In a recent comment to a post in which I linked you to the most recent Larissa and Jim Grunig presentation, Estella de Beer from the University Pretoria wrote:
I agree that Jim and Larissa’s presentation is a significant leap forward in our quest to make public relations part of top management’s agenda. I am also glad to see that the Excellence Study is still relevant in this quest, since groundbreaking work was done in that study. Benita Steyn, Retha Groenewald and myself did similar studies in South Africa a few years ago and confirmed the importance of especially the shared expectations between the top communicator and the dominant coalition.
I was specifically interested in the Grunig’s last slide which stated that “Research is needed on the institutionalization of public relations as a strategic management, bridging, function, rather than its common practice as a symbolic, buffering, function (Yin, 2005).”
In a discussion I had last week with Judge Mervyn King, the convenor of the committee who wrote the King Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa, he confirmed that what we are doing as communicators in an organisation is an integral part of the sustainable functioning of an organisation (in my mind his opinion represents the view of the typical enlightened member of the dominant coalition in the SA organisation, since the King Reports (1, 2 and later this year 3) are regarded as important guidelines for doing business in SA. These reports have a strong stakeholder engagement philosophy as their foundation.) He also stated that the organisation of tomorrow will function by taking into account:
°strategy (what should be done),
°corporate governance (how this should be done) and °sustainability (how to keep on doing the right things right).
This will also be the point of departure for the King 3 report.
I am currently exploring these three elements (I originally started out with only strategy and corporate governance), to see where communication and public relations fit in and how it can be made part of the strategic management, corporate governance and sustainability agendas. It would be interesting to hear the Grunig’s view on this approach.
Ok Estella….I had dinner last night in Bled (Slovenia) with the Grunigs and we discussed your comment.
Just to put this into context, you may also be aware that the istitutionalization of public relations and communication management issue will be at the core of the October 2008 Euprera Congress to be held in Milano, in cooperation with Ferpi e with IULM University, and that a call for papers has already been issued.
So, last night we discussed both the institutionalization issue and the relationship between sustainability, corporate governance and strategic management from a public relations perspective.
A caveat: I am of course interpreting what I understood and so I might well be minsinterpreting..as well as spinning my own opinions.
The first thing which came out is that the institutionalization issue must not be interpreted by us as another ‘feather on our hat’.
To the contrary, Larissa was very clear in cautioning that, as the function becomes institutionalized, the role becomes more rigid and we should be very attentive to avoid this trap thus ensuring that the function does not become mor rigid than strictly necessary.
In a way (and this is my personal thought) as we often promote the two way symmetrical concept forgetting the very fundamental difference between two way communication and symmetrical communication, as if we were reciting a prayerwe in practice offer very sound reasons for the professional community not to practice public relations along those lines, as well as good arguments to continue in the still today overwhelmingly practiced one way asymmetric communication.
So we must ‘handle with care’ so to say.
Second, more to Estella’s point, both Larissa and Jim very much agree with the fact that adding on the sustainability concept to the other two (strategic management and corporate governance) is essential if you have a general approach to the corporate responsibility issue along the lines that Mervyin King had spelled out in his preceding reports.
Here in Bled, by the way, we received today a highly interesting presentation by South African Chris Skinner on the impressive state of the social investment debate and practice in South Africa which to all of us seemed to be far more advanced and pervasive in that country than in most if not all others.
Ironically, in Bled we also received the presentation of a compelling paper by british scholars Ralph Tench and Ryan Bowd from Leeds Business School who used the I of CSI not in the Chris Matthews sense of investment, but in the sense of irresponsibility. We are wonderful with words, aren’t we all?
To conclude on this for now and also to summarise in one sentence two intense days of discussions in Bled, it seems clear that our academic community is finally coming to grips with the issue of relationships between public relations and the other organizational management functions, and it is only a sign of coherence that this will be the core theme of the 2008 Bled Symposium.