The purpose of this study is to examine the strategic organization-public dialogic communication practices of universities in the USA. The authors used the dialogic model of communication to explore the extent to which higher education sustainability leaders (SL) at the top 25 USA sustainable engage in relational communication strategies.
The qualitative study involved semi-structured interviews with campus sustainability and student group leaders from a mix of regional areas in the USA. The authors examined the transcripts for concepts argued to exist within the dialogic model of communication from the public relations field.
Results reveal that SL rely on dialogic communication strategies to recruit active participants, build stakeholder bridges across campus and empower individuals to have an impact within specific sustainability areas. Communicators most likely engaged in empathy, followed by propinquity, mutuality, commitment and risk of the dialogic model.
The authors extended the dialogic model of communication by identifying theoretical issues and scale items that can be used to measure each dimension of the model in future work.
The results reveal several ways that institutes of higher education could successfully use relational strategies to promote sustainability across multiple campus groups and departments by recruiting campus ambassadors, collectively defining sustainability and sharing public progress reports.
Few studies of sustainability in higher education holistically examine the relationship building practices of organizations that promote sustainability, despite the fact that communication is identified as a key factor in the successful implementation of sustainable actions.
This work was supported in part by Michigan State University’s Office of Sustainability.
Carpenter, S., Takahashi, B., Lertpratchya, A.P. and Cunningham, C. (2016), "Greening the campus: a theoretical extension of the dialogic communication approach", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 520-539. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2015-0036
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