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Secrets of Public Affairs

How Strategic Communication Shapes Value and Innovation in Society

ISBN: 978-1-78714-717-1, eISBN: 978-1-78714-716-4

Publication date: 11 October 2017


This conceptual chapter explores communicating with transparency and secrecy in public affairs activities in Norway. The tension between transparency and secrecy is particularly interesting with regard to the question of impact of strategic communication on political policymaking processes. As a theoretical framework, we use a double lens to hold the concepts of both transparency and secrets in focus. First, we draw on Fung’s (2013) principles of democratic transparency: availability, proportionality, accessibility and actionability. Second, we use Horn’s (2011) three logics of political secrecy: arcanum, mysterium and secretum. By integrating Fung’s principles of openness and Horn’s logics of secrecy, we construct a model for analysis of a few public affairs activities and practices. Empirical examples of PR agencies’ communicative activities support our model, in addition to interviews with three executives in agencies. The empirical examples illustrate that communication activities rely on top-down controlled information diffusion in PR agencies’ communication activities, such as podcasts and web pages. They use information to develop group identities and to develop stronger relationships to their clients and customers. The social dimension of information in our examples suggests that the agencies are discrete, operate in the background and are careful about revealing their competence and privileged insights.



Solvoll, M.K. and Bang, T. (2017), "Secrets of Public Affairs", How Strategic Communication Shapes Value and Innovation in Society (Advances in Public Relations and Communication Management, Vol. 2), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 105-122.



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