Is ‘reputation management’ an adequate description of the role of public relations in contemporary organizations?
Nowadays, to earn public understanding and acceptance, public relations is the management functions which is practiced to evaluates public perceptions, recognizes the policies and measures of an organization with public interest, and carries out a program of action (Hutton 1999).
According to Grunig and Hunt (1984), they have distinguished there are four models which describe how the public relations has been adopted. The models are press agentry/ publicity, public information, two-way asymmetric and two-way symmetric models.
Press agentry/ publicity and public information models are also one-way communication models whereas the previous one is more concerned with exposure and hype than the truth and the latter one emphasizes on information distribution as telling truth is essential. For two-way asymmetric model, it is a two-way but unbalanced communication. It stresses on backing up organizations’ views and perceptions. Two-way symmetric model is suggested to be the ideal model to practice public relations as it is two-way, balanced communication which aims for mutual understanding. However, in reality, organizations prefer to adopt press agentry, public information and two-way asymmetric models rather than the symmetric model (Huang 2004).
Although public relations has been practiced for years, it has always suffered from an identity crisis during the evolution. For example, the roles of public relations and the press are always mixed up and hard to be distinguished. In the past, people defined public relations as “using communication to build and hold goodwill”, “builder of public opinion” and “motivator” (Hutton 1999). In the present, it is defined as “reputation management”, “perception management”, and ”image management” (Hutton et al. 2001). Lordan (2005) suggested “the role of public relations professionals is to help the client to develop and sustain relationships with key publics by presenting the most favourable, but still completely truthful, information”. On the other hand, Hutton (1999) proposed public relations should be defined as “managing strategic relationships”. However, there is still difficult to give public relations a broadly accepted definition.
Recently, reputation management received increasing attention which is considered as the central role of public relations in companies nowadays. Moreover, the idea is supported by the British Chartered Institute of Public Relations how they define public relations. “Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behavior” (CIPR, n.d.). Whereas others disagree, they stress that public relations is more than just reputation management and it is key component in crisis management (Ashcroft 1997) and relationship management (Phillips 2006).
In this paper, it will discuss the roles of modern public relations and answer the question if the role of public relation is merely reputation management.
2. Roles of Public Relations
Another role of public relations is communication which is related to the process of delivering the key messages to the stakeholders. The public relations professionals have to research who their key publics that the message is addressing to, which media channels is the most possible to reach them and how the message should be constructed.
One of the communication models is the four models from Grunig and Hung (1984). As mentioned in the introduction, two-way symmetric is the normative ideal communication model (Grunig and Hunt 1984; Huang 2004). Symmetrical communication fosters interactive communication between company and the public. Thus, the company has to be able to initiate changes, rather than merely trying to change the cognitions, attitudes or behaviors of the...
References: CIPR. 2011. About PR?. Accessed April 1. http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/about-us/about-pr.
Grunig, J.E. and Hunt, T. 1984. Managing Public Relations, Holt, Rhinehart & Winstin, San Diego, CA.
Hutton, James G. 1999. “The definition, dimensions and domain of public relations”. Public Relations Review 25 (2): 199-214. http://edocs.lis.curtin.edu.au/eres.cgi?url=DC65010228.
Lewis, Stewart. 2003. “Reputation and corporate responsibility”. Journal of Communication Management 7 (4): 356-364. http://eres.lis.curtin.edu.au/cgi-bin/gw?url=DC65035563.
Linda, S Ashcroft. 1997. “Crisis management - public relations”. Journal of Managerial Psychology 12(5): 325-332. Doi: 10.1108/02683949710183522
Lordan, Edward J
Phillips, David. 2006. “Towards relationship management: Public relations at the core of organisational development”. Journal of Communication Management 10(2): 211-226. Doi: 10.1108/13632540610664751
van Ruler, Betteke. 2004. “The communication grid: An introduction of a model of four communication strategies”. Public Relations Review 30 (2): 123-143. http://edocs.lis.curtin.edu.au/eres.cgi?url=DC65010521.
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