Importance of Public Relations Theory

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					The field of Public Relations (PR) is a relatively young profession, spanning approximately 100 years. It's uses and purpose is described as an important management function and an integral factor in the interaction between an organization and its publics. Public relations has grown to become not just a 'practical' field of study but has now developed its own theoretical framework from which to base its practices and decisions that are made by Public Relations practitioners. The aim of this 'marriage' of Public Relations Theory and practice is to equip the PR practitioner with an academic foundation that will make them more effective in developing and managing the relationships that are formed between the organization and its publics and to ensure that the Public Relations profession is positioned as a "strategic management discipline" (Moncour, 2006) simultaneously ensuring the achieving of organizational goals and maintaining respect for the interests of the respective publics. There has been an ongoing debate over whether Public Relations Theory is applicable to real-life situations and is an effective tool in providing the PR practitioner with reliable and sound guidelines for dealing with certain situations. Some detractors would argue that application of scientific methods and "borrowing" and modifying of existing theories from others theories will inevitably lead to an ineffective Public Relations strategy, "increase the gulf between PR theory and practice, diminish the richness of experiences and undermine the identity of PR professionals." (Steiner, 1999) The efforts by various scholars in academia to bring the Public Relations to a professional standard is one which is important to the Public Relations Practitioner and to those interested in the field.

It will give them insight into the issues surrounding the 'Profession' and how they can develop a logical and reasonable theoretical framework from which to practice Public Relations. The PR practitioner must also be able to examine case studies of Public Relations Theory in action, and from this one can make an informed decision on the importance of Public Relations Theory to the practice of Public Relations. To understand the field of Public Relations one must first have an operational definition for the term Public Relations. Public relations is described as a management function which involves assessing, analyzing and evaluating attitudes of the public, identifying policies and procedures and using the requisite skills and talents to execute those plans so as to have maximum impact and exposure on the various publics.(Wilcox 1998). Other definitions highlight the various tools and methodologies that can be used to inquire about the issues and challenges surrounding reaching the targeted publics and incorporating the achieving of organizational goals into the managing of relationships between publics and organizations. Essentially, a Public Relations practitioner's main concern and goal is to ensure that his/her organization maintains relevance in the public sphere of influence and has a positive reputation with regard to its goods and/or services. It should be deliberate and planned in its conceptualization and execution whilst keeping in mind the importance of public opinion in the decision-making process, and keeping lines of communication open and on a two way basis.(Lawerence, Wong, Vincent, Hazleton). Public Relations Theory, then, could be described as an integration of academic principles of communication; public relations research and case history, and its applicability and usefulness within the profession of Public Relations.

Surveys conducted among 100 PR practitioners showed that PR theory along with an understanding of business principles were least in importance. The practitioners chose from a list of 11 competencies of which comprehensive writing skills and good media relations were rated as most important (Moncour, 2006). This may be considered indicative of the mindset that most PR practitioners have when it comes to gaining a knowledge of Public Relations Theory; not that important in carrying out effective Public Relations strategies. However there are Public Relations academicians who believe that a strong theoretical framework is essential in propelling it as a "separate profession and academic discipline." (Botan & Hazelton 1989). Without a written guideline to better shape the way practitioners develop and maintain lines of communication between organizations and their publics, the Public Relations field will continue to be viewed as just a collection of skills and talents that are used by management executives to promote and advertise a product or service and not as a discipline in and of itself. The example of the South Korea Wal-Mart and how their public relations department was able to use Public Relations Theory in a practical way shows how a theoretical framework for public relations is applicable to real life situations and can be used by PR practitioners with positive end results. According to the ddissertation given at the 2007 National Communicator's Association of America in Chicago Illinois. The strategies employed by the Public Relations Department of Wal-Mart Korea were "received well both nationally and internationally," because the managers recognized Public Relations as a management function and applied PR theory to the way they viewed individual publics within the Korean society.

The paper showed that they used five variables posited by Srirmesh and Verčič (2003) which are: " political ideology, economic system (including the development of the country‟s economy), degree of activism (the extent of pressure organizations force from activists), culture, and media system (the nature of the media environment in a country) in relation to South Korea." The formulation of these variables were based on the incorporation of established Public Relations Theory to the social, economic and political landscape of Korean society. These theories gave the managers the ability to quantify, in very specific terms, the issues that they had to deal with and the basis on which to eventually devise a more effective Public Relations campaign in comparison to their American counterpart. The evolution of the political landscape in Korea was a factor that influenced the development of public relations in Korea. The country went through various forms of government until it finally became a democracy in the 1980's. By that time there were established Public Relations firms operating in Korea but within the one-way asymmetrical model (press agentry and publicity) which meant that they used good personal relationships with journalists to get their stories to the public rather than publishing what was newsworthy. These models of Public Relations were developed by J.E Grunig in 1984. They sought to classify the various functions of public relations into different "communication" groups or channels based on their purpose.

So, for example, the aforementioned models of public relations, press agentry (propaganda) and publicity or public information (journalism), were described as "oneway asymmetrical" channels of public relations since their purpose was to disseminate information through mass media without any feedback from the publics, and information not geared specifically toward any one group of publics, that is, potential consumers.(Kim
& Hon, 1998).

Eventually business in Korea realized that they needed to employ a direct symmetrical public relations communication model in order to be successful in their interactions with their publics. This meant that they had to step out of the Korean social ideology that placed restrictions on being overt when it came to transmitting messages. According to Park and Kim it became more “acceptable to use direct communication for public relations
professionals.” (Park & Kim, 1992) As a result, there was now a developing two-way flow symmetrical of communication being seen in the Korea partly encouraged by their recent plunge into Democracy and freedom of expression which led to an emerging public opinion.

Korea‟s religious and social background also influenced the way in which PR practitioners got their message out to the various publics. Confucianism plays an important role in the way Koreans live their lives. Relationships and the needs of the family are viewed with more importance than individual interests. Bearing these and other factors in mind when Wal-Mart Korea was about to be opened, there was a massive Public Relations campaign geared towards gaining the trust of the locals who viewed Americans as "cold and individualistic (Kim & Hon, 1998) . For days, Wal-Mart workers could be seen cleaning the car of drivers at gas stations, truck parades through the streets of Seoul and passing out flyers turning the opening of a variety store into a big family-oriented celebration.

Social Responsibility was also another Public Relations Theory employed in Wal-Mart Korea to build positive relationships with customers. Wal-Mart Korea sought to become more involved in community based initiatives that would foster a good rapport with the organization and its key publics. They became involved in a number of local and national outreach programs such as the National Recycling Campaign, which saw Korea collaborating with the Ministry of Environment building awareness among its customers by donating 22,500 trees to customers and neighborhood community centers in2004. And the
following year they also donated 32 million to youth who participated in the cleanup program. All of these plans were publicized through press releases and radio broadcasts key factors in the Public Relations model. ( The Wal-Mart Korea case study is one of the many cases which can be used as evidence of Public Relations Theory at work in the „applied‟ aspect of public relations. With the help of these theories the public relations department was able to identify the problem facing the organization, outline the objectives that they wanted to accomplish in a specified time period, determine the key publics that needed to be reached, the various strategies and tactics they would employ in achieving the objectives, formulate a timeline for which the long and short term objectives would be reached, make the team members aware of the budgetary constrains involved. And at the end of the campaign, carry out a post-campaign evaluation to ascertain whether previously objectives were met or not. Public Relations Theory played a vital role in helping Wal-Mart to become a leader in national growth for South Korea and by extension the Asian region. The theoretical framework applied to practical Public Relations strategies provided PR practitioners the basis on which to evaluate and review their performance and progress.


Patel, A. , Xavier, R. and Broom, G. "Toward a Model of Organizational Legitimacy in Public Relations Theory and Practice" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Sheraton New York, New York City, NY Online <PDF>. 2009-05-25 from Garvin, L. and Tsetsura, K. , 2007-11-15 "Public Relations Theory and Development in South Korea: A Case Study of Communication Practices of Wal-Mart Korea" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 93rd Annual Convention, TBA, Chicago, IL Online <PDF>. 2009-05-23 from Sriramesh, K., & Verčič, D. (2003). A theoretical framework for global public relations research and practice. In K. Sriramesh & D. Verčič (Eds.), The Global PublicRelations Handbook Theory, Research, and Practice (pp. 1-19). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Kim, Y. (2003). Professionalism and diversification: The evolution of public relations in South Korea. In K. Sriramesh & D. Verčič (Eds.), The Global Public Relations Handbook Theory, Research, and Practice (pp. 106-120). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Park, M., & Kim, M. (1992). Communication practices in Korea. Communications Quarterly, 40, 398-404.

Park, J. (2003). Discrepancy between Korean government and corporate practitioners regarding professional standards in public relations: A co-orientation approach. Journal of Public relations research, 15, 249-275. Botan, C.H., Hazelton, V.H. (1989), Public Relations Theory, Lawrence Earlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, .

Evon Benjamin 620000776 Charmaine Henry MC26A Assignment: Cite examples of real life situations to decide whether or not PR Theory is relevant to the Public Relations practitioner

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Description: An in-depth look at how important is public relations theory to the practice of public relations by PR Professionals