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Tough calls to make: Contingency theory and the Centennial Olympic Games

C. Richard Yarbrough (Worldwide Senior Counsellor with Manning Selvage and Lee Public Relations)
Glen T. Cameron (Holds the Maxine Wilson Gregory Chair in Journalism Research and is Director of the Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Missouri, Columbia)
Lynne M. Sallot (Assistant Professor, Public Relations, Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Georgia, Athens)
Allison McWilliams (Master's Student at the University of Georgia.)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 1 March 1998



This paper offers a quick overview of Cameron's contingency theory of conflict management in public relations. It then applies the theory to three cases that occurred during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games that were taken from the policy position papers, notes, diaries and tape recordings of C. Richard Yarbrough, Managing Director‐Communications of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG). The areas analysed include: the moving of preliminary volleyball matches from one venue to another which was forced by conflict between gay activists and local politicians who passed an anti‐gay resolution — a sustained effort at accommodation that shifted to advocacy; conflict between the ACOG board of directors and the media resulting from the disclosure of ACOG executive salaries — a strong advocacy stance that led to compromise; and conflict threatened between ACOG and a minority minister who was disgruntled about an Olympic sponsor — a case of marginality too insignificant to bother with. The cases not only illustrate and support factors in the contingency theory, but highlight the impracticality and inflexibility of two‐way symmetrical or mixed‐motive public relations as models of choice.



Yarbrough, C.R., Cameron, G.T., Sallot, L.M. and McWilliams, A. (1998), "Tough calls to make: Contingency theory and the Centennial Olympic Games", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 39-56.




Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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