Journal of Communication Management

Published by Emerald

Print ISSN: 1363-254X


Examining how the 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks precipitated a paradigm shift advancing communications and public relations into a more significant role in corporate America
  • Article

March 2002


89 Reads

Donald K. Wright
This paper explores how corporate communications and public relations were affected by the 11th September, 2001 terrorism attacks on the USA, and then compares findings in a survey involving public relations professionals from 24 other countries on 5 continents. Short e-mail questionnaires were completed by 37 senior, US-based, public relations and corporate communications executives. Results indicate that most (87%) said the attacks had an immediate impact on their organization's public relations and communications functions, and 69% believe the tragedy will serve as a catalyst to change how their companies communicate. Also, Ss agreed that strategic communications and public relations can be effective weapons of war, and that the US would implement such a campaign in the struggle against terrorism. In addition, results from a survey of 28 senior public relations professionals from other countries suggest that the immediate impact of the terrorist attacks on the communications business was slightly less pronounced in other countries, but the perceived long-term impact on communications and public relations might be even greater outside the US. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

On the challenge of practice informed by theory

January 2006


84 Reads

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to outline the challenge of practice informed by theory in public relations. Design/methodology/approach – The paper offers a brief discussion of theoretical understanding in public relations. Findings – The paper advocates that knowledge building must include theoretical research that explains and improves practice. Originality/value – The paper stresses the importance of scholars integrating their theory making with practice.

The application of social semiotic theory to visual elements within corporate positioning material and the development of a viable methodology

May 2004


63 Reads

This paper selects social semiotic and critical discourse concepts and argues their suitability as an analytical technique for application to the visual elements in corporate positioning literature. Based upon these arguments the paper develops a methodology for use by senior practitioners. The motivation was informed by the author?s belief that despite the increasing importance of the visual as opposed to written comunication many practitioners, because of their background in the written word, have difficulty expressing their corporate positioning messages in visual terms. Visual elements in this case refer to photographs, design systems, page layouts and the materiality of the text. The author suggests that, through the use of templates, informed practitioners can evolve a visual grammar that will help reduce subjective decision making and thus improve meaning transfer.

Corporate responsibility: The communication challenge. Journal of Communication Management, 9, 108-119

June 2005


1,797 Reads

An ever-increasing number of companies are recognising the reputational risks and opportunities that corporate responsibility brings, and for these companies aligning corporate behaviour with stakeholder expectations is an ongoing business priority. Communication, however, often remains the missing link in the practice of corporate responsibility. The information requirements of a range of opinion leader and mass stakeholder audiences are not currently being satisfied by many companies, so they are not getting full credit for their responsible corporate behaviour. Of course, there are specific challenges in communicating corporate responsibility – including scepticism towards company messages and potentially hostile reactions from the media, campaign groups and others. The diverse information requirements of different stakeholder groups also present special communication challenges, and these requirements are examined in turn. Using MORI’s British opinion research to illustrate the case, this paper first examines communication to opinion leader audiences (such as legislators, business press, investors and non-governmental organisations), and in particular the opportunities and limitations of the social report. It then goes on to address communication of corporate responsibility to the general public and the need to trigger wider consumer engagement in this topic. Lastly, it covers the communication opportunity presented by companies’ own employees and the internal communication challenges surrounding corporate responsibility. The paper suggests, in conclusion, that effective communication of corporate responsibility depends on a clear strategy which evaluates both the opportunities and the risks to the brand, and which tailors messages to different stakeholder groups. It calls for a coordinated approach, which ideally embeds corporate responsibility messages into mainstream communications. The paper also identifies internal communication as an under-utilised and potentially powerful channel for enhancing a company’s reputation for responsibility among its key stakeholders.

Public relations education in Australia, 1950-1975

April 2014


116 Reads

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the foundation and development of public relations education (PRE) in Australia between 1950 and 1975. Design/methodology/approach – This paper utilises Australian-held primary and official industry association material to present a detailed and revisionist history of PR education in Australia in its foundation decades. Findings – This paper, which locates Australia's first PRE initiatives in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in the 1960s, contests the only published account of PR education history by Potts (1976). The orthodox account, which has been repeated uncritically by later writers, overlooks earlier initiatives, such as the Melbourne-based Public Relations Institute of Australia, whose persistence resulted in Australia's first PR course at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1964. So too, educational initiatives in Adelaide and Sydney pre-date the traditional historiography. Originality/value – A detailed literature review suggests this paper represents the only journal-length piece on the history of PRE in Australia. It is also the first examination of relationships between industry, professional institutes, and educational authorities.

No entity without identity — Communications strategies of corporate Germany in the early 1990s

December 1998


15 Reads

In Germany the significance of corporate communications has come a long way since the early 1990s. In many cases, multidimensional structural change within companies has left an identity vacuum which some have superficially attempted to fill by way of the shareholder value versus stakeholder value debate. While the market's Top 30 effectively operate as stakeholders, they position themselves for the most part as shareholder-focused. A successful identity and image policy is characterised by a mindset which interprets identity as a process and image as the benefit to all stakeholders.

PR and conflict: A theoretical review and case study of the 2001 University of Hawaii faculty strike
  • Article
  • Full-text available

April 2004


176 Reads

In April 2001, deadlocked labour negotiations brought all public education in Hawaii to a standstill. This paper reviews theoretical models of public relations and criticism of these models in terms of conflict theory. A case study of the University of Hawaii (UH) faculty strike, including findings from in-depth interviews with PR professionals, chief negotiators and the press is presented. Although PR models fit well in discussing relationships between the parties and their constituents, findings suggest that PR techniques often were proscribed by the circumstances of collective bargaining, and public relations, as it has been conceptualised in both theory and layman’s terms, was used as an alternative to negotiations between opposing parties rather than a means to resolving the conflict.

Do Consumers Really Care About Corporate Responsibility? Highlighting the Attitude-Behavior Gap. Journal of Communication Management 4(4):355-368

April 2000


8,087 Reads

According to the press at the turn of the year 1999—2000, a good corporate reputation for responsible marketing is a key element in business success. One justification for this is the assumption that consumers are interested in how companies behave and this has an influence upon their consumption behaviour. There is also the suggestion that a financial pay-off is to be gained from good behaviour. Conflicting reports in previous research cast doubt upon the reliability of these assumptions, and there are few studies which unequivocally support positive consumer purchasing in return for responsible marketing. This paper reviews current opinion and evidence in relation to the growing interest in corporate reputation, and reports findings from focus group research which casts doubt upon the efficacy of corporate reputation in influencing positive consumer purchase behaviour.

Can SMEs “do” CSR? A practitioner’s view of the ways small- and medium-sized enterprises are able to manage reputation through corporate social responsibility

October 2003


723 Reads

If major corporations struggle to define and place a value on reputation and reputational risk, what hope is there for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? It is assumed here that large corporations have greater resources available to them to do this and stronger imperatives to do so in the form of a greater number of external stakeholders, most notably shareholders and analysts. Is a structured approach to managing corporate reputation the exclusive preserve of companies with communications departments? Is corporate social responsibility (CSR), in as much as it is a voluntary activity, “good value” for SMEs and is cost versus benefit the only way to evaluate CSR? This paper reviews a spectrum of views on reputation and CSR and argues that searching for a definitive, value-for-money-based formula for reputation management and CSR is at odds with stakeholder expectations, and that much evidence exists to suggest that truly effective CSR is the result more of pragmatism than theory or corporate strategy and in some ways SMEs are better placed to take advantage of CSR programmes.

Who is responsible for managing absence?

December 1998


8 Reads

Continuing pressure to increase business competitiveness means that organisations are looking for new ways in which to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The old adage says that a company's greatest asset is its people. It is also business law that improving the returns achieved on assets can increase profitability. In terms of staff costs, that could mean increasing productivity, or reducing time lost through staff absence. This paper focuses on absence management, a growing trend in the USA, and one set to spread through the UK. In particular, the paper considers the specific communications issues raised by actively managing absence in the UK. This paper examines how an active approach to absence management could be seen as a challenge to the psychological contract between employer and employee. If any such policy is to succeed there has to be open communication between staff, line managers and senior management about the business case for adopting a new approach. Those responsible for communicating the policy require a clear understanding of the business issues involved, foresight as to the benefits and threats to staff, and an honest appraisal of the organisation's existing culture which will determine how easily absence management objectives can be fulfilled.

Abuse and self-abuse – PR and its USP, plausible deniability

March 2005


35 Reads

Who started it we will never know. But from the birth of newspapers, advertisers realised that the third party endorsement of apparently independent editorial reporting delivered their message more cheaply – and arguably more credibly – than paid advertising. Thus in the 17th century the publicist was born to service “the fellow who cannot lye sufficiently himself [who] gets one of these to do’t for him”. Any history of public relations is a running commentary on the techniques used to deliver third party endorsement as the media has evolved: from Ivy Lee’s simple packaging of information approach, through Bernays’ “engineering consent”, to today’s use of bloggers on the web or the more sophisticated “journo lobbying”, it is a record of how practitioners deliver public relations’ unique selling proposition, the plausible deniability which is third party endorsement.

Learning the lesson – Speaking up for communication as an academic discipline too important to be sidelined

January 2003


49 Reads

Communication skills are essential business tools, as well as a prerequisite for management of global economic organisations and effective government in complex societies. Communication underpins Western values and ensures that, through feedback processes, organisations appreciate the different value sets that can impact upon the success or failure of policies and enterprises. In order to gain the greatest benefit from effective communication, greater emphasis needs to be placed on the academic teaching of the skill involved, as part of and together with greater efforts to promote the reputation of professional communicators.

Table 1 : 'Traditional' MBA subjects
Table 2 : 'Environmental' and 'relational' subjects in MBA programmes
An examination of possible obstacles to management acceptance of public relations’ contribution to decision making, planning and organisation functioning

April 2002


740 Reads

Public relations practitioners continue to lament the fact that their contribution to management is not taken seriously nor given sufficient weight. This paper examines some of the obstacles to management acceptance of public relations’ contribution to important management tasks. The paper focuses on the possibility that managers may not value public relations’ contribution because their preparation for the management role does not give them the perspective that would enable them to see its value. The paper suggests that this perspective is one which enables the complexity of the external world, the world external to the organisation and in which the organisation functions, to be imagined and incorporated into decision making. This perspective has not been developed in the present generation of senior and middle managers. The paper reviews literature relating to this suggestion, before going on to examine programmes aimed at preparing managers for their roles at business and management schools in the USA and Europe. The paper concludes that unless changes are made to the ways in which managers are prepared for their roles, they are unlikely to develop an appreciation of the perspective which underlies public relations practice, or to make full use of the potential contribution of public relations.

Applying account planning to public relations

December 1999


13 Reads

This paper seeks to identify some of the trends that are shaping the communications agenda of tomorrow's brand/service/company, and examine how these trends are likely to impact on the way public relations (PR) campaigns are planned and evaluated. The power of PR has been recognised, and PR has earned its place, along with other communications disciplines, at the strategic table. As organisations and their brands/services gauge their susceptibility to good and bad PR, so too do they need to plan and manage the process. PR practitioners need to gain a better understanding of all the facets that touch the reputations of the organisations they serve. To achieve this they must have an intimate knowledge of the customers on whom their reputations depend. This paper sets out a process for achieving this, and a process for measuring the impact and influence of the resulting PR activity. A case study has been woven into the text to illustrate the process at each stage.

Exploring the corporate identity/corporate image interface: An empirical study of accounting firms

December 1998


360 Reads

Bernstein wrote that we should be concerned about the image our company projects not because we want to manufacture it but because we need to discern how we are being received and how those perceptions square with our self-image (Bernstein 1984, 13). The importance of image being based on reality was incorporated by Abratt (1989) into his conceptual model in the form of an ‘interface’. This interface can be conceived of as the moment of truth for an organisation where the corporate identity is externalised, and, therefore, examination of the dynamics of this interface is of vital interest to corporate identity research. The results of empirical research into this interface, denoted as the corporate identity/corporate image interface in this research, are presented in this paper. A resultant model of the corporate identity management process is then advanced, based on the dimensions of a factor analysis of the multi-item scale developed for the research. The research revealed that, whereas the selection of an accountancy firm is based on the corporate image that it projects, retention of an accountancy firm is based on continuing positive experiences, including the responsiveness of employees, the physical environment and the values that the accountancy firm holds dear. This implies that the corporate identity/corporate image interface must be a coherent entity for the successful projection of corporate identity.

Message to desired action: A communication effectiveness model

October 2001


603 Reads

This paper argues that communication is successful only if it overcomes each of six hurdles: reach, attention, understanding, belief, recall and action. The authors then map the saliency of ten academic disciplines: demographics and psychographics from marketing; persuasion and information processing from psychology; linguistics, writing and design from communication; and sociology, anthropology and economics from the social sciences. Effective practitioners must possess a basic understanding of the bodies of knowledge in all of these fields and be able to apply them in their everyday work. Thus, the intellectual breadth required of the public relations practitioner is extensive. Acquiring and maintaining sufficient knowledge of these and other fields should be the aim of a practitioner’s undergraduate and graduate education, and a career-long programme of professional development. The “message to desired action” model updates and builds upon an earlier model, originally published in PR Reporter in 1992 and since cited in numerous public relations textbooks.

Political action committees, ‘soft’ money, foreign contributions and US politics: Lessons from the American experience

December 1999


12 Reads

Political fund-raising practices in the US have created what might be considered institutionalised bribery, resulting in growing concerns about the role of foreign money, entrenchment of politicians, an intergenerational shift of resources and consolidation of key industries. The new political environment has also spawned a growing sense that all votes and candidates are for sale. This paper reviews a bit of history about American political campaign financing, outlines current abuses, highlights implications of those abuses, and offers a few solutions.

Positive response action: The ultimate goal of website communication

January 2002


102 Reads

A vast array of communication and behavioural theories and models has long assisted the communication management industry in its quest for excellence. While relying upon and discussing many of these theories in relation to website communication, this paper explores the development of theoretical platforms which are unique to the website mode of communication. It asserts that investigating new and varied theoretical paradigms can assist the communication management industry in analysing, extending and optimising its efforts in cyberspace. This paper explores the potential of a generic, theoretical approach to desired behavioural response via the website. It provides a modular definition of desired behavioural response to websites. This definition comprises six potential positive outputs and has been called “positive response action”. The paper proves, via comparative analysis, that positive response action parallels established communication goals and objectives. This paper also explores the concept of any one website belonging to one of three sender motivated categories: individual, strategic stakeholder communication and non-strategic stakeholder communication. Traditional communication and behavioural response theories are analysed in relation to positive response action as are the essential cognitive needs of a website visitor. These needs are contextualised in a critical path “user gratification” format in relation to the achievement of the goal of positive response action. Excellence in effective website communication has become a priority for the public relations profession worldwide. While exploring this quest for excellence and its relation to theoretical dynamics, this paper reinforces the universally accepted requirement of accurate audience definition in order to achieve communication success and behavioural response.

Communicating for competitive advantage: A continuous improvement model

December 1996


24 Reads

This paper describes a continuous improvement model, developed by Edwards Deming and applied by the author. The model shows how organisations can align their performance with customers' expectations. The author focuses on some of the key areas of concern for the communicator when implementing a continuous improvement programme including internal and external performance; team participation; and performance enhancement.

Living “extreme”: Adventure sports, media and commercialisation

June 2005


1,748 Reads

Participation in extreme sports, sometimes called adventure sports, action sports or even individualistic sports, has vastly increased in the last 20 years. The terms are still up for debate, only vaguely defined and are often used interchangeably. Both viewing and participation in this young sports phenomenon is on the rise, but the importance of it for the world of sports, media sport and the opportunities for sponsorship are little explored. This paper will examine the emergence of extreme sports and the connected industry, the reasons why people are enthralled by the new phenomenon and the opportunities it poses for communicators.

EU public affairs: The growing role of NGOs in the decision making process

December 1999


7 Reads

This paper was prepared for presentation to the workshop on ‘The Developing EU — Institutional Changes and Enlargement’ at the Fifth International Public Relations Research Symposium, Bled, 10th–12th July, 1998. The paper presents an analysis and description of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) represented by offices in Brussels in the form of both alliances and groups. It looks at the NGOs' role in EU policy formation, environmental activists, consumers', human and citizens' rights, animal welfare and the implications for public affairs.

Tracing the parallel evolution of public affairs and public relations: An examination of practice, scholarship and teaching

December 1999


65 Reads

This paper examines the evolution of two separate fields, which are essentially concerned with the same issues but are framed by different academic and professional disciplines and practice. It appears that public affairs management researchers often fail to take into account parallel literature from the discipline of public relations — even when purporting to offer an interdisciplinary approach. Equally, the public relations literature frequently fails to speak the language of business management and narrowly defines such key business activities as marketing, policy and strategy. In this paper, the authors present evidence prescribing the differing evolution of public affairs and public relations. They compare and contrast public affairs and public relations in terms of their definitions, scholarship, survey evidence, leading writers, academic and professional associations and educational programme content. They conclude by offering several suggestions for closing the gap between the two areas.

Machiavelli's legacy to public affairs: A modern tale of servants and princes in UK organisations

December 1999


34 Reads

Drawing on the work of Niccolo Machiavelli and his appreciation of management and power, this paper explores the contemporary role of public affairs in UK organisations and the type of roles enacted by practitioners. The paper reviews how public affairs and, particularly, the corporate lobbying function have been treated by researchers and outlines recent research into the role played by public affairs practitioners based within a number of leading UK organisations. This study forms part of a longer-term research programme designed to examine the functioning of in-house public affairs departments within the UK. The paper explores how the role of public affairs practitioners can be conceptualised and suggests that public affairs and corporate lobbying have gained increasing recognition as strategically important activities, particularly within the more regulated sectors of industry.

They’re talking about you: Some thoughts about managing online commentary affecting corporate reputation

July 2001


75 Reads

Corporate reputation managers need to put new systems in place to permit timely and appropriate response to the increased level of comment on significant issues that the Internet enables. Collecting the commentary is a preliminary step only. Most of public commentary is on the World Wide Web or in usenet. The originator’s choice of medium is revealing of their objectives and motivations. The management response may be pre-emptive or consequential, but essentially it is limited to six options, which may be supported by protocols prepared for timely response. The key factors in protocol design are indicated. The need for systematic response mechanisms will increase in future, as the capacity of the Internet to foster debate and create issues is predicted to develop further.

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