Identifying the Client`s Culture

Identifying the Client’s Culture
Public Relations Campaigns
School of Communication Studies
James Madison University
Dr. Michael Smilowitz
Why identify the client’s culture?
The more we know about the client, the
better our communication for that client.
For our purposes, let culture refer to:
The subjective understandings shared by
members of the client’s organization
regarding their organization’s
structures, functions, and evolution.
Deal and Kennedy’s Four Types
of Cultures
1. “Tough-guy/macho” culture.
2. “Bet your company” culture.
3. “Work hard/Play hard” culture.
4. “Process” culture.
Tough-guy/macho culture.
Tough-guy/macho culture.
Defining characteristics:
– Competitive, individualistic employees that
look to perform high risks, and expect
immediate feedback about the correctness of
their actions.
– Although part of a group, folks work
individually, looking to fight their own battles,
but will occasionally provide assistance to one
– High risk actions are considered necessary –
and so are really harsh outcomes if someone
Tough-guy/macho culture.
Often found in organizations of investment
bankers, traders, or engineering firms with the
“tough guy” attitudes about getting things
Things heard in “tough-guy/macho cultures”:
– “Around here, we shoot from the hip.”
– “Let’s hit ‘em, and hit ‘em hard.
– “Don’t think about it ... just do it.”
Bet your company culture.
Bet your company culture.
Defining characteristics:
– A high risk attitude, but decisions are to made
– Risks are taken only by the highest levels of the
organization, and only in areas of major
strategies and policies.
– Lower levels of the organization are to keep
things “stable” and safe ...until told to change.
Bet your company culture.
Classic examples are drug companies and
American automobile manufacturers.
Things heard in “Bet your company” cultures:
– “Go slow – but go big.”
– “We might do that ... but not till we’ve had lots
of meetings to get everyone on-board.”
– “Expect big payoffs if you got all the right
Work hard/play hard culture.
Work hard/play hard culture.
Defining characteristics:
– Lots and lots of low risk activity to result in lots
and lots of small gains.
– Work lives and social lives are merged.
– Everyone is expected to be a team player, to not
cause waves, or make things difficult for
– Every event has strong political overtones
because everyone is so connected.
Work hard/play hard culture.
Classic examples are marketing systems such
– Lots of meetings/conventions.
– Almost mandatory attendance at each
other’s weddings, birthdays, confirmations,
divorce celebrations.
– Competing to win trips to convention spots
to bask in the sun with other distributors
– Success in life comes from living the Amway
way ... constantly, all the time, in every facet
of life!
Work hard/play hard culture.
Things heard in “Work hard/play hard
– We have lots of fun working here.
– We don’t every want to make it hard for our
– It’s not a job ... its an adventure!
The “Process Culture”
The “Process Culture”
Defining characteristics:
Consistent pursuit of low risk, small gains.
Survival is the most important objective.
Bureaucratic structure and function.
Lots of signs of formal rank and tangible
symbols of status.
– Lots of policy and procedure manuals.
The “Process Culture”
Classic examples:
The “Process Culture”
Classic examples:
Major Frank Burns from MASH
Banking/Insurance Companies
Government agencies
Capital intensive industries
The “Process Culture”
Things heard in a “process culture”:
– Don’t rock the boat ....ever.
– If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
– That’s a nice idea, but its not how we do things
around here.
– You do a good job for the next twenty years,
and you too can have your own name plate.
Paconowsky and Trujillo’s
Cultural Indicators
1. Facts
The social knowledge of the organization.
What people say to one another about what the
organization is...what it stands for...what are its
2. Practices
The manner by which things are done.
The norms for who does what, when, where,
and how. Who talks to who ... about what?
Who can initiate conversations? Terminate?
Paconowsky and Trujillo’s
Cultural Indicators
3. Vocabulary
• The specialized language used by
members. The JARGON.
4. Metaphors
• The organization is like a machine ..
• The sports metaphor .. All team players
... need a real go getter ... grab that ball
and run.
• The family metaphor ... Supportive,
relaxed ... but parents are always right.
Paconowsky and Trujillo’s
Cultural Indicators
5. Legends
• The stories, myths people tell about the
heroes of their organization.
6. Rites and Rituals
• The customs, pleasantries, and ceremonies
that mark important organizational

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