Practitioners actively engage in all levels of organisational and community life as
they develop ways to work with the community and other publics and audiences
and adapt their practice to changing societal needs and demands.
Engage in organisational decision making, taking an active role in management,
and engaging in grassroots campaigns, all of which directly support organisations
to achieve their business goals.
PR evolving and changing with ‘porous boundaries to a range of other disciplines;
marketing, management, organisation studies, communications, journalism, media
studies, as practitioners liaise and collaborate with other disciplines and
simultaneously define their practice and position in organisations.
Public – any group of people who share common interests or values in a particular
situation (especially ones they might be willing to act upon).
Stakeholder – when a public has a relationship with your organisation (has stake
in organisation or in an issue potentially involving it).
PR activities also involve communication with audiences or those who might
receive or listen to our messages but may not be stakeholders or specific publics.
According to Newsom, Turk and Kruckeberg the US PR profession moved
through five main stages:
o Press agentry and publicity – tactics, or PR devices such as a press
agentry, were publicity dominated.
o Communicating and initiating – at a time of press agents, promoters, and
propagandists promoting organisations’ achievements.
o Reacting and responding – at a time where writers were hired to deal with
special interests as the profession began to look at its performance and
how it related to society.
o Planning and prevention – which was viewed as the maturing of the
profession as it became part of a management role.
o Status of professionalism development – which widened the profession
and in which international perspectives became important.
Defining and understanding PR
US perspective (Heath and Coombs):
The management function that entails planning, research, publicity, promotion,
and collaborative decision making to help any organisation’s ability to listen to,
appreciate and respond appropriately to those persons and groups who mutually
beneficial relationships the organisation needs to foster as it strives to achieve its
mission and vision.
UK perspective (Chartered Institute of PR):
Discipline, which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding
and support and influencing public opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and
sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding
between an organisation and its publics.
1 A scarce resource that is used within a set of rigid requirements that reflect the
way PR is understood in Malaysia and in some Asian cultures, where
governments’ power and control (especially of media), considers what is
permissible and acceptable communication to the public.
Collaborates with diverse publics through dialogue and multiway discussion,
networking, and relationship monitoring and management.
Researches and evaluates its practice to understand how to work well with
majority and minority groups in organisations and society, and to explore mutual
Is creative and innovative, yet flexible in its practice, as it constantly adapts to
changing needs and circumstances.
o Complexity of PR practice opens up the potential for practitioners to be
creative as they adapt their practice and change their program plans in
response to changing societal needs.
o Profession is open and responsive to different points of view, embraces
transparency and accountability, and respects cultural, political, economic,
and social differences.
o Counsel, or giving advice and working through the best and most
appropriate alternatives in PR planning and programming, is important as
practitioners become the facilitators of communication that may not
always be popular for all parties involved in negotiation.
Defining PR values
Emphasis on transparent, two-way communication where listening and taking
ideas on board is as important as informing, giving your ideas, and promoting
Representing the interests and needs of your organisation and your endeavour to
work for what is best for society as there is an ethical obligation to do so.
Ethical and responsible practice that becomes part of community engagement or
CSR where the moral fibre of organisations goes beyond serving the community
to giving back to the community.
Plans and activities of organisations and their values and goals that are in line with
the values and goals of publics and audiences, which is critical to relational
development between organisations and their publics – PR activity and planning
will be successful if it is also formally and informally researched so that there is
complete understanding of the context in which PR is managed.
PR taking an active role in organisations to give counsel to and develop strong
internal relationships with decision makers and employees, and have input to
policy development and the way organisations are managed.
Why theory is important
Draws from what has been tested and researched and found to be beneficial; it can
also point to what has to be avoided.
Understanding theory and applying it practice is critical to a profession that is the
forefront of communication exchange and management.
Theory development is robust, and publications that are specific to theory
development can be followed up as students extend their scholarly enquiry.
2 Core theoretical perspectives
o Points to the application of theory to PR practice as inherently tied to
o Critical theorists review what is happening in organisations as part of
sense making, understanding organisational dynamics, and working out
wars to manage effectively.
A rhetorical perspective:
o Discussion and discourse between parties, which includes verbal and non-
verbal communication and where the objective, or end goal is part of the
o Assumes that factual evidence is reasoned argument, where ethical
judgement is crucial to effective communication and establishing solid
o Set of parts (or subsystems) which impact on each other and which
together interact with the organisation’s environment.
o Organisations are understood as being part of a social system, which
involves the management of these systems, adapts to changes in the
systems and subsystems, and produces products or services of the
o Systems and boundary spanning also depend on practitioners’ roles that
may/may not be in positions of power or authority to carry out the
necessary boundary spanning to influence internal and external publics.
o PR practitioners as boundary spanners are the go-betweens, explaining the
organisation to its stakeholders and interpreting the environment to the
Relationship management and relational theory:
o Focus on the way that relationships develop, how they are challenged, and
how they sometimes collapse.
o Effective relationships – satisfaction, commitment, control mutuality, or
control and power.
o Relationships are complex and constantly changing so we need to
understand the context of relationships and manage them according to
changing relational dynamics.
o Amidst uncertainty and tension, PR relationships and relational exchanges
react and respond to relational dynamics from their point of view.
o Relational sense making – relational partners together work out ways to
continue relationships where the relational expectations are reviewed and
constantly reframed so that they can be effective and meaningful.
o Each party has to interpret the message and shape a response before
sending it out or back.
o The way that parties/publics interpret PR messages also needs to be
carefully monitored according to the circumstances and context in which
they are sent.
Agenda setting theory:
o Maintains that the media determine what people think or have an interest
3 o Agenda setting – refers to the variable degrees of attention the mass media
give to certain ideas, issues or themes, lending them more or less
o E.g. constant reports about global warming set the agenda for further
reporting to the public as global warming is on the public agenda.
Behavioural change model:
o Proposes that PR activity aims to increase awareness, call the public to
action so that they do not remain latent and inactive to the messages they
hear, and trigger participation and behavioural change.
o E.g. unless special conferences, campaigns and community programs
targeted towards specific publics are put together, messages about eating
healthy foods would not get a response.
PR Theory (Grunig and Hunt)
Press agentry model. Propagandistic; seeks media attention;
focus on promotion; one-way
Public information model. Disseminates accurate information but
does not volunteer negative information
or seek input; one-way communication.
Two-way asymmetrical model. Identifies those messages most likely to
gain support from targeted publics
without having to change the behaviour
of the organisation; manipulative;
change benefits the organisation but not
necessarily the publics.
Two-way symmetrical model. Bargaining, negotiating and conflict
resolution strategies to effect change in
ideas, attitudes and behaviours of both
the organisation and its publics for
PR practitioners responsible for:
o A campaign to increase blood donations to a blood bank.
o Managing a speedway racing event with a focus on families and family
o Developing a position paper on climate change for a government
Consultants – help organisations:
o Understand the culture of the organisation that hires them.
o Challenge perceptions of the client about themselves and their target
o Be transparent and open in their dealings with clients so that understanding
of each other’s perspective is central to the development and growth of the
o Sound ethical practice guided by codes of ethics that are relevant and
4 o Open, transparent, two-way or multiway internal and external
o Acknowledgement of the need for good relationships with key publics and
audiences, and sustaining and building these relationships.
o Recognition and support of management in PR campaigns and programs.
o Good understanding of research.
o The skill to manage new and traditional media.
o Local and global understanding of PR, with sensitivity to and awareness of
PR Sectors and Positions
Academics & other.
What PR people do
Internal communications management. - Internal publications, managing
bulletin boards, managing
organisation’s blogs, collaborative
website management, writing
- Employee relations, working with
HR and management to keep
employees informed, included and
motivated in all aspects of an
organisation’s PR programs, policy
development and decision making.
- Developing media relations,
placement of appropriate
communication to media.
External networking and multifaceted - Managing online communication
communication, relationship building. through interactive websites,
blogging and new media initiatives.
- Meeting and collaborating with
community leaders and stakeholders
and organising events to celebrate
organisations’ success and role in
- Promoting CSR in partnerships with
- Publicity and promotion for
Issues and crisis management, - Monitoring issues or the ongoing
reputation and brand management. matters of concern to the
organisation and/or society,
providing media training for crisis
management, and taking a leading
role at the time of the crisis to
inform, manage the crisis team and
support management and managing
5 an organisation’s reputation.
Research. - Conducting interviews, focus
groups and internal audits,
requesting market research for
strategic thinking and planning,
evaluating and reviewing all
programs and campaigns.
Public affairs. - Lobbying, preparing position
papers, putting forward proposals
for new government campaigns and
promoting government initiatives.
- Developing white papers and
opening up communication for
Investor relations and financial PR. - Promoting financial services in a
way that can be understood by those
who access the service of credit
unions, banks, and other providers
and promoting these services.
- Shareholders are one stakeholder
group who expect service and
Developing a new PR position for an - Recognising the need for PR in an
organisation. organisation and establishing PR
functions and components of PR.
6 WEEK 2
What is shaping 21 century PR
The realisation that the most important stakeholder is society itself, and that
organisations do not exist as individual entities surviving in a vacuum with
little need to respond to society and the community.
o PR professionals have an ethical obligation to act responsibly because
of their influence on society and in doing so need to be guided by their
professional values and beliefs if their input to corporations’ social
aspirations is going to be relevant and meaningful.
o Need for PR leadership to make communication transparent, so that
practitioners are able to help develop productive organisational culture
and positively influence organisational outcomes.
Organisations’ expectations for timely, effective and creative PR programs
have an impact on practitioners who are working hard to meet the
requirements of project managing and scheduling multiple PR activities while
also acting ethically and responsibly.
What is influencing PR practice
Publics want changes made to health and transport policies and services but
don’t want governments to be too powerful or to regulate excessively.
Transparency and disclosure are now the norm.
Ethical practice is paramount to PR professionalism and best practice.
International context and increased tension between local-global
o As publics are informed worldwide through media, activity at the
local level is growing as citizens become passionate about local
issues what is important to them.
Community engagement means that organisations take a proactive
interest by identifying communal interests, whose aim is to promote
these interests for the benefit of the community.
Key points from the Commission on PR Education
Recommends there be:
o More emphasis on ethics and transparency, new technology,
integration of messages and tools, interdisciplinary problem solving,
diversity, global perspectives and research and results measurement.
Practitioners need to understand the impact of varying cultural values and
beliefs on their practice.
Internal needs of organisations and their internal audiences affect PR
education and practice.
Educators and practitioners need to encourage diversity in the workforce and
in training and recruiting, thereby enabling a diverse ‘mix of talent’ that has
the skills to engage with diverse internal and external publics.
Might new media be obsolete tomorrow?
Organisations are transparent whether they choose to be or not as a result of
information being stored, transmitted and accessed electronically.
7 Numerous short-term relationships develop as there are so many more
exchanges with different publics than were traditional forms of
communication (face-to-face meetings or letter writing).
Might make relationships transitory and less able to be managed.
Public scrutiny takes place online and the complexity and uncertainty of
online communication exchanges as messages are accessible to known and
unknown constituents, clients and customers.
New ways to communicate:
o Intranets – internal communication, which targets internal publics.
o Extranets – target external audiences and require skilled management
to not overload receivers.
o Podcasts – audio programs available online 24 hours a day.
o YouTube and MySpace – increase online networking and exchange.
Global versus local
Communication at the local or global level might be:
o Mediated communication, or communication that goes through a
channel such as television or print media.
o Unmediated communication, or direct communication to the public
such as communication on a website where publics have the
opportunity to engage with organisations and key decision makers.
Think global, act local requires:
o Careful review of all PR and marketing material that has been
o Understanding of the operational procedures and protocol of the
countries where brands are launched and PR programs are developed.
o Understanding of the country, region and ethnic particularities.
o Respect for and observation of customs and cultural manners, as they
are essential to good business.
o Awareness that technology might be convenient but time zones may be
The PR-marketing mix and broader perspectives
Marketing and PR complement each other but are different.
Marketing – management process whose goal is to attract and satisfy
customers on a long-term basis in order to achieve an organisation’s economic
o Marketers emphasise measured outputs that make their role in an
o PR measurement and evaluation of outputs is also becoming
PR-marketing mix described as:
o Marketing communications.
o Marketing PR.
o Integrated communication management.
o Inkind promotion, services, product or other consideration in exchange
for publicity exposures offered or using spokespeople to promote a
product become part of the mix.
8 A PR activity to promote, target media, and develop online resources about a
product will not actually sell the product but it assists in the marketing of it.
PR now very important to strategic marketing – marketing PR is the largest
and fastest growing segment of a fast growing industry.
Messages about products and services – traditionally marketing messages –
are only one part of the full range of communication tasks to be undertaken.
o As PR messages often try to reach several key publics, beyond
customers or potential customers, their focus might be on internal
communication, or on a group of activists who oppose the profit-only
focus of the organisation.
PR practitioner needs to have a sound knowledge of marketing practice and
principles – makes PR relevant and significant, good support provided to the
PR plays a subtle role in developing relationships with customers and clients,
o Customers are irritated by mass advertising as well as the minor
differences between brands that no longer attract them.
o There is considerable dissatisfaction with the value of products and the
number of recalls and the concerns about being taken for a ride as
product claims cannot be substantiated.
o Customers also question the ethics and the social contribution of
The context of an organisation’s motivation to give back and engage with the
community involves 3 dimensions of social capital:
o Structural – the way that relationships are set up and networks and
connections developed with the community.
o Relational – where relationships are developed and reciprocal
components of relationships become important.
o Communication – makes these relationships function, as organisations
communicate to the community recipients and vice versa.
Women taking the lead
Find the communication environment more welcoming than, for example,
newspaper or other media work.
Make more money in PR than comparable female-dominated fields such as
Can begin a PR consultancy without a great deal of capital.
Tend to be more proficient listeners and communicators than men.
More sensitive in managing dialogue and consultation.
9 WEEK 3&4
Why understanding theory is important
Ability to contextualise and sometimes predict outcomes, and to decide when
and why certain strategies and tactics need to be developed and implemented.
Challenge you to think more deeply about what and where your assumptions
about PR come from.
Where does PR theory come from
Early approaches to PR developed with influences from psychology,
sociology, social science, management and communication disciplines.
Persuasion/learning effects, social learning, low involvement, cognitive
consistency and value change underpin the design of PR campaigns. Their
influence can be seen in a number of ways:
o Most communication campaigns that follow the cognitive-attitudinal-
behavioural effects (awareness, attitude and behaviour change) are
grounded form social psychology’s learning traditions.
o Psychology is helpful in understanding how individuals and audiences
think, feel and behave so that communication messages and strategies
can be made more effective.
o Sociology is useful in understanding how people behave within their
groups, or between other groups, particularly if the PR campaigns will
affect several stakeholders who may not necessarily agree on issues.
o Understanding management theories helps PR managers to work with
their CEOs, other managers, colleagues and other employees.
Early approaches referred to as modern, structural/systems-functionalist and
managerial – view that PR is a function of management.
o Focus on roles, structures, effectiveness and efficiency of PR.
Rhetorical approaches – focus on how PR practitioners create, interpret and
Critical approaches – focus on the power and influence inherent in
relationships established and managed by practitioners.
Postmodernism approaches – offers an alternative lens by which to study PR.
o Questions the links between knowledge and power, dissensus
(orientation that considers struggles, conflicts and tensions) and
consensus, power and resistance, power and ideology, and the
representation of minorities and marginalised groups.
Multiple perspectives approach is necessary to respond to the changing
demands of the PR environment.
Perspective Focus of analysis
Functionalist/systems. Practitioner roles, reporting relationships,
organisational structures and systems,
responsibilities, activities, organisational
profiles, practitioners focus on
effectiveness and efficiency, managerial
bias, alignment of an organisation’s needs
with the needs of publics.
Interpretive/rhetorical. Practitioners as producers of symbols,
discourse, meaning, as corporate
10 advocates, as shapers and creators of
organisational culture, and as receivers
and interpreters of organisational
Critical/dialectical. Practitioners views of their power,
control, and influence in the organisation,
involvement in process and dialogue,
practitioners’ ability to effect
A key theoretical trend from functional to co-creational
The main development in PR theory is the move from a functional perspective
to a co-creational one.
o Functional perspective – sees publics and communication as
tools/means to achieve organisational ends.
o Co-creational perspective – acknowledges that PR practitioners
working, for example, on an organisation’s new environmental
initiatives need to understand that the perspectives and goals of their
employees, clients and community residents so they can work together
and collaborate on effectively implementing the policy.
What it is:
o The dominant framework used in PR scholarship and practice.
o Helpful to think of an organisation as a system, made up of a number
of different parts (subsystems) such as marketing, HR, etc.
o System – a set of things that affect one another within an environment
and form a larger pattern that is different from any of the parts.
Being part of a whole where its parts may be interdependent.
A hierarchy, which undergoes self-regulation and control.
Its interaction with its environment where it strives for balance
so that it can maintain itself.
Its adaptability to change so that it can achieve its end goal
through different means.
o Applied to organisations, systems theory focuses on the elements
within the group and how they relate to each other through the network
of subsystems within it.
o A change in environmental conditions (e.g. an emerging issue) will
lead to some response by the organisation and its various subsystems
as it adapts to the new environmental conditions.
o How much the organisation adapts is determined by whether the
system is open or closed.
Open – regularly interact with their environment (such as
audiences or publics). Ask for feedback on their product and
Closed – isolated and do not interact with their environment.
o Because we use systems to understand how processes work,
effectiveness and productivity become an essential purpose.
11 o Elements of the organisation are perceived as undertaking a function
for the survival of that system (functionalist approach).
o The study of regulation and control in systems.
o Primarily deals with how systems adjust to feedback received to
determine the changes and adjustments needed for the system to
stabilise and/or be effective.
o Practitioners apply cybernetics when they provide and respond to
feedback between their organisations and their publics and audiences.
o Senior management doesn’t know whether their employees are well
informed about and satisfied with the new structure or not unless they
give them the opportunity to comment on the change.
If feedback is not possible, then when the system parts
(employees) cannot handle the change, the system might
experience a stoppage (strike) or might implode (employees
o A PR practitioner should become a sensor of social change and a
corporate monitor, along with being the corporate conscience and
o Suggests that organisations will be better prepared to withstand the
effects of change if they comprise members (employees) with different
points of view.
o Organisation’s adaptability to change (especially within a complex and
turbulent environment) is its key to survival.
o Open systems are characterised by this adaptability to change, and
most contemporary organisations would reflect this type of system.
o The more representative organisations are of the diverse members of
their communities, the more likely they are to adapt and survive the
These diverse members of communities will enable the
organisation to access information and insights that may
provide competitive advantage.
o Organisational boundary – a region in which elements of organisations
and their environments come together and in which activities are
performed of such a nature as to relate the organisation more
effectively to the outside world.
o Boundary spanning – what organisational members do when they
operate in the internal and external environments or across
o Typology for the boundary spanner:
Scanning and monitoring.
Linking and coordinating.
Responsive to change.
Sensitive to the preferences of the external organisation with
which they are dealing.
o E.g. a practitioner who is working on a disability project would act as a
boundary spanner by:
Gathering and analysing information on disability statistics in
Representing the organisation in meetings with funding bodies,
government, and corporate partners and to the media.
Maintaining those linkages for the benefit of the organisation.
Why systems theory is important:
o Useful in providing PR with a context.
o PR practice is part of a much larger operation (the business of the
organisation), and understanding that it works with other elements
inside and outside the organisation will allow practitioners to work to
Evolved from simplistic transmission and effects (functionalist) traditions to
the textual and reception traditions.
o Textual and reception studies – research that examines how audiences
read and receive media messages or events within social, political, and
Information transmission models:
o Looks at information as a mechanical process that excludes meaning
o Source, encoder, interpreter, decoder, message, and fields of
o If sender and receiver’s fields of experience overlap, they are more
likely to understand each other and thus, effective communication is
more likely to take place.
o Previously labelled as an unethical practice within PR but is now
included in the excellence theory as an element of dialogue.
Attitude vis-à-vis behaviour change:
o Attitude described as having 3 major components – cognitive
(thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing).
o To achieve attitude change you must understand the facts of the case in
a rational manner, and feel and believe the merits of the case before
you will change your behaviour.
o Change in attitude must occur before change in behaviour.
o Believability of the communication source is an essential component
of many PR and media messages, especially within celebrity-infused
Two-step and multistep flow:
o Suggests that every group has an opinion leader who receives
information from the media and passes it on to their peers.
13 o Individuals may also listen to information from other sources or
directly access the information themselves.
o Persuasion theory suggests that using fear appeals in media messages
is effective in making people c