Public Relations and Public Affairs from a European

European Perspectives on Public
Instructor: Richard Bailey
Excellent organisations
‘In short, excellent organizations realize that they can get
more of what they want by giving publics some of what
they want.’
Grunig and White 1992 p46
Critique of symmetry /
‘We are dealing with an attempt .. To propose a normative
theory of excellent public relations. What such a position
means is that vast areas of activity (three of the four of
Grunig’s models) can be seen as public relations that is
not quite right, dysfunctional.’
Pieczka 1996 p153
Critique of symmetry /
‘What is wrong with a normative theory? Well, what
is wrong with the Ten Commandments? Only that
they make perfect and profound sense to the
converted, but appear problematic to those who
operate outside them.’
Pieczka 1996 p154
Critique of symmetry /
‘How can it be possible to talk about decentralization,
empowerment and trust, and at the same time claim
that to be effective public relations needs to be in the
dominant coalition?’
Pieczka 1996 p154
Critique of symmetry /
‘The lack of challenge leads to the development of a somewhat
confused or hybrid form of systems theory achieving the
status of ideology within the public relations canon.’
Pieczka 1996 p156
Critical perspectives
‘Educators [in the UK] turned to the USA for undergraduatelevel textbooks, especially Cutlip, Center and Broom and
Grunig and Hunt… The consequence of this cultural
borrowing had some interesting effects. It led to the
proselytizing of the rather heavenly ‘symmetrical
communication’ model, which could allow students and their
teachers to feel good about their occupation and side-step
criticism that they were trainee propagandists.’
L’Etang 2008 p248-9
Critical paradigm
‘The dominant paradigm in public relations has tried to
build theory in a coherent way that is useful (functional)
for practitioners. While there is nothing wrong with that,
there are other ways of exploring and understanding
public relations practice.’
2008 p11
Critical paradigm
‘The critical paradigm is very clearly outside the dominant
paradigm. It points out the limitations of systems by asking
hard questions about the possession and use of power, the
nature of authority, morality and political economy. Critical
academics explore questions about propaganda, corporate
power, the public sphere, culture and commodification. They
might also ask questions about class, race and exploitation.’
2008 p256
Critical paradigm
‘Postmodernism… aims to free PR from its narrow
definition as organizational communication
management to argue that symmetry can be seen as
manipulation and management control.’
L’Etang 2008 p258
Toxic Sludge is Good for You!
Positive uses of PR ‘do not in any way
mitigate the undemocratic power of the
multi-billion dollar PR industry to
manipulate and propagandise on behalf of
wealthy special interests, dominating
debate, discussion and decision-making.’
Stauber and Rampton 1995
A Century of Spin
‘This book is an attempt to reassess some
of the history of popular democracy in the
twentieth century by looking at how
corporations have used public relations –
propaganda – to secure their interests.’
Miller and Dinan 2008 p1
Rethinking Public Relations
‘The major conclusion remains that PR
has manipulated public opinion in
favour of ideas, values and policies that
economic and political elites (some
elected) have favoured.’
Moloney 2006 p41
Public sphere reconceptualised as
‘persuasive sphere’ (Moloney 2000)
Rethinking Public Relations
‘If the Grunigian paradigm concentrates on the
symmetries of organisational relationships for analysing
PR, and the rhetorical approach privileges symbolic
exchange between entities, the preferred concentration
here is on power distributions among PR producers and
consumers, and those observing their messaging.’ (Moloney
2006 p55)
PR and the public sphere
Habermas (1962, 1996) argued that PR was publicity to
advance the political interests of business and advertising
was publicity to advance its market interests. As such it
was outside the public sphere and a negative influence on
Moloney 2006 p49
PR and propaganda
‘PR is ‘white’ or ‘grey’ propaganda and will be described
here as ‘weak’ propaganda’. (Moloney 2006 p71).
‘Our contention is that there are no real moral
distinctions: both practices are essentially amoral, capable
of serving any cause.’ (Morris and Goldsworthy 2008)
PR and democracy
‘The link argued here is that PR is the voice of rival
interests competing for advantage in a form of public
communication consistent with liberal democracy.’
(Moloney 2006 p74)
What is presented here is two forms of co-existence: PR
propaganda and a type of democracy surviving together
(neutral co-existence) without benefit to democracy; and
PR/propaganda producing benefits for that democracy
(beneficial co-existence). (Moloney 2006 p75)
PR and democracy
‘PR ‘sours’ pluralism through endless public argument, and
tends towards a culture where ‘having arguments’ takes
precedence over ‘making arguments’. PR also expresses the
negative side of civil society where special pleading
predominates and reinforces structural inequalities in it.’
(Moloney 2006 p87)
PR and democracy
‘[This book] argues that British PR has been on a long
journey away from the exclusive servicing of
dominant business interests and of government,
towards more inclusive use by subordinate interests.’
(Moloney 2006 p90)
‘People who because of their defined role in society such
as lawyers, advertisers, lobbyists and public relations
practitioners express messages that speak to only half the
landscape. Like the shining moon, they present only the
bright side and leave the dark side hidden.’
Jensen (1997) cited in Moloney 2006 p106
Public sphere
‘The public sphere is where issues are debated and policy
made’ (L’Etang 2008 p108)
‘The public sphere constitutes that societal arena in
which citizens convene and discuss social problems freely.’
(Ihlen et al 2009 p7)
‘Public relations invades the process of ‘public opinion’ by
systematically creating news events or exploiting news
that attracts attention... ‘Engineering of consent’ is the
central task. (Habermas 1989 p193-194 cited in L’Etang 2008 p108)
Societal perspectives
‘We argue that the instrumental and administrative
perspectives that currently prevail must be supplemented
with societal approaches that expose what public
relations is in society today rather than only what it
should be at the organizational level.’ (Ihlen, van Ruler,
Fredriksson 2009 p4)
Public relations as
planned persuasion
‘PR is the planned persuasion of people to behave in ways
that further its sponsor’s objectives. It works primarily
through the use of media relations and other forms of
third party endorsement.’
Morris & Goldsworthy 2008 p102
‘Their [Grunig and Hunt’s] thinking would leave most
real-life practitioners bemused.’
Morris & Goldsworthy 2008 p107
PR’s persuasive intent
“Our definition of public relations as the management of
mutually influential relationships within a web of stakeholder
and organizational relationships reflects a belief that public
relations does have a strong persuasive component.”
Coombs and Holladay 2007 p2
PR operates in the
‘marketplace of ideas’
‘A tenet of our democratic society is the free exchange
of ideas. The metaphor of the “marketplace of ideas” is
often used to describe the process… Public relations is
a way for people to be involved in the marketplace of
ideas... Just as all defendants have the right to an
attorney, all people have a right to have someone help
them be heard.’
Coombs and Holladay 2007 p23
Global perspectives
‘The Western definition of public relations assumes a
democratic political structure in which competing groups
seek legitimacy and power through public opinion and
elections’ (Sriramesh and Vercic 2009 p7)
Global perspectives
‘With an increase in the level of democratization of a
society has come a concomitant increase in the level of
sophistication of the public relations profession. There is
little doubt however that strategic public relations
flourishes in pluralistic societies.’ (Sriramesh and Vercic 2009 p7)
Global perspectives
82% of the world’s population lives in a media system that
is not free (Freedom House figures, cited in Sriramesh and Vercic 2009).
‘The coordinated effort of a group that organizes voluntarily in
an effort solve problems that threaten the common interest of
members of the group. In the process of problem solving, core
members of the group attract other social constituents or
publics, create and maintain a shared collective identity among
members for the time being, and mobilize resources and
power to influence the problem-causing entity’s decision or
action through communicative action such as education,
negotiation, persuasion, pressure tactics, or force.’ (Kim and
Sriramesh in Sriramesh and Vercic 2009 p82)
Hypothesis: ‘higher levels of economic prosperity result in
concomitantly higher levels of activism’ (Kim and Sriramesh in
Sriramesh and Vercic 2009 p87)
‘Societies that have pluralistic political systems, free or at
least partly free media systems, and greater individualism
among the populace, are more likely to foster higher
levels of activism requiring more symmetrical or strategic
approaches to public relations practice.’ (Kim and Sriramesh in
Sriramesh and Vercic 2009 p92)
Coombs, T and Holladay, S (2007) It’s not just PR, Blackwell
Grunig, J (1992) Excellence in Public Relations and Communications Management
Ihlen, O, van Ruler, B and Fredriksson, M (2009) Public Relations and Social
Theory: Key Figures and Concepts., Routledge
L’Etang, J and Pieczka, M (eds) (1996) Critical Perspectives in Public Relations,
Thomson Business Press
L’Etang, J (2008) Public Relations: Concepts, Practice and Critique, Sage
Miller, D and Dinan, W (2008) A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became
the Cutting Edge of Corporate Power, Pluto Press
Moloney, K (2006) Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and Democracy,
Morris, T and Goldsworthy, S (2008) PR: A Persuasive Industry?, Palgrave
Moloney, K (2nd ed 2006) Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and
Democracy, Routledge
Sriramesh, K and Vercic, D (revised ed 2009) The Global Public Relations
Handbook, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

similar documents