Big Ideas in Public Relations Research and Practice: Volume 4

Cover of Big Ideas in Public Relations Research and Practice

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xix
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Abstract

This chapter examines the specific role of strategic communication as a facilitator for business internationalization. It provides a new and comprehensive rationale for explaining the contribution of strategic communication to the global success of companies and shows communication leaders how they could demonstrate the value of communication for internationalization.

The chapter identifies an important contribution of strategic communication in today’s globalized world, which demands further attention in academia and in practice by addressing three research questions: (1) How can strategic communication be conceptualized as part of the internationalization of firms? (2) Which specific objectives, responsibilities and practices can be assigned to strategic communication within the process of internationalization? (3) Does the theoretical framework capture the significant components of strategic communication within internationalization, appropriately from the point of view of senior experts in the field?

The chosen approach is conceptual and empirical. A cross-disciplinary literature analysis has been performed to construct a framework that links possible forms and manifestations of strategic communication to different situations of international business development. Qualitative interviews with senior communication executives were conducted to verify the plausibility of the theoretical framework from a professional point of view. The study identifies four core fields of strategic communication within the internationalization processes: initiation, transformation, expansion and integration. Communication should be implemented differently within the typical periods of internationalization, and communication management should focus on different aspects during these processes. Empirical findings indicate that the core fields depicted in the framework are either already applied in practice or perceived as plausible and doable.

From a theoretical standpoint, this study emphasizes the value of a cross-disciplinary perspective on corporate communications, which helps to bridge gaps between management research and communication studies. The study expands the body of knowledge in strategic communication by integrating new objectives and activities.

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This chapter discusses the ways in which digitalization and datafication challenge public relations (PR), arguing that technological developments create a need to re-conceptualize PR so as to account for data as affordance and actor. In so doing the chapter is conceptual; it discusses existing communicative theories in relation to current changes in the media landscape and its technological underpinnings. Focusing on the areas of crisis communication and issues management, we argue that datafication provides new ways of dealing with issues and, in turn, presents new issues for PR professionals. Thus, the chapter presents a novel conceptualization of PR in which technological affordances and agencies go hand in hand with human efforts in the configuration of communicative assemblages. More specifically, we argue that viewing data solely as an affordance merely provides new tools for solving existing issues. When the independent agency of data is recognized and employed, more effective means of solving such issues appear, but data itself also becomes an issue. The dilemma is best illustrated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the broader discussions about electoral manipulation and other covert uses of data it incurred. In this regard, balancing the dual demands of efficacy and ethics is as pressing a concern for PR as ever. The conceptualization of PR in terms of communicative assemblages, we suggest, may not only explain processes of issues formation better, but also provide a starting point for handling such processes ethically and effectively.

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This chapter begins with an exploratory approach to understanding how online branded video results in positive impressions among viewers. Scholars have examined the characteristics of videos that contribute to their appeal (e.g. Ashley & Tuten, 2015; Berger & Milkman, 2012; Botha & Reyneke, 2013; Dafonte-Gomez, 2014; Southgate, Westoby, & Page, 2010). Separate strands of literature have identified social practices and emotions likely to influence the perceptions of branded content. This chapter bridges the gap between those two strands by asking which social practices produce the emotions that lead to greater enjoyment of a video. Using a series of multiple regressions, we constructed a path analysis model linking key social practices and emotions that lead to positive evaluations of branded videos. The model provides strategic direction for the makers of online branded video.

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This chapter explores how various organizations are engaging millennials in the energy transition. In the climate accord from Paris, almost all countries in the world agreed upon reducing greenhouse gasses, so climate change will be limited. In order to do so, we do need to cut down on our use of fossil fuels and we do need to alter our behaviour. In this chapter, we study how organizations are engaging with young people, often referred to as millennials on this subject. Millennials are seen as digital natives, and they grew up with digital communication. Do organizations engage millennials in this energy transition and engage them in a way that millennials do communicate? Our study showed that, with a few exceptions, organizations do not use interactive media and elements that millennials use, and in this, do not engage millennials to join in the energy transition. We give some suggestions on how organizations can engage millennials to a larger extent.

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Using the theoretical frameworks of public diplomacy and public relations, we mapped how the Chinese government has used panda imagery to build its national brand on Twitter and how this ‘panda diplomacy’ has facilitated its para-diplomatic actions. Our findings uncover new attempts by the Chinese government to engage in digital diplomacy. Mobilizing panda imagery on Twitter enhanced friendly relations with foreign political leaders and people and established a friendly and peaceful image of China on Twitter.

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This chapter aims to redefine corporate identity as a public relations (PR) tool, part of a new communication syntax of hypermodernity. In line with relevant theories of narrative engagement coming from the post-structuralist semiotics and the ‘aesthetics of interaction’, corporate identity is discussed as a conversational instrument, retrieved and reconstructed by ‘echo chambers’ and ‘curiosity gaps’. The territory of visual identity becomes part of a collective transaction, a sort of ‘open work’/‘opera aperta’, where consumers are asked to build their own ‘intentio lectoris’. In McLuhan’s terms, this can be translated as a ‘cooling down’ of the system of corporate identity. ‘Conversational branding’, rooted in the dialogic model of PR, provides an interactive usage of visual identity, and a new consumer-centric perspective in strategic communication.

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While the relevance and rationale of strategic communication in organized religion are prevalent in academic and professional literature, there exists a dearth of both theoretical concepts and empirical knowledge, especially from a European perspective. Therefore, this chapter examines how strategic communication can be modelled in organized religion with its specific characteristics and logics by building a framework for strategic communication in this field of research. The framework questions perspectives of strategic communication and communication management that only concentrate on entities like famous persons, groups, movements or organizations and less on belief systems, organized and less organized entities interacting with each other. Religious organizations follow other rationalities like companies or non-profit organizations. Therefore, theories of corporate communication or public relations do not fit within the realm of organized religion, whose mission goes far beyond the organization. Taking into account religious institutions in strategic communication, this chapter delivers new theoretical insights by demonstrating how strategic communication can contribute to the specific purposes of organized religion. Furthermore, the study indicates the specific challenges communication professionals working in the area of religion are confronted with. Finally, it offers practical solutions for the specific field of organized religion by evolving specific target horizons of organized religion. Activating and developing the communication function of more or less independent bodies are main tasks for communication professionals working in organized religion and other meta-organizations.

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There is a dearth of research about how startup companies use public relations in their tenuous and critical first few years of existence. While there does exist a small body of literature focused on how startups should use marketing, the public relations literature is limited (exceptions: ter Halle, Beekhoff, and Ruel, 2016; Schlierer, Hans-Jörg, et al., 2012).

The leaders of startups usually have very limited resources, and that includes very few personnel to whom they can delegate responsibilities. Unlike the C-suite leaders in a more established business, the startup leaders are almost solely responsible for crafting the messaging and communication strategy of the startup. Being tasked with not only the management and growth of the business as well as all things marketing, public relations and brand strategy, the leaders of startups, having limited time and resources, often focus on what they view as the most pressing tasks (usually related to product development or financing) (Halle, Beekhoff, and Ruel, 2016).

Given the lack of previous research on the subject and the unique insight that startup leaders can provide, the research focused on:

  • RQ1. How do startup leaders conceptualize Public Relations?

  • RQ2. What value do startup leaders place on Public Relations?

RQ1. How do startup leaders conceptualize Public Relations?

RQ2. What value do startup leaders place on Public Relations?

In the fall of 2017, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 leaders of startups in St Louis, Missouri. The answers were thematically analysed (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The responses were analysed using the constant-comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) allowing researchers to identify recurring patterns in the interviews. After the initial coding was complete, axial coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was conducted, making connections between the initial themes. The emergent themes from each question are discussed in the results section and the implications for the fields of PR and entrepreneurship will be covered in the discussion section. Some of the key findings are that many startup leaders do not understand what PR is, they don’t understand its benefits and they cannot differentiate PR from marketing.

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How public relations practitioners in the United Kingdom create and maintain social capital in support of organizational objectives is considered in a research project addressing a research gap identified in its literature review. The project informs the work of a new Working Party on Social Capital established by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. The project’s empirical phase is informed by a conceptual model developed by the authors and presented in the chapter. It draws on research from behavioural economics and evolutionary biology building on theories associated with community organizing and leadership studies. The conceptual framework also features a phronetic planning tool to help practitioners balance organizational requirements against wider social responsibilities. This aspect of the framework serves as an antidote to social capital being viewed as a resource which can be appropriated for narrow organizational ends. The chapter argues that such an instrumental approach to building social capital is both counterproductive and unethical.

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The chapter develops a typology of eight different expected employee communication roles based on literature in public relations (PR), corporate communication and related fields. As PR professionals are increasingly taking on a coaching and training role, and communication technology has made employees more visible and approachable, employees more and more take on active roles in the communication with external publics. While PR professionals’ roles are conceptualized fairly well, no framework exists that describes the many communication roles that employees play in contemporary organizations. In the chapter, it is found that employees externally (1) embody, (2) promote, and (3) defend the organization. In addition, employees use communication to (4) scout for information and insights about environmental changes, and (5) build and maintain relationships with stakeholders. Internally, employees use communication to (6) make sense of information, (7) initiate and stimulate innovation, and (8) criticize organizational behaviour and decisions. The typology highlights that employees increasingly fulfil the tactic communication roles as producers and executers of corporate communication as social media have made them more visible and approachable. The communication roles require considerable tactical skills and resources on the part of employees, which they may not always possess sufficiently. PR professionals can play a coaching role in terms of helping employees frame content and communicate in a manner appropriate for the organization, the context and the media. The chapter can help PR professionals and scholars understand the changed role of PR professionals, as well as the changed relationships between organizations and their environment, in the context of dissolving organizational boundaries.

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This chapter identifies, defines and explores four news media roles of conduit, facilitator, mediator and political actor through which the media participate with corporate, social and political actors in agenda-building processes. The framework of the media’s four agenda-building roles sheds light on how the news media perform their various roles as well as how other actors, such as organizations and media audiences, are able to mobilize the media performing these roles. This framework helps explain how and why media roles affect the way actors are able to influence the media agenda with the intention of shaping the public agenda.

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To claim for communication professionals the ethical responsibility of contributing to the public debate within the realm of their function in scientific and technological organizations, giving people the power to analyze the information available to them and based on that make better-informed decisions on issues that affect their lives, is the sole purpose of this exercise. Departing from a focus on the messages – information, misinformation and disinformation – we defend to refocus on relations to enable people to make the distinction between them, and then fulfilling communication’s purpose of reflexion.

Through a review of literature, we set out to delimitate and contextualize the role of communication professionals in scientific and technological organizations in today’s social and political environments. We conclude that communication professionals in scientific and technological organizations do need to embrace the responsibility to contribute to the empowerment of citizens regarding their access to information and ability to navigate through the overwhelming amount of data they have access to daily.

As we witness the rise and expansion of populist movements throughout the globe, it is not of lesser importance to reflect on the role of scientific and technological organizations in the public debate. As it is here that public opinion forms, it is important that organizations involved in the scientific and technology development call on themselves and embrace it as part of their identity, the responsibility to inform the decision-making process of citizens with the purpose of bettering it.

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Index

Pages 187-193
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Cover of Big Ideas in Public Relations Research and Practice
DOI
10.1108/S2398-391420194
Publication date
2019-10-03
Book series
Advances in Public Relations and Communication Management
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-83867-508-0
Book series ISSN
2398-3914