What comes after Grunig? Take a look at these two documents before you reply…

Most visitors of this blog are well aware of Jim Grunig, if not for other reasons, because they remember an extensive interview he gave us almost a year ago.

Since then, while visiting colleagues, speaking with students or professional associations around the world, I often am asked a question which seems to be looming about out professional body of knowledge.
What comes after Grunig?

Now, for the exclusive curiosity of cherished visitors, take a look at these two links which give, I believe, a forceful and convincing answer to that query.

The first pr under digitalization is a power point presentation Jim gave in Hong Kong last Saturday at this conference, and concerns pr under digitalization.

The second brazilian chapter grunig is instead the english (original) version of the first chapter of a recent book published in Portuguese, together with Brazilian scholar Maria Aparecida Ferrari.

Both documents, highly diverse, are an excellent demonstration that -in the company of an impressive array of quality contributions coming from many other scholars and researchers around the world- the answer to that looming question is that after Grunig…comes Grunig.

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39 Replies to “What comes after Grunig? Take a look at these two documents before you reply…

  1. The second brazilian chapter grunig…..Would you please tell me the published year of this chapter? I would like to take some points from this to my thesis….thanks

    1. The chapter is a translation from a book: Relações públicas teoria, contexto e relacionamentos by James E. Grunig, Maria Aparecida Ferrari and Fábio França published in 2009.

  2. I have often written highly of Stuart Ewen’s book as it is one of the landmarks of our body of knowledge.
    I defintely agree with and endorse your suggestion that, before expressing opinions or interpretations, one should read critically Grunig’s books.
    I wish you had also…
    In any case, teo minor points:
    I do not see a direct relationship between the concepts of two way and that of symmetrical communicationM and certainly is no relationship between the concepts of democratical and symmetrical communication;
    your points a,c,d and e -with the sole exception of b- all point to the development of an effective relationship between any social, public or private organization and its stakeholders. This has been going on for centuries and what Jim says, after having dome extensive descriptive research in hundreds of organizations way back in the late eighties (long before social media….), is simply that the more the relationship is balanced between the subjects the more effective is the communication process.

  3. I think we first ask what comes with Gtrunig before asking what caomes after Grunig
    Grunig’s works should be considered simply as public relations of the public relations industry; Grunig’s ideas on communication in organisations and role of public relations are mostly baseless justifications for the promotion of public relations business. How can a person think of a two-way of communication (a symmetrical communication) within a business environment and between an organisation and potential buyers? Two-way of communication requires all of the followings: Rights and means to be able to (a) initiate a communication, (b) fill the content of communication, (c) change the subject of communication during the interaction, (d) stop an ongoing communication, (e) decide on (or significantly influence on) where to produce, how to produce, where and how to distribute and how to share the outcomes. There can be no two-way democratical or symmetrical relationship if any of the above requirements is missing. Stuart Ewen’s book Pr: A Social history of Spin is an excellent source if you really want to know the real nature of the public realtions beyond the prevailing mystifications and factoids.
    I suggest that (a) we should critically read Grunig’s Model and (b) develop theories that is not geared toward the justifications, marketing and promotion of public relations business, but geared toward to understand and explain the nature of public relations in a society.

  4. Sabiha,

    Toni asked me to provide the reference for this book. It was published in Portuguese in Brazil. Toni posted my three chapters in the pre-translation English. The book has not been published in English.

    Grunig, J. E., Ferrari, M. A., & França, F. (2009). Relações públicas: Teoria, contexto e relacionamentos (Public relations: Theory, context, and relationships) São Paulo, Brazil: Difusao Editora.

  5. Hi Toni,
    I’ve been trying to find the publication date of James Grunig’s book Public Relations: Theory, Context and Relationships and Relationships to which you have embedded a link. Would you happen to know when it was published? I would be very grateful for any information on retailers.
    Sabiha Kadri

  6. Bill Brody wrote: “the fact that most practitioners define their roles individually in response to client or organizational needs.”

    This is more profound than you realize!

    I certainly hope that this is the case. If we are not helping our clients fulfill their needs than the best description of our role is “unemployed.”

    This, I believe, is at the root of the resistance to Excellence Theory: Excellence wants us to believe that it’s the singular path to enlightenment, the true faith and the golden chalice of wisdom. But there are too many needs for which Excellence just doesn’t fit.

    We had better contribute mightily to business effectiveness if we want to be more than an historical footnote. Finding out how to quantify (as in objective, repeatable models) is a task for the academy, to be sure. Whether any of us on the practitioner side can muster the energy to assist in that effort is an open question.

  7. Public relations as a discipline has been attempting to better define itself for decades without perceptible progress. These conditions arise in large part out of the fact that most practitioners define their roles individually in response to client or organizational needs.

    I spent more than 20 years in consulting without ever using the words “public relations” in dealing with clients or prospective clients. I presented my firm as a developer and manager of communication systems designed to solve clients’ business problems and enjoyed considerable success.

    Debating the boundaries of “public relations,” in my view, is an exercise in futility. Newcomers to the discipline may want to use precise phraseology to circumscribe their practices, but each of us ultimately will be judged professionally by what we do and how well we do it.

  8. But at the end of it all, we are still left with this question: What does PR want to be when it grows up?

    In the 30+ years I have been involved with PR, practitioners have been urged to adopt or become the following:

    ·Futurists like John Naisbitt (anyone remember John Naisbitt?)
    ·Corporate Consciences
    ·Storytellers and Historians
    ·Issues Managers
    ·Relationship Managers
    ·MBAs in Funny Clothes
    ·Internal Consultants and Counselors to Management
    ·IMC Experts
    ·Corporate Cultural Anthropologists (my favorite)
    ·Communication Social Scientists
    ·Social Media Mavens
    ·Conversation Architects

    You can probably think of several more. PR is like an undergraduate trying on majors, or a 22-year-old kid trying on careers and identities.

  9. Bob:
    Sorry I missed that early debate you linked to in your last post. I was trained at Purdue University at a time when the program had a rhetorical focus. In my PhD work in issue management and public affairs we did not read Grunig. Excellence has its place in the grand discussion of public relations but I agree with your point that it should not dominate the conversation. While small, the number of scholars pursuing other views of PR is growing with the likes of David McKie being very vocal and Bob Heath proving a counter with focus on meaning (coming from rhetoric) to name but a few. We are seeing textbooks that use Excellence as an historical point and not the framework for the practice. In our recent book PR Strategy and Application, the focus is on PR as managing influence infusing a critical element into discussion of the profession. Course are starting to reflect this change as well because they can use these alternative books. While still in the minority, those who embrace and use alternative views are slowly emerging from the fog. I strongly believe this trend will continue and will greatly improve the field with an infuse of desperately needed new ideas.

  10. This conversation took an interesting turn…now the profession is “post-Grunig?!”

    Certainly, if one examines the documents Toni links to above, Grunig is not “post-Grunig” or “post Excellence.” If anything, I see his post-retirement work as attempting to solidify the commitment to Excellence.

    And, if we’re all “post-Grunig” now, where were all you post-Grunigites last year when we engaged in a lengthy discussion of the merits and demerits of the so-called Excellence Theory: http://www.prconversations.com/?p=471

    I think it’s great that we emphasize the practical aspects of the field, which many of you have done above. But, the scholarly community has not embraced an environment that disputes Grunig.

    Sure, there are pockets of scholars who have moved beyond or are looking for a more effective paradigm, but Grunig and Excellence still dominates research agendas. My contention is that this is at the detriment of the development of the field.

    For an example of how passionately Excellence is still argued, take a look at the post and comments I linked to earlier in this comment. Certainly the professional world never accepted Excellence as fervently as academics, but Grunig is still at the heart of what most are teaching. We seemed to move pretty easily and quickly past this.

  11. Sean makes a critical point. We can debate theoretical constructs ad infinitum and fail professionally in the absence of client or employer honesty and trustworthiness (see “The Great Trust Offensive” in the Sept. 17 edition of Business Week.

    Years ago, I was admonished to ensure that performance precedes promotion. The substance of the message: the attributes of organizations and their products or services always will overpower any countervailing communication efforts.

    That’s even more the case in today’s “wired world.” Stakeholders who consider themselves to have been misled by organizations can “let the world know about it” in a matter of minutes.

    Messages too easily can appear to be contradicted by quality or performance. Even advertising copy can inadvertently contradict manufacturer claims. What do you think of the following paragraph, which appeared in a full page Wall Street Journal advertisement for Lexus automobiles:

    “The HS hybrid features four driving modes: Normal mode. Electric mode. ECO mode and Power mode. So the driver gets to decide how efficient or powerful they want their car to be.”

    I wonder how many readers noticed the singular/plural problem and wondered whether sloppiness in grammar might be reflected in the product. Lexus’ claim to the “pursuit of excellence” came immediately to my mind.

    Contradicting reality, in essence, is an exercise in futility. Sooner or later, reality will overpower messages. In other words, putting more lipstick on a pig (with apologies to pig fanciers) doesn’t make it any less a pig.

  12. This is a very interesting and lively discussion. Thanks, Toni, for starting us off.

    My comments are as a practitioner rather than an adjunct professor:

    1. The theory that underpins strategy depends on specific objectives, and may explain our choice of tactics.
    2. Excellence assumes that two-way, symmetrical is the best strategy.

    Objectives are all — I won’t even touch the concept that our communications objectives AREN’T explicitly tied to business objectives; they simply have to be or we’re useless. This means that our strategy has to serve our objectives, and the theory we choose (Excellence, Rhetorical, etc.) has to support that strategy.

    Symmetrical implies a mutuality of change — both sender and receiver make some kind of accommodation to each other’s position. This is a rarity, in my experience. More often than not, our objectives answer the question, “what do we want people to think, feel or do as a result of our communication.” This implies persuasion as the operating philosophy, whether through information subsidy, direct appeal or other messages.

    The idea that excellence would sweep the Bernaysians from the field indeed has been proven wrong, though the social media mavens can argue that “the conversation” drives the reverse conclusion. The jury is still out, as far as I am concerned. Authenticity and transparency weren’t invented in excellence, but those concepts, while appreciated, aren’t always in evidence even after all this time. Arthur Page must still be shaking his head.

    There still are people who will lie (in degrees) to achieve their objectives, and social media (owing to its lack of objective authority and possibly to its tolerance of anonymity) addresses that prevarication only over time.

    For now, I will admit that Excellence, with its structural and leadership requirement components, is useful to a certain extent. But the paradise it so idealistically offers is fairly remote from our current reality.

  13. We are all post-Grunig?
    Oh, I get it: it’s like Post-Modernism, or Deconstruction.
    I would sure hate to be post-myself, though.

  14. Thank you Timothy for this profound comment.

    Two things:

    there is a signficant difference between the act of involving stakeholders and engaging stakeholders (off or online).

    Involving stakeholders (using this term implying that they are aware of the organization and interested in relating with it) means that the organization give facilitated access to information and feedback channels concerning the general aims and specific objectives that the organization is attempting to pursue.
    Also, this mode is crucial to attract the attention of potential stakeholders who are not necessarily aware nor interested in relationships with the organization simply because they are not aware of its general aims or specific objectives.

    Engaging stakeholders implies instead that the organization decides which stakeholders to incentivate and attract to specific and different physical or digital spaces in which direct conversation, dialogue and negotiation are discussed and decided amongst willing and active participants.

    This distinction, which in my professional work has proven very very useful, allows the professional and the organization to appropriately invest the necessary time and energy without overindulging in lip service,expensive, embarassing and often useless exercises.

    Excellence is gloriously defunct, I agree, and I dare say that we are all post-Grunig, including Jim.

    This is not a sufficient reason however to halt situational and careful visits to the Excellence grave (as well as others of course) to find inspiration which is useful and compelling.

  15. I am coming in very late but would like to add a few ideas. First about Stirling21 and stakeholders not wanting to engage. This was an interesting discussion. Clearly a small percentage of stakeholders want engagement, research in customer relations support that. This segment is important because they may be opinion leaders and the two-step flow model communication could be at work. The point is that we neglect that larger percentage that do want to be engaged by assuming either they all want to be or should be engaged. We could actually be turning stakeholders off by trying too hard to engage them. Consider the discussion of the “creepy” factor in Ojeda-Zapata’s book twitter means business. How do we account and address the limited engagement segment? We need multiple models. Second, we should connect ROI and advocacy/influence. Even engagement is about influence: stakeholders influencing organizations and organizations influencing stakeholders. ROI is about results, what do we get for our PR efforts. Practitioners and researchers are grappling with metrics for social media because public relations does seek to move the needle—influence the actions of others. I include informing and attitude change as pre-cursors to behavior. I am very comfortable with public relations being about influence and do not seek to hide from that fact. Third, why even a concern about Post-Gruing/Excellence? If you see the recent books and conferences for public relations, a meaningful segment has moved beyond trying to determine whether or not their ideas fit in one box we call Excellence. There are any number of emerging micro theories about the public relations practice that show no concern for Excellence. (I consider Excellence a macro theory that competes with Cameron’s more robust Contingency theory to explain the entire public relations practice as opposed to micro theories that look at specific practices such as risk communication). Finally, we should resist labeling anything that uses two-way communication or dialogue as following Excellence. We know but often forget in writing Excellence is more complex than just two-way communication and dialogue. Two-way communication and dialogue both have a long history in communication research that pre-dates Excellence. So just using the term two-communication or dialogue does not mean someone is following Excellence, they need to buy into the larger theory to make that call. There is a wonderful array of ideas that have emerged in public relations that have little to no relevance to Excellence. The main connection to Excellence often is defending the ideas from people who continue to want to place public relations either inside or outside the Excellence box. For many of us that categorization is unimportant to our work. Excellence has a meaningful place within the field and continues to influence some research but is neither the touchstone for all research and practice nor the final statement in its evolution. I would argue many public relations researchers are already post-Grunig/Excellence.

  16. With junior students one reverses the order, of course — starting with 2-way communication, to which they relate immediately (because of social media). But they have to understand the earlier models/paradigms since their chance of encountering a manager in the workplace with such a mindset is good. So they have to be able to recognise a mindset different from their own, understand the reasons for it, and learn how to deal with it.

  17. Toni, with senior/ post-graduate students we debate the interpretive vs the behavioural paradigm, and all the other more recent versions. However, if one is dealing with practitioners who have never studied or junior students, the 4 models are highly effective in grabbing their attention — before one moves on!

  18. Benita and Bills,

    Jim’s more recent (than the four models) juxtaposition between the two intepretations of public relations practice included in the two recent papers here, together with the bridging and buffering one he has been echoing now for some time, in my view represent a sound summary of the turf scraps we are facing. Certainly one of Jim’s qualities is that he convincingly continues to simplify complex concepts like he did many many years ago with the four models.

    As the other Bill (Brody) intelligently says in his comment to Don Bates’ guest post http://www.prconversations.com/?p=606#commentsJudy's most recent post:
    ‘“There always are two reasons not to change. Reason One is ‘we’ve never done it that way,’ and Reason Two is in ‘we’ve always done it the other way.’”

  19. I addressed my comment above to Bill Brody. It was only after I uploaded it that I saw Bill Sledzik’s comment. But, yes, Bill S, I agree with you too. The 4 models are wonderful conceptual tools since students in my country (South Africa), esp. graduate students who are practitioners too, can relate to them immediately. (So I don’t listen to Jim who once asked at a Bled conference that we must PLEASE forget about the 4 models now and move on).

    I can’t do that, Jim–they prove too many points and besides, they help us to understand why we have to move on! It is only when one understands the past and the present, that you know where to go to change the future.

  20. Bill, I ‘use’ the different definitions of PR to help students (or practitioners) understand that there can never be only one ‘right’ definition for PR (just like there will or can never be only one ‘right’ religion in the world). I thus agree that PR cannot be ‘precisely’ defined, meaning that there is no wrong or right definition.

    If I have 10 students in the class, I provide them with 10 definitions and invariably there is support for quite a number of the different definitions — depending on the world-view for PR of the specific person (not that they realise that). This is not surprising since PR is not part of the natural sciences where a new paradigm usually totally replaces the old one. I mean, who continues using candles when you can afford electricity (unless you are feeling romantic!!) Or typewriters when you can afford a computer, etc, etc.

    However, in the social sciences this is not the case. The old paradigms (and some of their ‘supporters’) hang around while the new paradigm gets its share of early and late ‘adopters’. So at any one time, there are many world-views present in a group. Hence the arguments we regularly witness within a domain or the turfwars we see between different sub-domains.

    What better example is there in PR than the groups of academics/ practitioners still holding on to ‘publicity’ (for instance) as their paradigm while others tout the support of marketing as the main purpose of PR, or others embrace a ‘two-way symmetrical’ or ‘relationship’ or ‘reflective’ or ‘reputation’ or ‘CSR’ approach to PR?
    And each of these approaches is represented by a different definition of PR!

    I think that once students/ practitioners/ academics understand this principle and WHY there are different definitions, the bickering stops and there is tolerance for each others’ views. But one first has to understand before you can accept.

  21. Bill Sledzick’s points are well-taken, but I’d suggest that one of them needs more attention: return on investment, or quantifiable outcomes.

    Professional do themselves a disservice, it seems to me, in failing to establish objectives for their strategies and tactics; specifying, as it were, how much and by when.

    Measures can be direct or indirect. For example, worker morale can be monitored via relatively costly surveys or, on the other hand, by calculating personnel turnover rates (in this day and age, adjusted for economic conditions).

    Under any circumstances, if you and your boss agree as to rational objectives, you’ve established baselines for evaluation through direct or indirect means.

    And if you’re wise enough to under-promise and over-deliver, you can go a long way toward assuring mutually satisfactory outcomes.

    It’s been many years since I heard public relations evaluation described as akin to discharging a rifle inside a barn; then going outside and drawing a target around the hole. Too many persist in futile tactics of this sort.

    We’re far better served, I’d argue, by taking the lead in quantitative and qualitative evaluation rather than evading the issue. It’s simply not going to go away.

  22. I arrive even later than Bob (and thanks only to his link from Facebook). Sorry I missed the early discussion, and almost every other discussion since mid-summer. I’m working to reconnect.

    As a PR educator, I begin class discussion of theory not with Excellence, but with Grunig and Hunt’s 4 models of public relations practice. It’s a handy typology that helps students see an evolution of the practice, but I am quick to point out — as Bob does in his comment — that many C-suite executives don’t see the value in symmetrical practice largely because it has not been quantified (the ROI that Bob insists we need).

    Given that ANY discussion of public relations must include a discussion of evaluation and measurement, we’re left with a theory whose ROI can be called “soft” at best. Will that change? I hope so, but attempts to operationalize concepts like “trust” and “credibility”have a ways to go. And translating those concepts to bottom-line results is that much tougher.

    What I enjoy about the 4 Models discussion is that it reflects the reality of PR practice. Sometimes we’re “press agents” creating news where none exists. At other times we’re purveyors of “public information,” helping people understand issues and make informed decisions.

    I would insist that we are always persuaders in the asymmetrical sense, because we are advocates for the organizations in which we are based, and therefore never entirely objective. Finally, we are listeners and facilitators in the way that Drs. Grunig and Hunt described us in the symmetrical model.

    I am perfectly comfortable operating in all 4 categories, and I worry at times that we spend too much time wringing our hands about it. The conversations promoted by social media are a wonderful thing, and because they are online, they will certainly generate tons of information for the data miners to analyze.

    These are exciting times, made better by discussions like this.

  23. Just how productive are efforts to precisely define “public relations” or predict the future of Grunig’s two-way symmetric concept? The latter, at minimum, underscores an on-going need for organizations to listen as well as talk. The former — more importantly, from my perspective — can lead only to renewed turf warfare among the communication disciplines.

    Before becoming engaged in post-secondary education, where many of the interdisciplinary turf battles originate and/or are perpetuated, I spent the best part of 20 years in what most would call “public relations” without ever using that term.

    My reasoning, albeit perhaps more pertinent to that era than this:

    First,during the early days of public relations, few recognized much less understood the term and it took too long to explain to prospective clients.

    Second, the very mention of “public relations” raised the hackles of those responsible for advertising, marketing and sales promotion, leading to unnecessary and counterproductive turf battles.

    Third, clients and prospective clients then were and, in my opinion, today remain most interested in outcomes rather than labels.

    My approach in dealing with clients was and remains a simple and direct, as expressed in one or both of two question: “what are your organization’s biggest problems” and “what do you perceive to be your primary communication needs?”

    Their responses rarely failed to lead to extensive discussion of one or more areas in which problems can be successfully addressed — in whole or part — through communication.

    Public relations, in my view, is the art of relationship-building, the process through which, in the minds of constituent group members “the vendor” becomes “my vendor,” as it were.

    Permit me to pose a somewhat different question: what is to be gained by attempting to precisely define the boundaries of public relations or, for that matter, the limits of the other persuasion disciplines?

  24. Sorry to join the conversation so late, but the whole equation seems pretty simple: if Grunig’s so-called “Excellence Theory” were beneficial to practitioners, then they would have adopted it wholeheartedly over the last two-plus decades.

    The communications profession would welcome a magic bullet if one existed…the “Excellence Theory” isn’t it. If it provided the benefits Grunig assumes, then it would be at the front of every communicator’s mind.

    Professionals yearn for innovation, just like their colleagues in other professions. For example, look at the business world’s acceptance of innovative management theories (say, for example, Six Sigma) over the last several decades. If it works, adoption is not difficult.

    No matter how much individual teaching a professional does within her organization, she is fighting a losing battle, particularly if her colleagues (with business degrees and MBAs) don’t buy into the theory.

    So, for 20-plus years, educators have spun their wheels teaching Grunig’s models, while students confront an entirely different world after graduation.

    I’ve said it in this forum before and I will say it again. The so-called “Excellence Theory” is a foundation of sand for public relations. Attempting to build on it is not going to work. Sometimes a poorly designed house simply needs bulldozed.

    If professionals and educators really wanted to do something beneficial, they would reject Grunig and begin building a model that enables professionals to do their jobs better and organizations to communicate more effectively.

    Some of Grunig’s ideas might play a role in that new model, but time has proven that “Excellence” isn’t excellent.

  25. Thank you all for an illuminating discussion (as always).
    It strikes me reading it that what we have here is largely different strokes for different folks. Some traditional methods are found to be still working in some sectors, and following the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ rule, they’ll continue until there’s a convincing argument to do otherwise. In other situations audiences have different expectations of being engaged and a more symmetrical approach is more appropriate. Priscilla Murphy and others have encapsulated this with their thinking on Contingency Theory.
    I would like to see Don’s idea of PR being about standardized actions but I think, given the broad nature of what is described as PR and the diversity of cultures and expectations of different peoples, PR has me more in mind of the Church of England… trying to be a broad church and accommodate everyone. With mixed results!

  26. I think most practiotioners who bypass,ignore or otherwise don’t try two-way symetrical communications are the same ones who still wonder how social media affects their world. If this sounds critical, it is!
    Patrice points out how PR 2.0 is most likely the most predominant manifestation of Jim’s advocacy for two-way communications. Many of us,and I include myself in this critique, don’t make social media a key strategy in our plans. Some still see it as entertainment or something not quite connected to our work.
    I think we are watching the train go by and it is picking up steam! Two-way communications is here, it is alive on social media and Public relators had better make it an integral part of their work. Political operatives have seized the moment and are increasingly going the route of social media to dialogue or advocate their positions and hurt their oponents. And yes, I say that many still fall into the trap of using social media as strictly an advocacy platform. To say that this is a step backwards is an understatement. There will alwasy be a place for advocacy and a place for listening and dialogue. The real test is to make good use of the full potential of these two-way communications opportunities.

  27. Hi Don! Good to hear from you…

    I am not sure I interpret correctly, but I seem to hear that the new software you are working on might be a development of the butschi-steyn-etc… which is so admirable and comprehensively useful for communication directors worldwide.

    I posted on this here http://www.prconversations.com/?p=257 and here http://www.prconversations.com/?p=231

    Only a few months ago I had the privilege of having Mindi Kasiga, from the Government of Tanzania, in Rome to present a case study on public diplomacy in her country.

    She being an early adopter of the first release of the Butschi-Steyn and I being an early admirer of that effort, I asked her for an update and she told me with enthusiasm that it work wonders.

    If all my assumptions are correct, would you be so courteous as to prepare a guest post on your developments for pr conversations?

    I am sure our visitors would be very interested.
    let me know.

  28. Toni

    Posts about theory versus practice are always interesting and I must say you do a great job of making it easy for your readers to address. In my view, a more strategic approach to professional public relations is a no brainer but most of the PR activity that I see is largely tactical in effect. What comes after Grunig? Yes, more Grunig. BUT we first need to get Grunig’s thinking translated into standardized action, especially at the corporate level, which in turn will greatly influence thinking and action in smaller organizations. At this juncture in our professional history, we still have a long way to go in institutionalizing what his research and interpretation make clear. Fortunately, people like you are pushing the proposition as I do, too. In fact, I’m working with a new software that is intended to help assure the strategic model by providing a comprehensive platform for planning, managing and evaluating strategically — from the preparation of short-term projects to the implementation of long-term global initiatives. Approaching public relations more intellectually and with the application of new technology, we can start to build the kind of profession that we all want and that we all know is needed — one that contributes more substantively to the success of our organizations in terms of the broader public interest.

  29. Toni,

    Absolutely agree on the lack of intellectual curiosity, and that suggests a need for rebuilding the rotten edifice of PR education, as I’ve suggested here before.

    As for it being “misleading” to attribute the “sorry” state of professional practice to Grunig, all I’m saying is that his prescription isn’t being followed, and is in fact being ignored. Is it our job to show them the light? Or is it incumbent on the PR business to be working on a model that actually works in a repeatable, demonstrable way? I think the latter.

  30. Bill,

    I agree that we should all begin to use our heads a bit more then just rely on operative tools, of course.
    But this is highly generic statement.

    From my professional perspective (next year it will be 50 years of full time public relations activities) I can say with sufficient certainty that:

    a- particularly in the united states, the practice of public relations is still very much anchored to pre eighties concepts of communicating to (nothing to do with Jim..); while there are increasing numbers of programs being developed in other continents which are instead focussed on communicating with processes.
    I don’t wish to sound ‘corny’, but I am firmly convinced that many social, political, corporate governance, as well as marketing related activities in the usa are in a mess domestically and worldwide also (not only, of course) because of the lack of intellectual curiosity that mainstream pr professionals have demonstrated for this shift;

    b- it is plainly misleading to attribute to Jim the sorry state of a professional practice which in many of its areas stubbornly refuses even to consider that the Internet is a different environment which requires different approaches, and the hong kong presentation slides is very telling;

    c- personally, I have been adopting, interpreting and, where possible, developing the however-you-want-to-call-it shift since 1986 (23 years now), together with a host of other younger, middle aged and elderly collaborators.
    I am not saying that it works like a magic bullet, but I do say that (most importantly..) it makes your mind work (as you invoke); that my clients are satisfied; that their stakeholders appreciate it ….and that, by adopting different sets of performance indicators, the results are better than those competitors who push and shove to cram messages down other people’s throat which is the prime cause for our dismal reputation…

  31. Bill, quite a few papers at Stirling 21 made similar points. There was quite a lot of questioning of notions of dialogue, ranging from the very one-sided nature of much PR communication to cynical but true comments about most people not wanting a conversation with most of the organisations with which they routinely transact.

    I continue to say that it is the conversations around the product or organisation that matter and conclude that social media does amplify and extend what really is a true dialogue. I think it is hard for traditional stakeholder/ publics theory to accommodate this change.

  32. Bill,

    Anthony Hilton makes a similar point in this week’s UK edition of PR Week entitled: Bankers still live in PR-free zone. The point being that the PR folk in the sector are still churning out releases about credit cards and mortgage offers (ie marketing/press agentry) with little evidence of reputation or relationships management.

    It was also said at Stirling 21 that the voices of strategic financial PR consultants have been noticeably missing from the discussion and reflection on the world economic situation.

    Is it a lack of credibility, insight or embarrassment about the amount of money taken over the years to create hype and mystery with so little public, media and other stakeholder engagement in financial matters?

  33. “I have just come back from the Stirling 21 conference for PR academics and am still thinking about Magda Pieczka’s observation that PR was about advocacy not dialogue,”

    Intrigued by this comment from Philip, I looked up the Stirling 21 conference abstracts and found an interesting study conducted by Gareth Thompson at London Metropolitan University (“Spinning the Credit Crunch: The role of public relations in financial services firms under pressure.”).

    Here’s a telling quote:

    “In 2008, when the banking sector was stress-tested, interviewees reported that elements of normalized, professional PR practice broke down. In particular, while lawyers, corporate brokers, and finance professionals were part of the decision-making group advising the board-level executives, the communications professionals were often not included. Rather, they were receivers of decisions who were tasked with communicating to the external audiences (principally investors, investment professionals and media).”

    And thus it has ever been, and will ever be so until communicators drop their tools and begin using their heads to solve problems.

    If what comes after Grunig is more Grunig, then PR still has a long way to go. Two-way symmetrical communication may be a great dog food, but the dogs just won’t eat it!

  34. Philip, I understand, and suppose that others are having the same problem.
    I will try to do this immediately, but… not being as you well know, a nerd, I cannot guarantee success.
    Bear with me…

  35. Toni, sorry to be useless but I can’t work out how to open the Grunig Hong Kong file. I can unzip all the bits but can’t find anything that brings all the bits back together again. Grateful for any help…

  36. There was never a shadow of a doubt that J.E. Grunig’s Two-way Symmetrical Model is now being achieved through PR 2.0. Many viewed his model as pure Utopia. Not anymore. That’s why Professor Grunig is as relevant today as he was twenty and even thirty years ago. Thank you Mr. Muzi-Falconi for making that very clear.

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