Three wise men – homage to a public relations paradigm

In the last PR Conversations post, Toni Muzi Falconi presented a revised conceptual framework that proposed an organization should apply six generic principles of public relations within the operative context of six infrastructural characteristics to determine specific applications.

The paradigm was subsequently developed with input from Rob Wakefield from Brigham Young University (the first scholar to theorize the paradigm a couple of decades ago), and Jim Grunig, who originated the Public Relations Excellence study in the mid-1980s/early 1990s from research into some 300 US, British and Canadian organizations.

Here we reflect the wisdom of these PR magi as they pay homage – and offer critical insight – to the proposed public relations paradigm development.

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Toni Muzi Falconi (TMF): A few weeks ago, the Schumpeter piece in the Economist, discussed the challenges of global leadership, including the importance of understanding local cultural differences. This sparked in me an association of how the practice paradigm of public relations stops at generic principles, and forgets how deeply interrelated these need to be with specific applications. Also, how to be effective, the latter needs to be correlated with those generic principles, even for non-global organizations operating at a purely national level.

Organizations may understand the need to apply generic principles within their public relations operations on a global basis, but it is more complex, challenging and not fully clear, how they should identify the basic public relations infrastructure of a given territory, that relates to the specific applications.

To be effective, organizations are able to analyse, and periodically, ‘dashboard’ a territory’s infrastructure (its legal/institutional, economic, political, socio-cultural, active citizenship and media system specificities). However, my experience of case studies where this is done with satisfaction, suggests:

  • There may be other significant variables within a given territory that need to be considered, leading to a situational approach. For example, the religious system of a territory may need to be considered an autonomous and forceful variable rather than solely as part of the socio-cultural system.
  • The correlation and interdependence between the generic principles and specific applications need to be explained in terms of operational mechanisms. Again, these may be ‘situational’ in the sense that, to be fully effective, they need to fit into the organization’s specific culture, sub- and counter-cultures.

Robert Wakefield (RW): When working on the generic/specific theory two-plus decades ago, I felt transnational organizations should not EITHER concentrate on the central issues of mission, global strategy, etc, OR, let local entities do whatever they wanted, which was what literature of the time suggested. To ensure effective communications all over the world, some combination of the two was needed.

Furthermore, I felt it has to be wrong to hire ‘local’ expertise to worry only about local issues, while central staff concentrated on global imperatives. What a waste of great talent, it seemed to me. When I worked for a transnational, I tried to create as much horizontal teamwork as possible, to get the best minds and thinking contributing to our global strategy in addition to handling their daily local issues.

In developing a theory that looked at the need to balance generic and specific imperatives, we were simply asking what these were. The generic were wrapped around Jim Grunig’s Excellence variables. The specific, on the other hand, were, in fact, quite amorphous – we did not know what they were and were simply throwing some of those out for consideration by great scholars and practitioners around the world.

TMF: It seems to me that if we are talking about organizations such as Coca Cola or Amnesty International, then the generic principles also need to relate to the organization’s unique molecules. Or if we are practising, for example, public diplomacy, then the generic principles are also different. If you like, the generic relates ‘specifically’ (sic!) to the molecules of that practice or that organization.

RW: In my dissertation, I included language as a variable, related to, but separate from, culture, having experienced major challenges with language when working transnationally. Jim (Grunig), Sriramesh (Krisnamurthy), Dejan (Vercic) and others have since wrapped those together.

The Global Public Relations Handbook (which has gone through two editions now) concentrates mostly on descriptive studies of PR in various countries. But, as Juan-Carlos Molleda says, this really doesn’t help us come much closer to really learning the various implications of the specific, because we have only a series of descriptions out there. No-one, to my knowledge, has taken those and explained similarities and differences, and what they would mean to any given transnational organisation operating across different environments.

And, as you are stating here, those differences can change not only between countries, but also within countries and also spanning countries into global implications of those local differences. They also can change from day to day!

So, yes, I agree that much more needs to be done to examine not only what the variables really are, but also examine what impact they have on both specific operations and global ‘spill-out’ from those variables.

TMF: I am wondering if the first generic principle of public relations should be that the application of the Excellence theory is not effective if not related to the territorial infrastructure… while, the first specific application should be to connect to the general principles. This would close the loop – at least in theory.

RW: Your distinction of ‘generic’ – in the sense that it follows ‘universal’ (if such a thing can exist) principles of the field – as opposed to ‘general principles’ embedded within each organization is an important distinction, which needs to be resolved.

When I started thinking of generic/specific, I was thinking that within each organization, there must be “central” or overall principles and values that continually identify and advance the mission and purpose of that organization; but as the organization spreads throughout the world, it also confronts, always and daily, very dynamic and distinctive environmental factors—and thus there is more or less a continual tug-of-war between those two imperatives.

However, in trying to ‘operationalize’ my study, as you know we must(!), Grunig’s generic principles stood out as among the most ‘reasonable’ I had seen to that point—that to have clout to be able to get organizations to respond to their stakeholders, PR people should be in the dominant coalition, etc., that they should not just be puppets to marketing, as so often has happened with US PR people, etc.

I have to admit that it became such an easy way to look at organizational missions and messaging that I really (and probably wrongfully) did lean to the “universal to the field” generic and did not give much more thought to the reality that organizations still need to carve out their own balance of the global and the specific with questions such as: What is the organization’s mission and how should it play out across the world with the proper balance between the need for global unity and accommodation to local mores, cultures, etc.?

TMF: If we refer, for example, to the Page Society’s Building Belief paper, and to the first of the three parts of the more recent Melbourne Mandate that deal with corporate character, an organization’s unique characteristics go well beyond its mission, and are essential to identify and relate with if you wish to develop any form of even elementary stakeholder advocacy.

Similarly, you can still apply the generic principles and specific applications for a related practice like public diplomacy. I tried to do this with some success for a recent workshop with Italian senior diplomats and, for example, international diplomatic etiquette, global treaties etc need to be generic and therefore declinated and interrelated with specific applications in one specific territory.

This again supports the above suggestion to state the first generic principle is that the application of the theory is not effective if not interrelated to the territorial infrastructure…. while the first specific application is that the application is not effective if not interrelated to the generic principles.

RW: Perhaps this relates to the need to investigate the balance between generic and specific by both ‘global’ and ‘local’ employees. Organizational PR units must ‘think globally AND locally, and act locally AND globally’, all at the same time.

TMF: The global and local are strictly interdependent and one is not more important than the other – obviously so at the local level, but also at the global level.

RW: Absolutely, you’re right. The research I looked at for my 2009 PR Journal article, led me to believe that the term ‘globalization’ stems mostly from the same thinking as ‘think global, act local’. It is proliferated by business people with the idea that transnationals think mostly global, but then simply need to make adaptation (or glocalize) for local markets.

The factors that impact these local and global operations the most, can constantly shift, and may differ depending on the organization in question.

As you imply, this is akin to ‘what comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ – you cannot look at the generic and then have all the specific fall in line while ignoring what happens in each locale, and by the same token you cannot expect that what happens in each locale will stay there with no impact on the generic. They do indeed go hand-in-hand, as you have said.

I also believe social media have changed the equation for both levels, for the simple reason that they can instantaneously surpass any one locale and create global problems for an organization no matter where an issue arises.

By the same token, I think that US companies, at least, often use social media as an excuse for thinking that because everything CAN go global now, we have to handle it all globally and we don’t really need to worry about any specific local impacts or differences. I think the opposite is true—it makes a more compelling case to have response mechanisms for your ‘specific’ factors more in order than ever before.

However, after working with the Grunigs, I felt there must be certain general, or more-or-less universal, basics of public relations that should be seen to at least some extent in the majority of organizations. This goes along with institutionalization discussions, does it not?

If there are not certain basics of the practice that can be recognized anywhere, then how we could we define it as public relations? However, going with what you have stated, I think two things:

  1. We still have a ways to go as a field in defining those basics
  2. Even if we do agree that there are some universal basics to the practice, then we certainly must combine those ‘generics’ with the ‘generals’ that are unique to the organization before we then analyze those with the specifics that impact both industry practices and individual organizations around the world.

So, at the ‘generic’ level, it is important to expand the universals of the field to accommodate the uniqueness of each organization. For example, wouldn’t an organization that is highly consumer oriented have different ‘general’ characteristics than one that is mostly a scientific organization dealing with a much smaller set of stakeholders, or a business-to-business organization?

As for these principles aligning somewhat with related fields, the reality is that we took the generic/specific constructs out of the development management field (think US Agency for International Development), and also incorporated some principles from what was already being discussed in marketing. So, yes, I believe there are similarities between these related fields.

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Jim Grunig: I think the crucial thread to this discussion is the question of whether the generic principles apply at the level of the profession or at the level of the organization. I agree with Rob that the generic principles were intended to apply to the profession. These generic principles were based on theoretical principles derived from the Excellence study but also on years of research on a number of middle range theories (such as strategic management, roles, models, gender, evaluation, etc.) that we incorporated into the Excellence principles .

I still believe that the Excellence principles are generic to the profession. Of course, it is still possible to add new principles or to subtract some of the old ones. However, I haven’t seen a convincing argument to remove any of the principles or any identification of new ones. In his dissertation, Rob found support for all of the principles except for the treatment of women (which met religious objection). However, I think this principle can be expanded easily into a diversity principle that would include the equal treatment of all forms of diversity, not just gender diversity; and that this expansion of the concept would make it generic.

Your conversation also raises the intriguing idea, however, that there might be principles that are “general” to each organization that it should incorporate into the organization of its communication function and its strategic communication planning.

However, you did not propose what these principles might be. I begin with the premise that such principles must be based on theory. If they’re not based on theory, they wouldn’t be ‘principles’.

I think such general principles should be derived from the more generic professional principles–specifically from our strategic management model (below) that describes two of the most important generic principles–that public relations should be part of the strategic management of the organization and that communication programs should be managed strategically (ie, developed for specific publics, have specific objectives, and that these objectives should be measured to evaluate the success of the programs.).


For general principles, then, I think organizations need to decide the publics (stakeholders if you prefer) with which they need relationships, the problems (ie, consequences) experienced by the publics that make such relationships necessary, and the issues that might result in the relationship.

Thus, the general principles for an organization would be problems (consequences), publics (stakeholders), issues, and relationships. In applying these general principles, a global organization must decide if problems, publics, issues, and relationships are the same in every location or if they are different in each location. This is where the specific applications come in.

One could also attempt such middle-range thinking for each of the other generic principles. For example, the organization of the public relations function probably will be different for consumer product companies (where marketing dominates), financial companies (where the stock market or government dominate), non-profit organizations (where donors dominate), government (where ideologically derived publics develop), public diplomacy (where diplomatic relationships must be mixed with relationships with local publics). (By the way, I think the generic principles apply also to public diplomacy: See Sung-hun Yun’s article in the Journal of Public Relations Research based on his dissertation.)

The symmetrical principle would differ in organizations with authoritarian rather than participative cultures and where the public relations function has been institutionalized as a symbolic-interpretive function rather than a strategic management function. Recently, though I have begun to think about the symmetrical principles in terms of ‘relationship cultivation strategies’ (see the central oval in the above diagram). Different types of organizations will find different symmetrical cultivation strategies to be ‘generally’ useful in their public relations efforts.

I did a quick search of the meaning of the terms ‘generic’ and ‘general’ in the Microsoft Word Thesaurus. The first synonym for generic is general, which doesn’t help a lot. However, when I search the list of synonyms I find that the meanings that come closest to what I had in mind when we talked years ago are that generic = ‘basic’ and general = ‘overall’. Generic and general are very similar terms, but I think that ‘basic’ and ‘overall’ are somewhat different and that they capture the difference between professional and organization principles. Thus, I think you are onto something when you and Rob think of professional principles as ‘generic’ and organizational ‘principles’ are overall.

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Coda by Toni Muzi Falconi:

My! This process so far has been quite an experience for me and I am truly grateful to Rob, to Jim and of course to Heather for their precious contribution.

I would now like to invite every PR Conversations reader (and of course also the above contributors) to add their input, critical views and suggestions to carry the process forward.

One caveat: based on the conversation, I have come to the following (temporary, of course) concluding premise:

Effective global stakeholder relationship governance of any social, private or public organization today requires a situational and therefore dynamic conceptual managerial approach which defines an overall and global professional relationship infrastructure that includes generic guidelines related to:

a) the public relations practice per se,
b) the unique characteristics of the sector in which the organization operates,
c) the unique characteristics of that very organization,

that are effective if and when the practice is implemented considering the six or more (for example, language, religion…) systems related to the specific territories where the organization operates.

Your take?

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NOTE: This is the final part of  series of 3 posts.  Part 1: Developing a worldview of public relations appeared on Thursday 11 April with Part 2: Generic principles and specific applications in public relations – published on Monday 15

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10 Replies to “Three wise men – homage to a public relations paradigm

  1. Peter,
    the panglossian analogy referred to your first comment, and I do not ‘chuckle’ to your virgilian one if referred to your second comment.
    I of course much agree with your contents.

    As much as we may be, as you say, ‘blinkered to the real value pr has and could contribute to better mutual understanding’, I still think that an ongoing and situational search for the most possibly effective combination between professional guidelines that are always applicable if and when specific applications related to local cultures, communities, stakeholders (what have you…), and all this helps the organization monitor and operate sensitive to a specific infrastructure is not an exoteric excercise.

    This, of course, if I interpreted your comment correctly. Would be very interested if you felt like explaining this to me. Thank you

  2. Heather, thanks for the issues you raise.

    You can imagine that it is not easy for me (being half ango-irish) to avoid a heartfelt chuckle….in considering the value of the british public relations infrastructure, also as a product of mainstream british colonialism and imperialism….

    Kidding aside,…
    I cannot really imagine how anyone could develop any paradigm without critically acknowledging what is already there. Mind you- of course I am biased, but I am convinced that the representation of the paradigm I tried to illustrate is structurally different from the earlier one and also takes into consideration whatever you mean when you cite the ‘sacred cows’ (?…is this, by the way, not a typically colonialist and imperalistic metaphore..???).

    Also I do not see why we should ‘miss out on innovative, radical and indeed, fresh and audacious thinking’, if we look well enough and do our homework well.

    As George Soros and many other investors believe, the real ’emerging’ economy today is the United States, I humbly propose that -compared to some of the developments of the pr body of knowledge coming from Asia, Oceania, Canada and Europe (don’t really see much from latin or south america, but maybe I am distracted)- it seems to me that, in the sense you use the term, the US could be considered today as an ’emerging’ public relations culture…

    I fully agree with Rob’s comments.

    I wonder if you wouldn’t be so kind as to better explain what you mean in suggesting that the generic principles and specific applications paradigm could smell of ‘colonialism’ and ‘imperialism’.
    Being an old fashioned socialist with marxist origins (once I could also have been defined as ‘thirdworldist’, but this is no longer ‘politically correct’…) I frankly fail to comprehend. Is it like saying that the theory of relativity is ethnocentric because a german jew emigrated to the United States developed it… ?
    Of course I am joking and love you dearly..

    1. Touché Toni – although I don’t think that I was arguing for an imperialist/colonialist British PR infrastructure, my use of the term ‘sacred cow’ highlights how much we are a product of our own cultural context. Is arguing for a clean sheet of paper a safer term?

      Of course, I understand what you are saying regarding the importance of “critically acknowledging what is already there” – as someone who is passionate about re-examining the history of PR. There is much to be found there, which itself helps challenge some of those ‘taken for granted assumptions’ in the contemporary culture of PR. I’m currently looking at the historical development of internal communications (with Kevin Ruck for a paper at the Bournemouth history conference this year), and we had built an edifice from our initial research, which was challenged by a marvellous chapter I found in a 1948 text. I’m as happy to use archaeology as futurology. Indeed, sometimes the ideas of ‘Back to the Future’ are helpful in taking a fresh look at where we have come from and where we are heading or wish to go.

      But I also believe that taking that clean sheet of paper (without looking for the imprint of the past) can offer up some ‘innovative, radical and indeed, fresh and audacious thinking’. Those who come with little baggage may need to be creative in constructing their own edifice.

      This can be particularly the case, as I think you are arguing in evoking Soros in considering the ‘developed’ world as an ’emerging’ PR culture. He seems to have been suggesting that the economic crisis in Western cultures is similar to the collapse of the Soviet system in terms of how a prevailing interpretation of the world can miss the significant changes that require a new way of thinking. Out of chaos and crisis, new ideas certainly can, and do, emerge.

      So to come back to colonialism and imperialism in respect of the suggested generic principles and specific applications paradigm (regardless of the hybrid cultural background of yourself and possibly Rob and Jim – I’m not aware of their pedigrees!). I don’t believe that a theory of public relations is comparable to concepts from ‘hard’ science which are less ethnocentric. Rather (as we started this series of posts), our worldviews influence how we interpret the cultural aspects of PR in practice. I’m reminded of anthropology and how as social scientists we are guided by our own cultural relativism. And perhaps in investigating a worldview of PR from a more ethnographic research paradigm (rather than a systems/business one) might provide new insight into the phenomenon.

      1. My apology for such a late entry into this discussion. A home remodeling project and a trip to Boston University to give the Melvin DeFleur Lecture have kept me off the Internet the last two weeks.

        The principal question Heather raised seems to be whether it would be good for young or new public relations theorists to discard the paradigm Toni, Rob, and I have constructed as a theory of generic principles and specific applications. I cannot answer this question much better than Rob did. He said much of what I would say about the value of new approaches and the wisdom of not throwing out the old just because it is old or still exists. He invokes the thinking of Thomas Kuhn quite well.

        I think that new and different approaches are always good and that different paradigms can coexist and stimulate debate within a discipline. However, I don’t think our theory of generic principles and specific applications comes even close to being a dominant paradigm. Rob, Toni, and I have all written about the need to institutionalize our “strategic management/behavioral” paradigm in public practice and theory. I believe the institutionalized dominant paradigm still remains what I call the “symbolic-interpretive” approach–the idea that the role of public relations professionals is to craft messages to influence the interpretation or meaning that members of publics hold in their minds about the behaviors of organizations. Public relations, in the symbolic-interpretive paradigm, has no role in managing the actual behavior of the organization–only the meaning attached to that behavior. In simpler terms, this is the old whitewash or smokescreen approach to public relations. Public relations tries to make the organization look good no matter how irresponsible the behavior might be.

        I see these two paradigms coexisting in public relations practice today throughout the world, but I think the symbolic-interpretive approach still dominates. Some day, I hope, the strategic/behavioral paradigm will become institutionalized as the dominant way that professionals, academics, journalists, organizational executives, and the general population think about public relations. So, please lets not throw out the theory of generic principles and specific applications until all possible improvements have been made (it is still and edifice that needs to be furnished) and becomes established in the thinking of all of the people I just mentioned.

        Thomas Kuhn also said that a dominant paradigm continues until it confronts an anomaly it cannot resolve–a problem it cannot solve. Then someone who generally is young or new to the discipline comes up with a new paradigm. That is what I think we have been trying to do to replace the symbolic-interpretive paradigm with a strategic management paradigm. Evaluation research shows that the symbolic-interpretive approach does not work. It worsens relationships between organizations and publics rather than improves them. It does not have the persuasive effects claimed. It has destroyed the reputation of the public relations profession. And, it has created widespread cynicism about public relations work. I believe we need an alternative paradigm such as the theory of generic principles and specific applications.

        Please give us a chance to finish the work on the strategic management paradigm before throwing it out. Someday, when it becomes institutionalized as the dominant way of thinking about public relations it may because ossified and may need to be replaced because it no longer solves public relations problems. That time has not arrived, however.

    2. Emerging from what …. was the question put to me by the Chinese ambassador after she had sat through a series of presentations by well intended public relations experts spouting sagely about public realtions needs and developments in the BRICs as Jim O’Neil had defined them.

      This was just before the Beijing Olympics and she left our lunch table chat to demonstrate that no country with 2000 years more history than Europe could be defined as emerging. How many have read Jolly Khaul’s history of public relations in India Frued and his relatives – Bernays et al may have set the standards in the US and by default its former coloniser but the British … colonisers were more likely Scots and Welsh, borrowed much from those they colonised and those things we call public relations – and most particularly community relations.

      Esoteric debate has its place but in a world where growth has stalled, communication is conducted by internet, people claim thousands of ‘friends’ based on facebook or linked in contacts it is time to examine whether this profession is blinking in the bright light of reality or blinkered to the real value it has and could contribute again to better mutual understanding.

      Panglossian ..don’t think so Virgil possibly.

  3. Toni, Bob and Jim – thank you for the time invested in this post. As three wise men, I wonder if I could ask you to step back – or forwards – in time and consider whether young practitioners and academics should build on your reflections – or start afresh in developing a public relations paradigm. Where the field was perhaps empty when you started thinking about PR, today it is full of sacred cows – would you be prepared to sacrifice these if you were young and looking at PR anew?

    Although there is much to be learned from the past forty years or so of research and reflection on the generic principles (and specific practices), perhaps if we continue to tweak these, do you think we may miss out on innovative, radical and indeed, fresh and audacious thinking?

    One area of concern could be that the current paradigm emerges from a particular time and place in the history of PR. Yet, the world has changed, and continues to change, with many of the beliefs about how things worked undergoing major revision or challenge.

    Let’s take an example. From a Western perspective, countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are described as ‘emerging’, implying a transition towards an existing model, progression towards an idea or normative approach, which is the one already established in the ‘developed countries’.

    If we accept that some countries are ‘emerging’ in terms of PR practice, who is to say that they will, could or should, emulate the existing model(s)? And, in emphasizing the paradigm proposed in this post, isn’t a colonial or imperialistic perspective evident (even if that’s not the intention)?

    1. Good comments, Heather. Let me make a few more responses to what you’ve said here:

      You argued that the world has changed since this paradigm was conceived. We agree, and our conversation acknowledged that. What we did not discuss was how exactly such changes may require alterations in the paradigm. I can think of several, but one is the impact of activism. This was originally seen as a specific variable, meaning the best place to address it would be locally; however, the Internet has introduced multiple means for globalised activism, and interest groups now pressure governments, corporations, and even other interest groups on a continual basis. Events or issues that go public locally can now become global concerns instantaneously, and vice versa. So is activism a specific variable or a generic variable—one to be handled locally or globally, or both? The same could be said about the impact of traditional media, of cultural hybrids, and other factors originally related to the paradigm.

      You also asked whether continued focus on the paradigm leads us to “miss out on innovative, radical … and audacious thinking?” Yes, it could. Thomas Kuhn argued half a century ago that science does not always proceed through the “advancement by accumulation” approach. Sometimes, he said, this accumulation is interrupted by dramatic shifts that come through the radical thinking you described. So, were someone attempting such revolution around this current paradigm, then my response would be by all means, go for it! Our purpose with the paradigm was to better understand international PR practices, not to protect theoretical turf; so, when someone else proposes a theory that creates even greater understanding than our paradigm, we would welcome it.

      However, we should also be careful about casting off theories just because we think they are imperialistic. It is true that when we say a nation is “emerging” in PR, that assessment is held against a certain standard, one which has evolved from long-standing, and mostly Westernized, theories and practices. But this is the case with many industries. To be a field, you must have some widely recognized standards, and these standards have to come from someplace. Every time you construct a building, you use certain materials and follow some pattern (written or otherwise) organizing one item on top of, or to the side of, the other until you have an edifice (and I hope it is recognized that this description still allows for a lot of different methods of construction and edifices, but they are still edifices in the end). Yet, if you take those same materials and simply lay them on the ground, with no coherent organization, have you really constructed anything? And the same can be said of public relations. Certainly there are different ways of building relationships or of communicating in different countries or communities. However, there also is growing convergence in most parts of the world as to common basic principles of the practice (think of the Global Alliance initiatives, for example). If countries go too far away from those common principles, it could beg the question as to whether what they are practicing is really public relations or something else.

      So there are a few more thoughts. I welcome continued discussion.

      1. Rob,

        Thank you for your response. I am pleased that you raise activism which is all about change, challenge and confronting existing paradigms. I appreciate that ‘active citizenship system’ was one of the elements of the PR infrastructure detailed on the earlier post. But perhaps rather than simply a characteristic to be understood, activism is a dynamic force affecting the overall infrastructure, or at least some elements of it. So as you indicate, it may act locally, but also needs to be recognised for its global/wolrdly impact.

        I would like to suggest also though, that activism itself could be considered as a generic principle of public relations. This doesn’t seem to appear at that level in the model. Activism may reconceptualise PR away from only seeking to maintain stasis, a state of equilibrium, or to subdue conflict (all considered by Murphy in her “Coping with an uncertain world” chapter in the Future of Excellence text). Instead, activism may be seen as part of PR – whether undertaken as Holtzhausen suggests, within an organisation, or where it is normally seen as opposing PR, outside an organisation. This is part of the thinking we’ve explored at PR Conversations and elsewhere regarding protest and dissent PR.

        But again, I’m drawing on what we already know to conceptualise PR. So I return to your suggestion of interruption rather than ‘advancement by accumulation’, and again challenge colleagues of a different generation and culture to not simply study theory, but be prepared to create it themselves.

        I do also take your point about constructing something that has meaning and probably will use some elements of what is familiar in stretching or breaking the existing boundaries. Your building analogy is helpful. I was also thinking about how modern technologies were created by a generation emerging from a more mechanical era – and now the younger generation are taking these ideas into areas that would have been inconceivable a few years ago. So not just erecting taller, shinier, slightly quirky buildings, but asking some fundamental questions about how people engage with the edifices and how things could be done differently.

        It would be great if some of these younger academics, practitioners and activists, could join the conversation here or in other media…

  4. Interesting Tony, do you actually believe that public relations practice isn’t defined by …the unique characteristics or – the organisation; the sector; the nation state or region in which the organisation operates?

    1. Peter, yours is a panglossian question, and the only realistic answer is that I try to rationalise what, as you imply, appears obvious and give it some practical and operational flesh.

      You know as well as I do that a great majority of our peers (me included and I imagine you too, but wouldn’t dare..) act by pavlovian reactions based on the last time around.
      My effort is to induce ourselves to think rather than to … shoot from the hip..

      Isn’t this what you also have tried to do in so many years of respected thinking and practice?

      Or did I misinterpret your question for which I am however grateful.

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