization. It allows for the adaptation and refinement of the entire process and results in the alteration of the environment in which the organization exists. Hazleton & Long’s (1988) concept of the system of Public Relations opens the discussion for its role as a process that increases organizational efficacy.

The use of Public relations as a means of organizational communication had been practiced centuries before it was officially established as a unique form of communication during the late 19th century. It was only during the past two decades that the means by which Public Relation is able to increase the effectiveness of an organization had been concentrated on and made the main topic of Public Relations Research (Gordon & Kelly, 1999; J. E. Grunig, 1992; J. E. Grunig, L. A. Grunig, & Dozier, 1995; J. E. Grunig & Huang, 2000; Hon, 1997, 1998).

The establishment of Public Relations as a part of the mechanism that would create a more efficient organizational system began with misgivings about the limited role it was being made to fit. L. A. Grunig, J. E. Grunig, and Ehling (1992), for example, provided arguments emphasizing the need for communication objectives to be linked to broader organizational goals. Other researchers and Practitioners have also indicated their agreement to the importance of the task of linking communication in organizations to the bigger picture (Bissland, 1990; Hon, 1997a; Newlin, 1991; Webster, 1990).

The assumption that Public Relations goals should be connected to Organizational goals in order to measure the contribution of Public Relations and in order to follow the goal attainment perspective for Organization effectiveness was soon acknowledged by all those in the field of PR. After it was established that there needed to be a concrete link between Public Relations and organization effectiveness, the mechanisms that could be employed in order to do accomplish this were explored.

The literature suggested that Public Relations is able to increase the effectiveness of any given organization by “building quality long term relationship with strategic constituencies” (L. A. Grunig, J. E. Grunig, & Ehling, 1992, p. 86). It also increases organization effectiveness by decreasing the amount of tension present between the organization and its public (L. A. Grunig, J. E. Grunig, & Vercic, 1998). When one views the part played by Public Relations in the organizational system, one is able to more clearly understand how it affects the efficiency of the system as a whole.

The Public Relations process model defines public relations to be a strategy that is goal-oriented and that is employed by different organizations as a means of interacting with the target public in the direct environment. Goals are essential to the Public Relations process because these are able to direct behavior. (Hazleton, 1993) The goals of PR are a result of the goals of the organization to which it belongs. The PR goals are the providers of momentum for the successful achievement of the organizational goals.

It should be noted, however, that there is a need for PR officers to translate goals into effective communication strategies, which will define the appropriate action to be taken in order to achieve success. Goal achievement is facilitated in two ways. First, the constraints on the strategy selection have to be identified and this can only be done through an examination of the features of the strategies available. Second, in order to select the most appropriate strategy for a particular audience, the attributes of the public or the characteristics of the said audience must be understood clearly.

Empirical studies have also shown how PR goals are able to enhance system efficiency. Goals are essential when considering the relationship of an organization and its public. Although Public Relations is the main mediator between the two, it can utilize the organization’s goals to achiever a more favorable relationship. Page (2000a, 2000b; Page & Hazleton, 1999) pointed out that if the public perceived the goals of an organization as similar to their own, there would be a higher tendency that the said public will receive and accept message outputs of the organization.

Conversely, the public may resist message outputs if its set goals are dissimilar and not aligned with the goals of the organization. Another study investigating the relationship between PR and organization effectiveness was conducted by L. A. Grunig (199) who generated data from a 10 year IABC Excellence study, which included the participation of at least 300 organizations in the United States, Canada, and The United Kingdom. Grunig(1998) found that Public Relations affects the effectiveness of an organization by aiding in the establishment of a stable and quality relationship between the two over time.

It also contributes to Organizational effectiveness through effective and cost-efficient conflict and crisis management. The efficiency of a particular strategy in achieving set goals for an organization can be predicted by taking the view that strategies of public relation are symbolic messages that are directed by the public’s attributes. A taxonomy of seven public relations strategies was developed by Hazleton (1992). These strategies are used by organizations when communicating with the public.

The seven strategies were labeled as follows: informative, facilitative, persuasive, promise and reward, threat and punishment, bargaining and cooperative problem solving. Informative, facilitative, persuasive and cooperative problem solving strategies are three most commonly applied strategies in organizations (Page & Hazelton, 1999), as such these three are the focus of this section and will be further explained. First there is the Informative Strategy. This involves facts that may provide alternatives to the planned resolutions for a given problem.

These facts are presented in an unbiased manner. According to Zaltman and Duncan (1977), informative strategies are most appropriate when the target public does not have to exhibit a quick change in behavior. This type of strategy is also most effective when the enhancement of the recognition of the problem is needed. This is more crucial to the establishment of the basis for future learning. Second, there is the Facilitative strategy. This strategy frees up resources and makes them available to the public. Facilitative strategy empowers the public to act according to its predispositions.

Zaltman and Duncan (1977) added that facilitative strategies are most useful when the public is able to identify a problem, is able to agree that corrective action is required, is able to open itself to outside assistance and is able to willingly involve itself in self help. Strategies such as the facilitative strategy are most effective when utilized with a specific program that generates awareness among the public regarding the accessibility of assistance. Another useful strategy is the Persuasive Strategy.

This strategy is typified by pleas to the public’s value systems or emotions. According to Zaltman and Duncan (1977) this type of strategy is used when the problem is not easily identified or when the public does not acknowledge the problem’s importance. This occurs when involvement is low or when a particular solution is not perceived to be effective. When persuasive strategy is employed, organizations usually do not have direct control over the public and are thus only able to enforce change through the manipulation of resources that are valued by the public.

Persuasive strategies are also often utilized when the study’s constraints in time and power are high. (p. 151). A fourth common strategy adopted by organizations is Cooperative Problem Solving Strategy. The open exchange of information characterizes the messages that are generated by this strategy. This open exchange is used in order to establish common definitions of the problem, common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities about the issue. The more compatible the goals of differing parties are, the more likely it is that a cooperative problem solving strategy will be effective.

The taxonomy of Public Relations strategies provides a framework that is communication-centered for comprehending the behavior of organizations for Public Relations. The only assumption taken by this framework is that the organization’s strategy selection is guided by its perception of the audience. (Hazelton, 1993). 2. 5 Public Relations as a Management Function Marketing, a promotional mix used by organizations, is regarded by some as a fundamental management discipline (Sheth et al. 1988).

There is strong evidence in the literature to indicate that Public Relations has been “hijacked” by marketers for use in achieving marketing objectives. Public Relations is highly valuable for marketing purposes (Bernstein, 1988; Gage, 1981; Kotler, 1991; Krietzman, 1986) and its relevance to marketing communications has now been established (Goldman, 1988; Merims, 1972; Novelli, 1988; White, 1991). In this regard, through utilization in marketing strategies, public relations are able to play a role in management.

However it is important to note that, between marketing and Public Relations, there is also an academic divide with some individuals asserting that the two are unconnected ( Hart, 1991); others asserting concrete relevance and interaction between the two (Kotler and Mindak,1978; PRTV, 1991); and still others hedging on the issue by considering Public Relations as a complement to marketing (White, 1991). However, Public Relations is able to take a more concrete role in management. It not only takes part in one of the fundamental disciplines of management but also plays a part in the actual management process.

According to Kitchen (1997), there is an increasing need for Public Relations to be treated as a management discipline. This posits that Public Relations by itself can be considered as a unique identity within management much like marketing. Kitchen (1997) believes that if Public Relation is allowed to take on the identity of a management discipline, it can play an important strategic role in managing organizational relationships with the internal and external stakeholder groups whose support may be crucial in the achievement of the organizational goals.

However, it should be noted that Public Relations is defined by Cutlip et al. (2000, p. 6) as “the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or failure depends”. Also, Stanley (1982, p. 40) defines Public Relations as a “management function that determines the attitude and opinions of the organizations publics, identifies its policies with the interests of its publics and formulates and executes a program of action to earn the understanding and goodwill of its publics”.

These two definitions indicate that Public Relations have indeed been recognized by some academicians, even as early as 1982, to be a crucial management discipline. The problem may lie in the fact that the greater majority of individuals involved in Public Relations don’t view it as such thus explaining the need assessed by Kitchen (1997). Whether or not Public Relations are acknowledged as being a fundamental management discipline, it is still able to perform its function in management. White (1991) identified that the main aim of Public Relations is the influencing of behavior, specifically the behavior of groups in relation to one another.

As a part of the overall management task, Public Relations are concerned with the management of important relationships – with the government, media, community, employees and groups that have interest in the organization. In this way, it contributes to the decision making process by providing information to the management about the views of groups outside and inside the organization. (White, 1991) Grunig and Grunig (1992) argue that for excellent public relations to be achieved, the principal public relations practitioner in the organization should take part in management decision making.

This shows the dynamic relationship between the roles of both management and public relations. It also shows that relationships are, in fact the link between the two concepts. Relationships are the core, defining aspect of Public Relations Management. A relationship history affects how stakeholders interpret current events or interactions. (Ledingham, Bruning and Wilson , 1999). The term relational management was crystallized by Ledingham and Bruning (1998) is embedded in a movement that places the organizational – stakeholder relationship at the centre of the public relations practice (Broom, Casey, Ritchey, 1997).

The relationship history is built on an organization meeting or failing to meet stakeholder expectation (Finet, 1994). The Relationship Management perspective has been applied to a variety of stakeholders such as media and communities and has even been recommended for use in Crises Management (Ledingham et al. 1999). Crises, in management, are events that threaten to damage the reputation of an organization (Barton, 1993).

Lerbinger, (1997) agreed with Barton (1997) and supported the statement by defining crises as an event that brings, or has the potential for bringing an organization, into disrepute, which could imperil an organization’s future profitability, growth and possible survival (Lerbinger, 1997). A growing line of Crises literature has begun to develop around Benoit’s (1995) theory of image restoration, which involves the use of communication strategies to redress the consequences of crises. It is in the interest of Public Relations that Crises Management becomes an accepted part of the field.

(Benoit, 1995; Benoit & Brinson, 1994; Brinson & Benoit, 1996). Crises management is a special field and a specific area expertise found within public relations practice. This field is dedicated towards being able to anticipate future events and being able to meet future needs. The anticipation of future events is done in the hopes of being able to prevent such events that may disrupt important relationships. Public Relations practice has an important contribution to make to management functions through crises planning, crises management crises aftermath management.

(White, 1991) In a classic study by Ware and Linkugel (1973), it was suggested that four different Crises strategies exist. First there is Denial, in which the organization does not accept that a crisis situation exists. Companies might engage in a second strategy, Bolstering, by identifying with something which is viewed as favorable by the organization. Also, there is a Differentiation strategy, in which the organization separates a specific fact, sentiment, objects, or relationship from a larger context within which the audience currently views that attribute to be a part of.

The organization may also adopt a last strategy, Transcendence, which is the exact opposite of the Differentiation strategy. Denial and Bolstering do not alter the audience’s meaning for the cognitive elements involved but work on the generally accepted understanding of the public. Differentiation and Transcendence, on the other hand, try to establish new meaning and break down pre-existing understandings. (Ware and Linkugel, 1973, p. 278) Coombs (1998, 1999b) furthered the concepts of the four Crises Strategies by identifying seven crises communication strategies that organizations incorporate while managing the crises situation.

First there is the Attack which involves the organization’s confrontation or attack of the accuser. Then there is the state of Denial, which is similar to the first strategy in the research by Ware and Linkugel (1973). Companies might then resort to making Excuses in order to minimize the number of things that they will be made accountable for. The same companies could also opt for a fourth strategy, Justifying, which would downplay the damage of the crises. Another strategy that can be adopted is to Ingratiate, where action is aimed at re-

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