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Public relations was born midst controversy. Although it is currently in its fifth trendphase, that controversy still remains. It seems that the emergence of a new trend-phase does not shake off the old, but that trends exist concurrently. For techniques from earlier trends may be regarded as more promotive of its goals by an organisation than those of more recent trends, and such an organisation will have its own particular view of the function of public relations.

Some have striven for conscience-driven changes with the plea that public relations be harnessed for the welfare of all society - the latest plea being, for example, that it take upon the role of activism in the pursuit of true democracy - but this confronts the question of whether public relations serves the interest of organisations or of sections of society. Rapid technological development in communication facility has made public relations, which is closely allied with communication, assume a high profile in the public arena of mass communication. This power of public profile plus the proliferation of its areas of operation, lends force to the claim that public relations should have scientific status and recognition as a profession, yet an overview of the literature indicated that public relations is not recognised as a scientific field in its own right, and that registration of its practitioners is not compulsory. This confronts educators with particular problems of public relations.

It is said above that a new trend-phase in public relations does not replace earlier trends, but that they exist side-by-side. This results in a situation where the controversial practices of public relations from an earlier phase are still being adopted by some at later stages, thus such controversy remains. When the differences in motive of public relations practice in its five trend-phases to date are considered, it can be seen that the definition of what public relations is, and what it does, is very challenging. Hence a broadly-accepted definition has remained elusive. There are definitions, such as that of Harlow (1976:36) which are so long that they fail to clarify what would constitute appropriate qualification for the field:20

Public relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools.

The foregoing definition was constituted by Harlow (1976:36) after studying 472 existing definitions.

Without a broadly-accepted definition of what public relations is, it is unlikely that fundamental research will be carried out to any great extent, for it is difficult to investigate an area whose nature, parameters and quality measures remain obscure. This eventuates in a lack of theory for contribution to a body of knowledge. Even were there sufficient theory proposition to constitute a body of knowledge, such theory would require research for testing and constant updating. Yet the research that is carried out in public relations often lacks theoretical foundation and so cannot fulfil its rightful role.

This study holds that education is the key to scientific status for public relations. Education can provide the personnel capable of making contributions so that a body of theory for prediction and control is established over time. Education can also provide the personnel on a regular basis for the testing and constant updating of theory. This study seeks to provide guidelines for public relations education and training which is outcomes-based on both a general level and also on a context-specific level for South African technikons. In order to do so, it is necessary to provide the background of pertinent areas of public relations.

Hence this chapter begins with a brief description of the birth of public relations and its controversy. As the main focus of the study is upon education, the next section provides a global perspective of public relations education and it is seen that there is a dual approach. These are one approach which prepares students for service as technicians 21

and another approach which prepares students so that they may eventually serve as managers. The issue of differing approaches gives rise to a situation of varying curricula being utilised for public relations education programmes. Some focus heavily on the Ahow-to-do-it@ approach, leaning mainly on public relations=s early journalistic beginnings and its thrust toward gaining publicity, yielding fruits of short-term acclamation or of profit-motive, with claims exceedingly difficult to establish because of the wayward forces of market changes or public taste. Such an approach seems dilettante in that public relations can be carried by changing market forces of capitalism, but these vagaries have also given voice to pleas for public relations not to overlook the calling to democracy. The later arrival of public relations education in Europe meant that it was viewed from a different angle - it was to prepare students for long-time service where they could eventually be managers, as mentioned above.

Differing curricula means differing content. Not only is there not agreement about perspective, but no agreement has been reached, as yet, on the question of domain. This may well be the cause of a dearth of well-grounded research in the field.

In the absence of sufficient well-grounded research, it is difficult to achieve scientific status and professionalisation. The question of scientific status is exceedingly important and so the link between scientific status and theory is explained and their significance for professionalisation. Theory being a central focus and public relations itself being greatly influenced by worldviews, values and ethics, the diverging views of its scholars are revealed before theory development is discussed. This brings this background to the point that Terry (1989:281-298) could find only one exclusive public relations theory in his examination of texts. The proposed augmentation of this theory is also described before issues which constrain the development of public relations as a science are considered. These are the lack of definition of public relations (already referred to), and the criticism levied against applied communication research, including public relations. The potential value of applied communication research is also shown by the description of a particular research project.

Consideration is also given to changing roles in public relations practice, for education will have to take this into account.


Professional accreditation and recognition is discussed thereafter, giving Grunig=s (2000:26) list of traits which can provide a measure of professionalisation of a field. Lastly, the role which public relations can play in the testing of theories illustrates its relationship with communication, which does hold scientific status. The need of both practitioners and researchers to be equipped with a broad and deep background is evident, and this need is reinforced by the greater role-sophistication which is emerging in the practice of public relations. Education is thus seen as having the capacity to play a vital role in the professionalisation of public relations, and giving consideration to education requires consideration of educational approach.

Examination of public relations begins, as stated above, with a brief description of public relations and its controversy.


Viewing public relations as nothing other than communication would lead to describing its roots as being traceable to the beginnings of civilisation, but that which is represented by the term public relations is a phenomenon that was born in the dawn of the twentieth century when the great American showman PT Barnum (Mersham, Rensburg & Skinner 1995:4) copied American politicians by using press agentry and other methods of publicity for his attractions. This trend was soon followed by others, such as that of early film agents, with stunts and gimmicks being utilised to attract attention, resulting sometimes in the Amanufacture of news@, and this resulted in a misconception of the nature of the new phenomenon (Mersham, Rensburg & Skinner 1995:3-4). Cutlip and Center (1985:2) point out that businesses in America found it necessary to employ some means of defence against press stories of exaggerated claim with resulting pressure from the public for tighter business restraints. This means of defence most commonly employed was the hiring of journalists for the presentation of news items which were designed to create a positive impression in the public arena. Thus the focus highlighted relations with the public, and the term public relations was coined. The unscrupulous use of press agentry, first utilised by Barnum (Mersham, Rensburg & Skinner 1995:4) in an opportunistic manner and nurtured by market forces, has left a seemingly indelible stamp of suspicion on public relations. Seitel (1987:30-31) says that an increasing 23

number of companies hired journalists so as to gain favourable publicity, giving rise to the situation where it is held that public relations evolved from press agentry. According to Mersham, Rensburg and Skinner (1995:5), public relations was viewed as a publicity effort to influence others and was seen as one-way persuasive communication, typified by the title of the book The engineering of public consent (1955) by Edward Bernays.

Not all writers interpret the history of public relations as pointing to a base of principles arousing suspicion. Pearson (1992:111-130) says that there is no single interpretation of the history of public relations, but rather are there a group of perspectives. These differing perspectives all agree that public relations is a practice which began towards the end of the 19th century and in the first two decades of the 20th century, in the midst of great economic, technological and social changes. The public relations historian Hiebert (vide) saw Ivy Lee, the journalist who has been called by some the father of public relations, as a promoter of justice and open and honest communication with the people. Hiebert (vide) thus saw Lee as a promoter of democratic ideals. Lee supplied the press and the public prompt and accurate information concerning subjects of value and of interest to the public. Hiebert (vide), however, also wrote that Atoo much public relations is Machiavellian, concerned with maintaining power regardless of ethical considerations@ (Pearson 1992:116). Thus it is clear that Hiebert (vide), who saw public relations being used to promote democracy on the one hand, also saw it on the other hand as being used for manipulation. Illustrating further the contradiction inherent in descriptions of the nature of public relations, Pimlott (1951:234) saw the complexity of industrialised society and the increased specialisation of roles in society as a strong cause of the growth of public relations, because it helps society function more smoothly. Tedlow (1979:16) saw public relations evolving on a similar basis to that of Pimlott (1951) but added that he believed that business began to focus on social responsibility and also needed a defence against anti-business sentiment; yet Smythe (1981:57) says that business needed to control the minds and bodies of its publics in order to secure growth and profits. Olasky (1987:2) also attacks the market goal of public relations and is

concerned especially with alliances of large corporations with one another and with government for the purpose of regulation and control. Thus Olasky (vide) saw the rights of the individual as being prejudiced by the work of public relations.

Hatfield (1994:189) says that public relations was encouraged by communication 24

officials during the First World War, when it was greatly supported by the press and public opinion favoured its use. Moreover, powerful industrial firms sought its services, so that publicity was soon established as its foundation. The execution of publicity programmes is carried out on technician level. Maund (1997:1) also mentions the part played by the First World War in the establishment of public relations, and soon its strong focus on publicity led public relations in America to become involved in the international arena on a market footing. The Second World War also had a strong influence on public relations, for in Britain many information officers were appointed to the intelligence services, and this involved a further development for the career. The organisation and management of public relations departments is seen as the management level of public relations.

During the 1950s specialisation for particular areas such as financial public relations arose, and during the 1960s the social uprisings in America ushered in a focus on community relations followed by programmes of social responsibility. Maund (1997:1) says that public relations is only now becoming a management function in America. Strategic skills are, therefore, coming to the fore, following the focus on relationship building and maintenance, decision making, advocacy capabilities and crisis management. This has put greater emphasis on public relations as a management function, with there also being calls for professionalisation.

It can be seen, therefore, that education for technician level public relations focuses on how to execute the various steps of a programme. This fits in with the micro level of an organisation.

Education for management level public relations clearly requires management skills, such as those needed for managing staff, administration skills and also the skills necessary for the organisation of public relations programmes. This fits in with the meso level of an organisation. Education for the macro level of public relations involves education for environmental influences, requiring the feeding in of strategic information into the organisation=s policies. Such education needs to be both wider and deeper than that required for public relations technician or public relations manager.

Globalisation, which Verwey (2000:53) describes as the increasing convergence and 25

interdependence of national economies and of the scope and availability of markets, distribution systems, capital, labour and technology, has ushered in the current trend. Community and consumer relations are incorporated in the business term stakeholders, thus stakeholders is also being used to refer to the publics of public relations. Verwey (2000:53) says that positioning for this new business context represents a fundamental shift in the relationship of corporations to individuals and to society as a whole. The new Internet technology facilitates communication, which has the potential of greater reach and increased personalisation with one-to-one marketing.

Another aspect of the Internet which holds immeasureable potential for public relations is its interactive facility. This shift from the basis of mass communication to personal communication enables stakeholders to communicate with one another on a scale heretofore impossible. Its power potential is enormous and is already having an influence on the growth of democracy. Greater responsibility has been placed upon public relations as a phenomenon and also upon its practitioners by this growth of technology. Calls for public accountability have increased in recent times, and

technological innovations make secrecy more difficult to maintain. Practitioners now require broad and deep background knowledge, knowledge of the particular business they are involved in, up-to-date skills and also the wisdom of Solomon.

The trends which have been manifested in the development of public relations are shown in Table 1:-


Table 1: Trends

TRENDS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS Time Period Model Type of Communication utilised


Up to early 20 century

Press agentry and publicity Public information Persuasion

One-way : tried to direct public perception

2nd 3rd

1900-1939 1940-1979

One-way : tried to inform public Two-way assymetric : organisations sought to persuade publics


1980-early 1990s


Two-way symmetric : promotes mutual adaptation


1990s and current


Two-way symmetric : technology ushering in interactivity and greater personalisation : and consensus and dissensus (agree to disagree)

The origin of public relations, as said at the beginning of this section, is journalism. Its functionaries in its early stages were journalists. Yet it cannot be said to be journalism: the objective of journalism is to keep the public informed: an informed public is in a position to interpret events realistically, to make better decisions about threats and promises to society and to adapt societal plans to what is there rather than to what is wished were there. Journalists are expected to report on the basis of truth. From these noble aspirations have grown ideals such as press freedom and the right of the public to information. Few members of society would openly declare opposition to the values journalism holds forth and each year there are over 50 journalists worldwide who sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of reporting true facts to the world=s public (Sky Television News 28.11.2001). They are seen as heroes, being of the ilk of humans who are ready to die for their ideals. However, with the emergence of public relations, out of this noble breed stepped some few who were ready to offer its access-door of publicity to those powerful or greedy enough to pay for stunts and gimmicks in the Amanufacture of news@. The consequent hiring of journalists to defend stories of exaggerated claim meant that public relations continued to focus on that which was seen as false. In this way, it can be said to have originated upon the perversion of the noble aims of 27

journalism, and it still today does not have a noble underlying basis with which the public can identify. While the later step of businesses in America hiring journalists for the presentation of news items which were designed to create a positive effect in the public arena, can be argued to be no less worthy than is advertising, advertisements are generally very readily identifiable as advertisements, with their marketing aim. It is true that advertising can adopt a particular register such as a medical register for promoting sales of a nappy-rash cream, thus purporting to be the expression of a medical authority, but even in such cases advertising remains readily recognisable, and its overt function as a tool of marketing is accepted by the public at large. Hiebert=s view, according to Pearson (1992:116), that public relations was used both to promote democracy and manipulation, further clouds any attempt one may make to ground public relations upon noble ideals, and Smythe=s (1981:57) claim that business needed to control the minds and bodies of its publics in order to secure growth and profits, leads to the belief that an underlying function of public relations is to Amanage public perceptions@. It is noteworthy that the general public in America felt favourably disposed to public relations when its efforts were focused on war propaganda - that is in the service of what was seen as a good cause. The development of the career in Britain through a marked increase in the number of information officers needed for the Intelligence Services, can also be said to have been a noble application. Thus there are some underlying functions of public relations which elicit the approval of the general public.

The controversial light in which the history of public relations is viewed is exacerbated by the position whereby its underlying aims and its definition have not yet been agreed upon. The basis of education for public relations personnel is, not surprisingly, also a matter where the lack of unanimity adds to the confusion. Yet it is argued in this study that education can make a strong contribution to the field, and with this in mind, the next section describes the history of public relations education from a global perspective.



The home of public relations programmes

While education for public relations thus began as training for journalism, so that Amost public relations programs are associated with schools or departments of journalism or 28

mass communications@ (Joint Commission of the Public Relations Society of America and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication: 1987:3), a survey on the trends in Public Relations Education by Walker (1982:19, 33) showed that journalism was responsible for fewer than half the total number of public relations programmes, and a survey by Neff (1989) showed that 21% of public relations courses were offered in journalism departments, while 41% were offered in communication departments. The remaining 38% of public relations courses were offered by

interdisciplinary, miscellaneous, mass communications, business and public relations departments, some of which offered only a single course in public relations. Neff (1989:170-171) says that the foregoing trend indicates that AThe future for public relations theory is clearly in the field of communication.@ Neff (vide) states that graduate programmes are critical to the development of theory in public relations, and that twentyone departments of communication, in contrast to twelve journalism and six mass communication departments, offer graduate public relations courses. Neff (1989:166) also states that the movement towards public relations programmes being offered in departments of communication Asuggested an interest in a more varied background other than journalism@. However, from the early 1990s there have been vast changes in the world economy and thus also in the field of public relations. Stanton (1991:47) says that while globalisation actually got under way in the 1970s with firms in the USA undertaking to serve multinational clients abroad, expansion in the 1980s in the United Kingdom (UK) was followed by a period of growth in Europe and also in countries of the pacific rim. Worldwide network relationships developed, especially with the elimination of economic barriers among the 12 nations of the European Community in 1992, and the unfettering of Eastern Europe politically. During the first half of the 1990s it was becoming clear that public relations was operating on both technician and management level, although Maund (1997:1), as already mentioned, said that public relations was only becoming a management function in America at that time. In its Gold Paper on Public relations education, IPRA (1990) accepts that public relations can be taught in a variety of academic homes, but stresses that an interdisciplinary approach must be followed.

At the same time, following signs of economic downturn in the 1980s in America, the first half of the 1990s saw many corporations reducing their public relations staff and using outside agencies more. This led to great expansion of public relations consulting 29

(Stevens 1996:19). Expansion of consulting services has meant that there is a growing demand for specialist knowledge, and, says Stevens (1996:19) the quality of public relations personnel has not kept pace with the growing sophistication of clients= needs. It can be suggested that this is the reason why some companies prefer to take a manager from another section who is required to learn the public relations manager role rather than to appoint a public relations person as manager who does not have extensive knowledge of that particular field in which such business operates. It can be seen, therefore, that it would be questionable for a body such as IPRA to lay down a particular home as being the most desirable for public relations education. Perhaps a realistic view of the home for public relations education programmes for the 21st century has been expressed by, among others, Pincus, Rayfield and Ohl (1994:55), who hold that public relations can only reach the highest levels of corporate decision making when it is included in M.B.A. programmes. Berkowitz and Hristodoulakis (1999) in their study of formal public relations education and its relationship to workplace socialisation, concluded that if public relations is to be encouraged within a management orientation, education must train students accordingly. The management orientation of a business school will offer educational perspectives of today=s business practice and will take into account important issues of globalisation. This will also apply to formal education departments of communication, where international communication will be prominent.


The dual approach to public relations education

It can be seen that public relations has broadened into roles which require decision making, advocacy capabilities and crisis management, reaching far and wide into areas in which it can render valuable service. This, in turn, means that there are heavier demands upon education than existed in former eras of public relations practice. Table 2 provides a comparison of the dual approach to public relations education emanating from America and Europe, showing that the American approach does not cater for the heavier demands of the 21st century:-


Table 2:

Dual approach to Public Relations education America Europe

Degree in Communication Education model emphasises theory more than practical skill Hofstadler (1989:17):Emphasis on theory as it is believed student will master techniques once in practice.

Technical qualification Education model based on technical skill

Hazleton and Cutbirth (1993:192):Up to 1993 p.r. seen as arts and crafts, more appropriately taught by practitioners than professors. Job experience more important than professional training. Understanding achieved by performance rather than contemplation.

Providing students with a broad and deep background seen as being of prime importance.

Model focuses on initial job placement for immediate service. Black (1990:15):Public relations in the USA has deep and wellestablished roots - University of Florida in 1984 celebrated 50 years of continuous public relations education there.

Model focuses on preparation advancement to management level.



Black (1990:1-15):In Europe, and especially in Great Britain, the steady growth in public relations practice is not matched by a corresponding development in public relations education. While public relations associations in Europe are active in providing seminars, short courses and introductory courses, a solid academic base is lacking. September 1989 saw the first 3 or 4 year bachelor degree courses started. Boyer (1990:14):Education more likely to be seen as noteworthy as Europeans place a different value on education and being educated than do most Americans. Hofstadler (1989:17):European public relations education does not focus on journalism. It is found in departments of communication, where theory is emphasised far more than practical skills. As a result, Europe has made a great contribution through research, leading to strong theoretical development, particularly in critical and rhetorical theory.

Boyer (1990:14):US sees education as a means to an end.

Walker (1989:22-25):Public relations has relied on the news faculty for its core curriculum, but the news faculty fails to view public relations beyond its media relations function. However, public relations has outgrown journalism and problems arise when it is likewise subsumed by business or speech, partly because inadequate resources are allocated to public relations by institutions. Where journalism has objectivity as its byword, public relations has advocacy. In order to gain control over the public relations curriculum, public relations education units need sufficient faculty numbers so that they will not be outnumbered when deciding upon the curriculum for public relations. An independent unit would be able to call upon the Business Unit for management, marketing and finance courses and the Social and Behaviour Sciences Unit for their contribution to what is an interdisciplinary sequence.

Grunig (1992:103):The many cultures in Europe give rise to a situation of great complexity. This fosters a need for public relations, and also requires a complex approach in education and training. A steady growth in academic programmes is a natural consequence.

Ogbondah and Pratt (1991/1992:36-41):-

Hazelton and Cutbirth. (1993:187-196):-


The need for courses in international public relations has arisen as more countries are being represented by US public relations firms.

The establishment of the European Economic Community, which facilitates the movement of people across national boundaries, has greatly increased the demand for business to operate in several languages and to communicate with markets of diverse languages, and this has created a greater demand for public relations personnel and an increased need for education to provide tuition in several languages and in international public relations. Epley (1992:113):Graduates are empowered in 2 or 3 languages. Graduates complete a high-level programme in international studies. Meeting effects of globalisation more effectively.

Epley (1992:113:Needs to turn out graduates with more than one language. International studies should be an important focus. Not meeting effects of globalisation.

Adams (1993:12-13):A survey in America in 1993 showed that a majority of high level practitioners believe educators should spend less time on theory and research methods and more time on practical issues.

Hazelton and Cutbirth (1993:187-196):The formation of the European Economic Community in 1992 has brought about phenomenal growth in Europe for public relations. This growth will also have an effect on the USA as Europe and the USA do not operate in isolation from one another. Therefore, public relations practice in the USA is bound to be affected also by the effects of the European Economic Community. The European Economic Community is impacting on the legal/political, the competitive, the economic, the social and the technological, dimensions of the environment. The academic unit that seems most likely to meet the requirements is a department that offers a very broad base and great diversity.

Sommerness and Beaman (1994:92-93):A study of 119 colleges and universities found that only one university offered a course in international public relations and so the authors stress the need for such training. Kinnich and Cameron (1994:83):Recommend that courses provide for strategic decisionmaking and more technical managerial skills such as accounting and budgeting. Hatfield (1994:198):AThe British integration of public relations and business education is a product of the times and the needs of a changing society. The Cranfield degree reflects the state-of-the-art demands on the British professional communicator and focuses the future of that group on the management function.@ Hatfield (1994:189-199):Education and training in Europe has arisen from corporate communication.

Hatfield (1994:189-199):In America, public relations has arisen out of a need for publicity

Pratt and Ogbondah (1996:397-415):There is a crucial need to expand US public relations curricula, particularly in respect of international communication, the fast-changing political structure of the world, and technological development such as satellite communication demand this.


Hazelton and Cutbirth (1993:187-196):Secondary education in the USA does not specialise, resulting in tertiary education specialising to a lesser degree than it does in Europe.

Hazelton and Cutbirth (1993:187-196):General education is entrusted to secondary school education, thus tertiary education puts much greater emphasis on specialisation than is the case in the USA. Thus tuition is more specific and more in-depth than that of the USA. Nessmann (1995:151-160):A more specialised model of university education is utilised in Europe than in the USA. Management in public relations is an applied function : the application of theory renders the public relations practitioner capable of crisis management, analytical thinking, and so forth. In Europe, most of the academic time of 4-5 years is devoted to the subject specialisation. Thus Europe educates for public relations management. Europe has made great contributions to the development of theory, such as mass communication theory and critical theory. In Europe, public relations is regarded as a carefully planned process. Hatfield (1994:189-199):Carol Friend, past president of the British Institute of Public Relations (IPR), sees the programme of the Communication, Advertising and Marketing Foundation (CAM) as representing a valuable strategy for the public relations profession. The third year of study focuses on public relations strategy, public relations for commercial organisations and for non-commercial organisations. Those who wish to advance further can take the Cranfield MBA programme. Hazelton and Cutbirth (1993:187-196):Issues which cut across national boundaries have given rise to new and powerful political and social groups, such as Green Peace, and this gives rise to an even greater demand for public relations personnel who must be knowledgeable in many areas. Technological developments have also made new demands on public relations and upon educators in the field of public relations.

Nessmann (1995:151-160):University education in the USA is more general than that in Europe. Management in public relations is not a technical function. In America, action is seen as providing experience for learning. In the USA, one quarter of academic class time of 3 years is devoted to the student's choice of speciality. The USA educates for technical functions.

Belch and Belch (1993):Institutions of higher education are not compelled to adhere to recommended model curricula and often advocate teaching public relations as a transversal subject between journalism and marketing, so public relations is widely equated with publicity and viewed as a simple, cheap and credible publicity process.

Duncan Caywood and Newsom (1993):Duncan and Caywood chaired the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Task Force, which recommended : advertising and public relations students be offered an integrated communication programme with a strong emphasis on liberal arts, training in oral, written and visual communication, a solid understanding of business and organisational behaviour, counselling skills and that an understanding and respect for other communication disciplines/specialities be cultivated.

White (1995:1-11):The Public Relations Society of America has not recommended that public relations must be combined with communication theory, although this was determined by an international report published by the IPRA in 1983. Paster (1995:14-21):Paster warns against losing the balance between new tools - internet, cellular phones and other new technology - which represent action, and focusing on understanding clients and their messages and publics and their attitudes.

White (1995:1-11):Public relations must be combined with communication theory. This was determined by an international report published by the IPRA in 1983.

Hayes (1996:24-25):The 21st century needs a holistic approach. Instead of deal or transaction based networking, we have accessibility and personalisation of the information superhighway for the importance of long-term relationship building. We must find a way to position


public relations as a strategic management tool with political, cultural antennae. For this, we need to be able to speak the language of business, our knowledge must be broad, we need the intellectual framework and methodologies which can make us truly PR professionals. We must be able to communicate globally, regionally and locally. The approach for the 21st century must be a strategic and counselling approach rather than a tactical and implementation approach. Hazelton and Cutbirth (1993:187-196):Suggest that PR education should be housed in the academic unit which offers the broadest base and the greatest diversity, regardless of its label. They suggest a department of communication which embraces the technical skills offered in journalism, and the flexibility and theory found in mass and speech communication. The preferred paradigm would thus be knowledge rather than skills-based. A Ph.D. is the appropriate credential for teaching PR, as it is not seen as essential to have practical experience to teach, as technical skills are less central than theoretical knowledge, which directs choices about the application of skills. Hatfield, C.R. (1994:188-199):Prominent public people in Britain do not see PR as a field of undergraduate education. Consultancies offer in-house training programmes aimed at managers for the profession - most trainees have degrees. Cuts in government budgets hindered the establishment of formal public relations education until the University of Stirling established a M.Sc. Interdisciplinary programme in 1988, which included public relations, and Cranfield Technical Institute offered from the same year a MBA degree with half the course work being business and half public relations. Carol Friend, past president of the IPR, prefers an employee with a business studies background. Roger Hayes, director of communication for Thorn EMI, states that communication is not an academic programme in the UK, but rather an apprenticeship within industry. L=Etang (1999:261-289):The level of knowledge and skills has not been raised to a professional level in the UK, despite the introduction of a new diploma qualification as entry level for membership of the IPR. This is because many practitioners see subjectively-assessed Apersonal qualities@ and experience as being more credible than qualifications attesting to a body of knowledge and a set of skills. There remains tension over the curriculum between academics and practitioners. The IPR prefers public relations education to be located in business and management units. It tried from early times to exclude from membership press agents and publicists. This was applied despite the difficulty of defining Apress agentry work@. After some time, however, it seemed as if the Institute was lapsing into a moribund state. Experience was seen as a yardstick for membership. Midst much controversy about an appropriate curriculum for public relations, subjects such as organisational behaviour, marketing and media relations were included in Part I and Part II of the Diploma in Public Relations offered by CAM, an educational trust of which the IPR was a founding member. Hutton (1999:199-214):Public relations has a poor public image and the majority of the public believe that it does not hold ethical values. This position militates against achieving

Berkowitz and Hristodoulakis (1999:91-103):Professional socialisation in the workplace does not associate public relations with the managerial role, for, unlike journalism which has a homogenised role based on News, there is not a homogenised view of the role of public relations personnel.

Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education (1999):The Report directs programmes to ensure that students understand the impact of societal relations and also the multicultural and global issues that are likely to influence development in the 21st century. Intercultural sensitivity and fluency in a foreign language are named as essential for the international practice of public relations.

McInerny (1997/1998:44-47):Ethics is a focal point in discussion, and the emphasis should begin with public relations education in colleges and universities, but unfortunately is usually limited to a


single chapter in the introductory course, whereas it should be integrated throughout the curriculum. McDevitt (2000:40-49):Ethical training should involve the integration of theory and practice so that the professional habits of valuing efficiency over critical thinking are challenged. Lee and Padget (2000:27-39):A short-term ethics course cannot develop values considered essential for ethical behaviour.

professional status for public relations.

Kitchen (1997:12):The Communication manager (public relations practitioner) is responsible for transmitting information about the environment to decision makers in the dominant coalition and must also manage communication between the subsystems of the organisation and its relevant stakeholders. In order to effectively carry out this responsibility, public relations personnel must be educated for ethical practice. Hogg and Doolan (1999:1-11):Public relations practitioners do not adhere to their own code of ethical behaviour. Public relations practitioners must interpret directives according to their own understanding of organisational policy, and are also constrained by perception of the expectations of key players in the situation : a senior staff member and members of the audience/target market. Ethical actions may thus be adjusted according to these perceptions of the expectations of key players, and the validity of these perceptions will have great bearing on the way the actions are carried out. Moss, Warnaby and Newman (2000:277-305):Ethical decision-making is attenuated by several factors. A study of practitioner role enactment in UK companies revealed considerable differences. The level of strategic decision-making by public relations practitioners is determined by a group of factors - industry and organisational context, - what management expectations of public relations are, and - the practitioner=s competence as perceived by management. Verwey (2000:51-68):APractitioners must redefine themselves to be highly relevant within emerging global trends... The increasing need for high purpose and high function public relations will require new broad-based competence in a number of fields.@

Aldoory and Toth (2000:115-125):A study which did a content analysis of master=s degree programmes in public relations on the World Wide Web, describing the status of public relations curriculation, found a lack of adherence to recommendations of the Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education as a benchmark, and also a lack of consistency across programmes in number and type of courses offered in core public relations courses, optional public relations courses and other optional courses.

Taylor (2000:73-88):Few schools offer courses in international public relations - it is an exciting area for public relations education to better prepare their students for globalisation and other challenges of the new century. The focus should be on intercultural communication. In-depth analysis of ethical questions, such as examining the codes of conduct of various organisations, should also form a firm section of the curriculum.

It can be observed that, although Black (1990) stated that in the USA public relations has deep and well-established roots, from its beginning public relations education in the USA was based upon the vocational education model. It seemed that while in

1991/1992 Ogbondah and Pratt mentioned that there was a need for more international courses, in the year 2000 Taylor observes that few schools offer courses in international public relations to better prepare their students for globalisation and other challenges of the new century. In the year 2000 also, Aldoory and Toth found a lack of adherence to 35

recommendations of the Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education as a benchmark, and also a lack of consistency in number and type of courses offered, in public relations programmes offered on the World Wide Web. In 1995, White observed that, despite a recommendation determined by an international report published by IPRA in 1983, the PRSA had not recommended that public relations be combined with communication theory.

Thus it can be said that public relations education in the USA is based upon a vocational model and that it, including the members of the PRSA, is slow to augment its offerings so that its graduates will be well prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century. Indeed, it can also be seen from the above table that in 1995 Paster warned against the heavy focus on action through using new technology outweighing the focus on understanding clients and their messages and publics and their attitudes. There is thus a need for USA public relations education to grow from using a vocational model of education towards a model which offers both broader and deeper education so that the demands can be met as described by Verwey (2000:51-68) : Ahigh purpose and high function public relations will require new broad-based competence in a number of fields@. An opposite flow is discernible in the European model of public relations education. Perhaps the establishment of public relations at a later date than in the USA had provided opportunity for it to be fitted into the approach to education prevalent in Europe : that education itself holds great value and a strong foundation for worthy endeavour is a sine quo none. Thus the strong university tradition pointed public relations to generic education degree courses in communication studies, thus nurturing an education model mature for the public relations field. Grunig (1992) has pointed out that the many cultures in Europe do not only create a great need for public relations, but also require a complex approach in education and training. Facility of communication in diverse languages, and other proficiencies of inter-cultural communication, are longstanding needs which were catapulted into the limelight with the establishment of the European Economic Community in 1992. Earlier and greater specialisation in European education favours coping with the increased demands of public relations in the 21st century with moderate adaptation. There is one area in which the European public relations education model can be extended, and that is in the area of practical application. Instead of students having to master public relations techniques and skills after gaining employment, this training could be offered as part of the course of 36


Thus it can be seen that the models of public relations education in the USA and Europe are seated at very different points in models of education. Hazleton and Cutbirth (1993:195) express the view A...the ideal public relations curriculum should emphasize the type of reflective learning and theory found in European Institutes...@. 2.3.3 Public relations education in the USA

Section 2.3.1 shows that while education programmes for public relations in the USA are mostly associated with schools or departments of journalism or mass communications, 38% were found by Neff (1989:170-171) as being offered by interdisciplinary, miscellaneous, mass communications, business and public relations departments. Some of these offered only a simple course in public relations. It can readily be seen that the birth of public relations from journalism with its first practitioners being trained journalists, has given rise to a situation where it is considered that the ability to write well provides a sound basis for the practice of public relations, with a simple course in public relations being seen in some institutions as providing sufficient opportunity for learning other techniques of public relations.

The first Commission for public relations education was appointed in 1975, and one of its primary recommendations was that a public relations programme must consist of a minimum of 12 hours per semester. In 1978 this was upgraded (Anon.2000:9). Epley (1992:111) states that while several practitioners emphasised the rise of international public relations, the fact that public relations education in the USA focused on technical skills rather than on theory and research resulted in this area being overlooked to a large degree in public relations programmes.

The statement mentioned in 2.3.2 by Adams (1993:12) that a survey in America in 1993 showed that the majority of high level practitioners believe PR educators should spend less time on theory and research methods and more on practical issues, points to the blunting effect of education which is not broad and deep but is, rather, narrowly defined. It has also already been mentioned that Sommerness and Beaman (1994:92-93) carried 37

out a study which revealed that only one out of 119 colleges and universities offered a curriculum which included international public relations. Burk (1994:42) also makes specific suggestions about the need for international public relations training for practitioners. Fitzgerald and Spagnolia (1999) draw attention to the fact that American programmes do not offer languages other than English, and state that public relations needs more multilingual practitioners. Fitzgerald and Spagnolia (vide) also state that public relations practitioners will need lifetime education to increase their knowledge of psychology, economics, business and philosophy.

The focus on practical issues and the limiting of theory and research referred to above and mentioned by Adams (1993), draws into consideration the lack of focus on strategic communication in American public relations education. This is emphasised by the statement of Maund (1997:1) (previously referred to) that public relations was only then becoming a management function in America. Whereas strategic communication enjoys strong focus in Europe where education for public relations is primarily seen as preparing students for management, education in America is aimed at technician level, with techniques enjoying a much stronger focus. Maund (vide) questions whether the public relations profession will be able to handle the challenges of the new century. Hayman (1999:19) says that the demand in the new century will be for a new breed of professional public relations practitioners who hold higher intellectual powers than heretofore.

An area of strength in America is the concern about ethics. Members of the PRSA adopt the principle of telling the truth, and Capelin (1999:2) says that it is important that such codes should not only be taught but also made manifest in practice. Verwey (2000:11) says that practising ethical public relations may become one of the greatest challenges to the public relations professionals of the 21st century, for the post modern public relations practitioners will need to serve as the conscience and change agent of the organisation.


Aspects of public relations education peculiar to Britain

In Britain there were only a few public relations consultants who worked on their own until the time of the second world war, when the numbers appointed in government departments were increased greatly so as to deal with information and intelligence, 38

propaganda and psychological warfare and persuasion and public relations (L=Tang 1996:430). By 1946 a conference had been held at which a definition of public relations was adopted, and an institute for public relations was formed in 1948 (Hesse 1984:8). According to Hatfield (1994:189) British public relations differed in its origin from that of American public relations, as it arose from the practice of corporate communication rather than from seeking publicity. Hatfield (1994:190) provides some insight into the state of public relations education in Britain with the following quote from a past president of the institute for public relations, Carol Friend:

AThe dearth of formal Public Relations and management training, lack of

cross-feed between in-house and consultancy career paths, and early job specialisation are breeding a generation of frustrated functionaries. Operating by the seat of one=s proverbial pants and responding to every situation with knee-jerk reaction is no way to compete with other management advisors who encroach a little each on public relations= counseling role@. This statement shows inadequacies in British public relations education and training. It is re-inforced by the fact that the writer sent letters during 1997/1998 to a list of 37 universities, polytechnics and colleges enquiring whether or not they offered a course/programme in public relations and, if so, what its length was. The answers were all negative, a few institutions stating that they offered courses in English, journalism or communication (speech or writing), and that students wanting to do public relations could enrol for these courses. Despite this situation, Burk (1994:43) stated that the British were foremost in integrating public relations in global planning. Josephs and Josephs (1995:32-34) commented that the increased trade with other countries brought about by the European Economic Community has led to a great increase in the demand for public relations services, and also an increase in the numbers of public relations practitioners setting up their own consulting agencies. While formal education for public relations seems to take a back seat in Britain, it is evident from the television news services that public relations practitioners occupy a high public profile, for they are constantly the subject of news stories and frequently make comments on behalf of industry. An indication of the public attention the field receives, despite its low profile in education courses, is the item on Sky Television News (28.2.2002) that Athe Government is considering introducing laws to regulate the activities of 'spin doctors' such as Joe 39

Moore@. (Joe Moore, Public Relations Director and Personal Advisor to the Transport Minister, had previously apologised on television for having sent an email/emails internally shortly after the happenings stating that the events of September 11 in the USA presented a good opportunity for the release of poor Railtrack figures. The story of the sending of the email at such a time was given prominence on news services, eventually resulting in the resignation of both the Public Relations Director and the Communication Director concerned.)

The position in the UK of a public relations industry that is much in demand and which has many very active practitioners while there appears to be little evidence of undergraduate courses being offered at educational institutions, suggests that it is mostly people with degrees from other disciplines who hold degrees and practitioners trained abroad who are actively engaged in the field in the UK. 2.3.5 Public relations education in Canada

Pollock (1999) says that public relations is seen as one of the fastest-growing careers in Canada, after the recessionary period of the nineties with drastic cutbacks in both budgets and jobs. The public relations practitioner requires specialist training -

universities, colleges and institutes offer a nine month programme in communication with public relations as a subject - and this means that those entering public relations are older than graduates in other fields. They are also required to do compulsory internship in an organisation or another approved location. O'Malley (1999:1) says that emphasis is placed upon honesty and accuracy in communication, and upon integrity and truth.


Public relations education in Australia and New Zealand

The 1992 Australian President of IPRA, Pritchitt, said that there were greater opportunities to develop public relations in countries of Asia and Australia and North America than in countries of the European Community. His speech was addressed to an international audience of the United Nations on January 10, 1992. He said that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was doing wonderful work with the Russian public relations association and this should be extended to other countries, and the PRSA and IPRA should co-operate. Developed countries must recognise their

responsibility to develop public relations both domestically and internationally. He mentioned environmental issues as being of particular significance, and also a need for 40

advice for setting standards of excellence in education.

Quarles (1993:24) says that Australia has developed an approach to public relations education which sees close co-operation between educators and practitioners and which makes it an impressive international player.

The New Australian and New Zealand public relations Manual states (1996:12-13) that while the Australian Institute of Public Relations was established in 1949, public relations matters were dealt with as publicity by managers, press agents and spokespersons in the 1930s, the term public relations not being known. In 1942 and especially from about two years after the end of World War II, journalists and advertising people left their jobs and entered the new field of public relations. Education for other allied fields thus provided the basis for the practice of public relations. Short courses offering

specialisation in public relations are offered in conjunction with business courses by colleges and other educational institutions, while universities offer public relations as part of communication studies.


Public relations education in Africa

The development of public relations in Africa is typified by the origins of public relations in British Colonial Africa (Smyth 2001:149-161):-

A case study of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) shows that the cinema, the wireless (radio) and the cheapening daily press were utilised before Word War II, during that war and after that war in three distinct stages. The war and other political and developmental influences were the main topics. Examples of media campaigns are Mass Education in African Society (1944) and other government information campaigns such as Education for Citizenship in Africa (1948). In the then Northern Rhodesia, the administration showed great interest in communicating with the African population, especially African miners on the Copperbelt. The mining on the Copperbelt ushered in urbanisation of large numbers of Africans, through the mining system of compounds for African workers. A strike among these workers in 1935, whose cause was found to be the inadequately publicised change in the tax law, led the government to produce a newspaper in 1936, which was printed in simple English and also in four main African languages. Hollywood entertainment films had been shown from 1928, and previously-censored films to 41

prevent the instigation of racial feelings drew a crowd of two thousand a week at an open-air compound cinema started in 1931. The films were intended to promote health and economic development, and to promote cultural adjustment for workers coming from rural areas.

In 1940 the British Government set up a Public Relations Branch, but the Colonial Office Public Relations Branch was nervous about the idea of using propaganda for the colonies, for fear of anti-German sentiment expression turning into a two-edged sword. Thus publicity aimed rather to promote loyalty to Britain and the Empire and confidence in the inevitability of an allied victory and that such victory would promote the moral and material aspirations of the colony.

Just as had happened in Britain itself, the war brought about the appointment of information officers in the colonies, and this gave rise to what is now frequently referred to as public relations. At the same time, this appointment of an information officer in then Northern Rhodesia led to an extension of duties : the officer appointed stated a further aim - to be able to report to the Government on the people's criticisms of existing or contemplated measures. It can be seen that this could readily aid in the manipulation of public opinion, and additional funds and facilities were provided for the task. The press and radio were also utilised for the furtherance of such aims. Halls were utilised where communal radio services were offered, but the crowding and noise and constant switching to another language in which the message was repeated, detracted greatly. Thus films were tried, but it was difficult to obtain films with an African setting, so cine cameras were provided to some officials and the raw footage processed, edited and titled in Britain, and these films were also shown by using mobile cinema vans. These films helped in recruiting volunteers for the war. Such clear and fruitful results led to the increase in the size, status and the scope of the information office, which then added public relations to its job description, for it sought not only to inform, but also to Aengineer consent@ (Smyth 2001:156-157) to government policies. After World War II community development became a focus of operation. An enlarged Information Department was expected to manage good relations between the Colonies and Britain, so that the Colonies would stay in the Commonwealth. The wording Public Relations Department was seen as having too localised reference, thus Information Department was retained. Africans were being trained in local government with eventual 42

self-government in mind, as reflected in the document Education for Citizenship in Africa (1948). In this document, the Aimplanting of democratic habits of mind and habits of action@ (Smyth 2001:158) was proposed. The job of Information Officer became notably more difficult with the Federation of Northern Rhodesian with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, because of the large numbers of white settlers who wielded power in Southern Rhodesia especially, and the rising claims of democracy by the African population. The paternalistic approach of the government newspaper in Northern Rhodesia exacerbated the already-evident struggle between white settlers who wished to exercise control of the colonies with approaching independence and the African population, who sought African control and whose case was being strengthened by growing democracy and by the formation of the African National Congress.

The Central African Broadcasting Station (CABS) was launched in 1949, and was used to promote mass education. After 1949 the coverage widened so that items could be placed overseas and gain publicity for Northern Rhodesia.

It can be seen that public relations was an integral part of colonial administration. The government information departments provided training and development and established tenure for the field of public relations in the British colonies. The goal of independence with the population remaining favourably disposed towards Britain, was largely achieved. Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, is a staunch member of the Commonwealth (Smyth 2001:160). The fact that English is the official language in Zambia today is evidence of this staunchness. Nartey (1988:24) defines public relations as Aa way of life@, and sees its beginnings in Africa as having been manifested in tribal customs from early times. It should be observed that, as with many writers, public relations is equated by Nartey (1988) with communication and seen as an umbrella term for that most pervasive of human activities, human interaction. Thus the record of public relations education, particularly in Africa, is reported as being the record of communication in various forms, such as that of radio and television and of the press, thus some writers comment as if journalism education can be taken to mean public relations education.

Opukah (1992:14-16) says that the move towards democracy on a broad front has promoted the development of public relation in Africa. This point has been illustrated by 43

Smyth (2001) above.

South Africa being such a young democracy (1994), means that the context of public relations practice is extremely challenging, for groups of stakeholders previously passive (suppressed) are now rising with strong voice. Not surprisingly, activism is now a dynamic force, and with the many competing claims of such a multicultural society, South Africa is likely to be a rigorous proving ground for the practices and principles of public relations.

Ferreira (1999:33-39) states that it is not possible to make a general statement about the state of public relations education in Africa : some public relations officers have entered the career through journalism, and some have been trained abroad. In some countries, the training is informal and is done, for example by banks and other employers or by private colleges and the national public relations societies. Formal education is offered in tertiary institutions in some countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa.

Despite the foregoing statement by Ferreira (1999), the position gleaned from the available literature is reflected in the following table so as to indicate the provision and scope of named public relations education in some countries of Africa:-



Has Public Relations Society with Constitution


Public Relations Education and Training offered

All universities offer public relations as a course of study; the Arab Public Relations Society (APRS) has established the Institute of PR and Information, which is devoted to teaching public relations and since its inception in 1966 has held 190 courses, from which 4,000 students have graduated; The International Academy for Public Relations and Information offers B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Public Relations (Borhan 1993(a)). The Business Education Examination Council (BEEC) offers a diploma course; the University of Ghana offers a one-year post-graduate diploma with some aspects of public relations (Ferreira 1999). Kazeze (Ferreira 1999) states that some public relations practitioners in Ghana study by means of correspondence courses. Dafina Institute offers Public Relations Group Diploma of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 1993; Daystar University College has a masters' programme in public relations and a in Communication is also offered (Ferreira 1999). Jackson College offered public relations from 1960; the BEEC offers a public relations diploma course; public relations courses also form an integral part of mass communication programmes (Ferreira 1999). In association with the University of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has started a M.Sc. Degree programme in public relations (Okereke 1993).










Nyegezi Social Training Institute offers a 3-year advanced diploma in journalism with advanced public relations as an elective; Tanzania School of Journalism offers a diploma with public relations as one of the prescribed subjects; Public Relations is included as a marginal course in marketing and business management (Ferreira 1999). Makerere University offers a mass communication degree course in which public relations is one of four possible areas of specialisation in the third year of study (Ferreira 1999). Africa Literature Centre offers a one-year course which equips students to work in publishing, journalism and public relations (Africa Literature Centre 1995). The Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) conducts a oneyear, part-time diploma course and also holds workshops and seminars on a frequent basis (Dickens 1992 & 1993). Adult education colleges offer courses in public relations (Ferreira 1999). Private colleges offer part-time and full-time certificate and diploma courses in public relations; nine technikons offer 3-year diplomas, four of which offer 4-year degrees and also the M.Tech. and D.Tech. Degrees in public relations; several universities offer communication degrees in which public relations is offered as a choice of specialisation module (Writer).










It should be observed that Ferreira (1999) reports that the public relations societies of several countries did not reply to correspondence and could not be contacted. Opukah (1993:17) mentions Athe massive weakness of the so-called national associations, which are moribund anyway@. Given the turbulent state of the continent, it must be borne in mind that recorded positions may no longer hold true. For instance, the current political instability and economic decline in Zimbabwe renders the present position of public relations and public relations education there precarious and uncertain. Africa has struggled for independence, it is now struggling with independence. Some few countries are beginning to build on a steady basis and are trying to meet the challenges of globalisation, but Africa remains to a large extent a dark continent poorly equipped for a century in which communication technology will hold sway. One of the countries which holds great promise is South Africa. South Africa has up-to-date technology and extensive education facilities. Although its education is in a state of flux due to changes brought about since it became a democracy in 1994, it offers a large number of places in education to students from the rest of Africa. While earning foreign exchange may be a motive, there is little doubt that this forms part of the overall plan for Africa to uplift itself. Under this arrangement, one South African technikon alone is accepting ten public relations students for the year 2002 for the programme in public relations. In so doing, South Africa is carrying added responsibility in education for public relations, as is indicated by the backdrop to public relations work in Africa illustrated above. The development and the scientific status of public relations in South Africa is discussed in Chapter 4.


Public relations in the Middle East

Al-Enad (1990:24-26) says that public relations plays different roles and performs different functions in third world countries than it does in developed nations. Environmental factors affect its practice, goals and philosophy and values. Authoritarian theory of the press is in effect in most Arab countries, while in some parts there is a developmental theory. Communication is one-way, its purpose is unbalanced, its tools are the mass media, which can edit and change. So public relations in any form must suit the cultural and social conditions, for the mass communication is not sophisticated. Thus it is difficult to motivate for utilising public relations.

In underdeveloped countries, public relations personnel are utilised as receptionists 46

and/or as a communication agent. Thus its role and functions are distorted at both micro and macro levels, while at organisational level it functions as information gatekeeper. At macro level, it plays a major cultural role. (Al-Enad 1990:24-26).

Education and enlightenment is an important function of the media. In most third-world countries public relations operates as an information office within ministries and other government agencies. It tries to educate the public by increasing knowledge on pertinent issues and persuading it to follow a particular course of behaviour (such as the need to immunize), and public relations also publicises the achievements of its clients and of society as a whole, in order to make the people feel satisfied. It should be borne in mind that manipulation can be essential for stability, and is a tool located between the material and the non-material aspects of the culture. While there might have been significant material changes in oil-producing countries, non-material aspects of culture are lagging behind (vide). Public relations is called Ageneral relations@ in the Arab world, for it is unacceptable to use the term Apublic,@ because of its association with Apublic opinion@ (vide).

It should be mentioned that according to Borhan (1993:25), Egypt has had an influence in public relations far beyond its borders. The public relations courses of study offered at all of Egypt=s universities, have offered educational facilities for countries of the Middle East.


Public relations in the East

India Lazarus (1993:20) reported that almost all of India=s large companies have separate Public Relations Departments, working in Marketing, Consumer affairs and Social Welfare. Large companies sponsor projects - such as Bharat petroleum, which sponsored a hospital on a train, Impact Project=s Lifeline Express, thereby creating goodwill in villages of a remote area where the company plans to construct an important lifeline.

Japan Asano and Kuromizu (1993:22-23) report that while there is much public relations activity 47

in Japan in areas of community relations, environmental issues, media relations, crisis management, seminars, corporate advertising, philanthropy programmes and investor relations, budget fluctuations according to the state of the economy tend to govern public relations to a large degree.

Philippines The restoration of democracy in 1986 has led to a proliferation of mass media and has favoured the growth of public relations. Both government and business recognise the value of public relations. Business has also found a combination of public relations and advertising more effective than advertising alone.

Several major universities offer degree courses in communication with public relations as a major. Conferences, seminars and workshops are held from time to time by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) (Nieva 1993:24).

Korea The Korean Chapter of IPRA is active, although its membership is not large. (Imm 1993:23).

Malaysia Sendiri (1992:42) reported that Government Ministries were re-designating their Ainformation officers@ as public relations officers, due to economic expansion and the recognition of the need for professionals to address eceonomic, political and social issues. Privatisation is one example of a dynamic, underlying thrust towards the growth of public relations. Colleges and universities offer courses to help develop future practitioners.

2.3.10 Increasing demands for public relations education

It can be seen from the previous sections that public relations has been active on a global scale for many years. Globalisation, which is such a dynamic force shaping business, is driving public relations education to a degree of curriculum agreement which will enable graduates to operate in a foreign environment and also to be able to represent within their domicile country the organisation in an international business environment when the opportunity arises. Bearing this in mind, the IPRA Wheel of 48

Education will be considered next.

2.3.11 The International Public Relations Association Wheel of Education and implications of the dual approach to public relations education

It can be seen that there is little unanimity about public relations education between various countries. In 1990 the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), representing practitioners and institutes of about 60 countries, set out a model AThe Wheel of Education@ in their Gold Paper No.7, suggesting educational requirements for the theory and practice of public relations. This model was formulated by practitioners and educators from countries all round the world. The model is given below:-

Business Administration

Organisation Structure and Behaviour


Theory and Process of Communication Writing for Mass Media THEORY AND PRACTICE RELATIONS




Natural Sciences

Political Science


Media law OF PUBLIC


and Ethics


Graphics and CommunicaGovernment tion Organisation

Research Humanities

Public Administration

Media Analysis

Personnel Management

Management Science

Figure 1:

The Wheel of Education

It is noted in the above model that the contribution of communication is confined to ATheory and Process of Communication@. This is identified as Communication

theory/concepts/models in the recommended core curriculum for the central wheel, where it is stated that considerable variation is possible within this general framework (Gold Paper No.7, 1990:28-30). The focus, it would seem, is on accrediting people for 49

public relations work on the basis of fragmentary education preparing them to operate on a technical basis, as can be seen by labels such as AGraphics and Communication@,

AEditing@, and AAdvertising@, in which courses are frequently offered by informal

institutions on a short term basis, so that one could argue that these credits could easily be obtained by doing short courses at a variety of informal colleges, the mere possibility of which challenges the integrity of such a curriculum. The recommendations included in Gold Paper No.7 (1990:6) mention acceptance of the fact that there are two schools of thought about Apublic relations training programmes@, the first that it is a technicianbased communication skills programme and the second that students should be prepared for roles as managers. Thus it can be seen that the dual approach which is characterised on the one hand by the American education model and referred to by Hazleton and Cutbirth above as reflecting a craft model of education and on the other hand by the European education model which puts a greater emphasis on theory than it does on skills thus providing a broad and deep background preparing students for advancement to management level, is firmly embedded in the field of public relations. Hazleton and Cutbirth (1993:195) are also mentioned above as stating that the ideal public relations curriculum should emphasise the type of reflective learning of the European model.

The question of the dual approach to education for public relations is one of profound significance to the field. The craft approach, focusing largely on skills, provides

technicians who are able to execute communication programmes but it does not provide a sufficient theoretical background for the testing of theory in practice and thus the building of a body of knowledge. Earlier it was mentioned that Maund (1997:1) says that public relations is only recently becoming a management function in America. Thus it seems that from its birth the craft model of education seemed sufficient for the place public relations occupied in business, but that its growth and expansion into many areas has changed that position, and that fuller knowledge is now essential for good practice.

Dunne (1999:1-11) explores the relationship between knowledge and good practice. Referring to practical knowledge, Dunne (1999:4) says Aknowledge with an irreducible core of judgment can be made to seem unreliable, makeshift, unaccountable and elitist@. Dunne=s point can be illustrated by referring to the art of the sculptor or painter: the teacher can teach technique, yet greater powers than are taught are incorporated in the execution of a good sculpture or a great painting, as the works of famous artists show. 50

This greater power in execution can be said to be irreducible to finite steps and thus unaccountable and elitist. This is clearly recognisable where talent reigns supreme as in the work of great artists, but is much less clear or even relevant as we descend to the practical of more mundane areas. Hatfield=s (1994:190) quote above of the chair of the institute of public relations education in Britain that Aoperating by the seat of one=s proverbial pants with knee-jerk reaction is no way to compete with other management advisors who encroach a little each on public relations counseling role@ puts this point into perspective. The question which should be asked is whether or not there is something in the nature of the practitioner=s knowledge which needs to be framed and strengthened by theory. Dunne (1999:3) says there is, and he calls it the exercise of judgement, which is knowledge invested in action, and by which a practitioner develops an ability to recognise the particularity of a situation or case and then brings this particularity into some relationship with established norms or procedures in the relevant area. This judgement is thus effected as a Amediation between general and particular, in bringing both into illuminating connection with each other@ (1993:3). This requires perceptiveness in the reading of each particular situation as much as flexibility in one=s mode of applying the general knowledge. It can be seen that Dunne is not referring to an inexplicable talent of the great artist, but rather to the reflection essential to coping adequately with varying situations such as are presented on a day-to-day basis in practical fields. In order that reflection may become a part of the practitioner=s stock-intrade, the practitioner needs a sound foundational background. Thus Dunne (1999:3) says a person of sound judgement Ais not a maverick with a nose for the unusual...she is a keen student of the general stock of knowledge@. Dunne elaborates further on the concept of the general stock of knowledge, which he calls technical rationality (1999:2). Dunne explains that the efficacy of the activity is matched by the rigour of the knowledge, for the defining feature of knowledge is rationality, and thus rationality is also the defining feature of action, and this is the relationship between knowledge and good practice. Knowledge built upon technical rationality suppresses the context-dependence of first-person experience in favour of a third-person perspective which yields generalised findings in accordance with clearlyformulated, publicly agreed procedures. This renders a body of knowledge with values of prediction and control. This minimizes dependence on the judgement of the individual practitioner. The foregoing emphasises the need for practitioners to be keen students of a stock of 51

general knowledge, thus underlining the importance of foundational knowledge from the very first rungs of a career ladder. It should, however, be observed that the IPRA Gold Paper No.7 (1990:5) states that public relations should ideally be provided mainly for those students who already have received a first university degree in other fields. This would tie in with public relations education given in Canada. It could be argued, therefore, that this core curriculum of IPRA is not intended to stand alone as qualification for public relations work. Were it to be seen as standing alone to yield public relations personnel, it is difficult to visualise such backgrounds yielding a body of public relations knowledge which would support a claim to public relations being a profession and holding scientific status, a question to which this study now turns.


Section 2.3.11 above focuses attention on the great significance which the dual approach to public relations education holds for the field, in that the craft approach, in training technicians, seemed sufficient for business until after the middle of the twentieth century. However, the nearer the end of the century came, the more public relations has expanded, as indicated in Table 1 Trends of Public Relations. Thus the demands upon practitioners have grown tremendously, and the responsibility carried likewise. Dunne has shown, as said in section 2.3.11, that the defining feature of knowledge is rationality, and that rationality is also the defining feature of action, this being the relationship between knowledge and good practice.

The model of European public relations education seeks to build both a broad and a deep knowledge. This provides the foundation for prediction and control in practice. This is why the European model has as its objective education providing scope for management in public relations, and is also why Europe has made such significant contributions to communication theory. The history of public relations education shows that its development in Europe was much later and slower than in America, and that it was also firmly grounded in university education. Thus it can be seen that there is a link between the history and the scientific status of public relations in each region. Whereas there is, in some quarters, efforts to lobby for the professionalisation of public relations, this section seeks to underline the significance of theory and research to scientific status and thus to the professionalisation of a field. 52

The section begins with the essential need of developing a body of knowledge for public relations education.


Developing a body of knowledge for public relations education

This section seeks to clarify the meaning ascribed to theory and to a science and to show the significance of the link between these for professionalisation.

Littlejohn (1989:6-12) sees a theory as being a construction of an individual - the theorist - and is that theorist=s way of organising and representing facts. A theory is thus an abstraction which focuses on a particular aspect and cannot, therefore, reveal the whole truth. A theory consists of concepts and their relationships and tries to explain these relationships in a way which can predict, which is the ultimate goal of theory. The abstraction which gives form to a theory results from the interaction of symbolic representation with reality. This symbolic representation is evoked through an interplay of the value statements of the theorist with experience.

Value statements of theorists are a vital component of an explanation of what constitutes a science, for Popper (1965) saw a scientific community as a group of scientists who hold an organised structure of assumptions, theories and research traditions in a particular field, and Kuhn (1970:2-22) also makes the point that a group of scientists share the value system of a particular science and that it is also such a group which grants recognition of success in research.

The theories which are researched and developed and then recognised by a community of scientists in a particular field, become the recognised body of knowledge for the field. Not only must these theories have been critically tested for recognition, but they are also continually tested so that the body of knowledge is up-to-date. This theory development demands a body of scientists who can research on an academic level and whose theories can also be tested in practice. Hence the need for the constant renewal of the number of research workers who are qualified in the particular body of knowledge to carry out such work and who hold recognition by the body concerned.

The body of knowledge in a particular field, which consists of theories which have been 53

critically tested by its scientific community, constitutes a science according to Popper (1965:51), with theory development on an ongoing basis being an essential facet.

Professionalisation of a field requires that those who are granted professional status hold established capability to contribute to the body of knowledge in an academic and a practical way. It can thus be said that there is a strong link between theory, theory development, an established body of knowledge and professionalisation of a field or, in other words, between scientific recognition and professionalisation.

The quest for scientific status of public relations should begin, therefore, with examining its position with regard to theory and research, but, bearing in mind the veracity of Grunig=s (1989:24) statement that AThe creative mind, however, does not observe with a blank slate,@ the perspectives from which theorists approach their work are first discussed.


Divergent worldviews in public relations education

Theorists bring to their work a conceptual framework, and Grunig (1989) called this a set of presuppositions, while other writers (Grunig cites Suppe 1977) use the term Weltenschauung, which means a comprehensive worldview or mindset. The set of assumptions which the scientist brings to the work can be said to belong to a research tradition. On the abstract level this guides the scientist as to which problems should be investigated and their relative importance, and the research tradition also provides theoretical principles and statements which are explanatory of phenomena of that tradition (Grunig 1989:24-28). Grunig (1989:28) also says that presuppositions (or worldview) Aplay a crucial role in research and theory building@, thus it can be seen that it is important that the scientist brings to his/her work a consciousness of their own presuppositions being used as a lens for the examination of problems. Thus, for example, Grunig, L, in writing Toward the Philosophy of Public Relations (Toth & Heath 1992:65-91) acknowledges the influence of her feminist perspective.


Divergent theoretical perspectives

There are three main perspectives which are utilised by public relations scholars. These are the rhetorical perspective, the critical perspective and the systems perspective. 54 Rhetorical perspective Rhetoric is Athe ability to observe in any given case the available means of persuasion what needs to be said and how it should be said to achieve desired outcomes@ (Heath 1992:21). Public relations practitioners utilise rhetoric as a tool of tremendous influence, in order to build or defend organisational reputation. The press release is used on a regular basis, and is an example of one-way communication where the desired outcome as referred to by Heath is to manipulate public opinion.

One of the difficulties about accepting the claim that public relations practice is indeed two-way symmetric to a significant degree, is the fact that so often in giving examples of public relations the writer quotes an example of marketing in which persuasion is the overriding objective and the method in which symbols are employed to create meaning is manipulative. Heath (1992:18) says AIn conjunction with advertising and marketing experts, public relations practitioners help form opinions people use in their daily product selection and buying activities.@ This shows a great need for public relations to More

distinguish itself from marketing and advertising for fundamental research.

importantly, a field in which its scholars frequently focus on examples from other fields means either that the point they are making does not apply to public relations or that they are not clear about what public relations is. The consequence is that the particular statement and example fails to add to the body of knowledge for public relations. Heath (vide) acknowledges that a rhetorical approach asserts self-interest but claims that public relations practitioners have a wider effect in that they shape public opinion on many issues. This is the main objective of the use of rhetoric in public relations. Grunig, L (1992:72) says that as we move from case studies to the teaching of theories we are plagued with unsolved problems. Grunig asks (paraphrasing Mautz and Sharaf 1982:3) how advocacy can always be practised and the practitioner=s independence maintained, and also how, in some instances, responsibility and disclosure can be reconciled. This suggests the great responsibility carried in the use of rhetoric and its effects. Grunig=s statement that there are unsolved problems moving from case studies to the teaching of theories also points to a glaring gap in the field : while case studies can enlighten theories, in public relations education case studies are utilised as a major portion of teaching material, yet there are few theories in public relations to use for enlightenment. The basis for studying case studies is frequently non-existent, or very 55

weak. It can be seen that the manner in which public relations was born has had a profound effect on its foundation.

Cheney (1992:166) says that public relations can be viewed as the study and practice of corporate public rhetoric. Thus the organisation speaks to and with various publics. The public relations practitioner becomes the organisation=s rhetor, or the rhetor of institutions such as government agencies. As these rhetors rely largely on mass media message dissemination, or Apublic record@ (Toth 1992:5-6), research of rhetorical studies of public relations is tied largely to mass media accounts.1 Toth mentions (1992:6) that public relations practitioners ask for clarification to be disseminated in the event of misinterpretation of stories. Cheney (1992:166-167) says that because the rhetorical tradition has been based upon the idea of the good person speaking well, there is difficulty in understanding and evaluating the rhetoric of organisational life, such as is used in image advertising, and there is thus a notable lack of criticism of this area. One of the first needs for change to be brought about in this respect is that scholars must come to terms with the corporate rhetor, the corporate message and the corporate audience so that what they say about our society can be better understood, and how organisational rhetoric can be used to improve our society can be studied (Cheney 1992:169). Cheney also points out (1992:170-178) that it is essential that the imagebased nature of contemporary western culture be probed, as well as the decentreing of the person in corporate communication - the royal Awe@ is used by corporations, or subjects such as AThe White House@, both of which examples confuse questions of authorship and responsibility. Cheney (1992:176) says that the display of corporate logos on clothing points to the individual identifying him/herself as a citizen/consumer rather than as an individual, thus losing personal identity.

Research on organisational rhetoric needs to focus on patterns of messages rather than on individual messages, because of the effect which organisational rhetoric has on society. Members of society should be able to ascertain what is said and also who said it (Cheney 1992:178-181).

It should be noted that the use of the mass media magnifies the effect of the message, thus increasing the responsibility of its effect which, of course, can be effected by subsequent events and is largely controllable. (Van Schoor 1986:116-117)


Cheney (1992:169) is pointing the way for scholars to research public relations from a rhetorical perspective, but he is also calling upon public relations practitioners to equip themselves with a background which will enable them to conduct organisational communication in a manner carrying full responsibility for what is said, how it is said and its potential effect on society.

Cheney (1992) is appealing for a sound and worthy basis for rhetoric. In so doing, he focuses attention on the early history of public relations and the use of stunts and gimmicks for gaining publicity, indirectly indicting the use of rhetoric to obscure intentions in public relations. Critical perspective

Critical perspectives likewise study symbolic messages and processes but also study organisational values in order to uncover how structures of power and domination are created and maintained in striving to meet organisational goals. The critical perspective can bring about new beliefs about organisations because of new themes with different premises for the grouping of ideas and impressions. Thus, says Toth (1992:7) AThe purpose of the critical perspective is to be confrontational.@ Written messages such as annual reports may be studied and their use of powerful myths exposed.

As critical studies seek to expose underlying goals of domination and control, organisational messages and goals and behaviour are examined for their ethical value to the public interest. Thus truthfulness and openness can present challenges for the public relations practitioner, who must disseminate messages which contribute to the organisation=s self-interest. The problem of the public relations practitioner being the paid agent of the organisation and being required to render value to the organisation for such emolument needs to be kept in mind. This position will be exacerbated by a lack of practitioner knowledge of technical factors, particularly with regard to line-function, for she will be dependent to a greater or lesser degree upon the facts and details supplied by the organisation - who expect symbolic messages to promote their reputation! Here it should also be pointed out that a thorough knowledge of the organisation=s linefunction is only a part of the challenge, for in many instances there will be a need to understand other areas, such as environmental issues. Thus Grunig, L (1992:85) states 57

that Aunderstanding public relations requires synthesizing the concepts and methods of journalism, communication, rhetoric, political science, cognitive psychology, business management, and sociology@, and one could add Aother relevant subjects@. Grunig, L (1992) also suggests that the practitioner adopt a philosophy which includes meliorism. This is an approach which is not based on extreme viewpoints or actions, but is inbetween in that it sees each pole of opinion, method and action as being relevant only some of the time to some degree. This claim would seem to emphasise the role of liaison in public relations as facilitator and, in crisis situations, as potential mediator. In striving to meet the sponsor=s interest and also that of society, the practitioner will need to utilise two-way symmetrical communication. Weaver (1965:18) challenged rhetors to high ideals when he wrote Athe good rhetorician leads those who listen in the direction of what is good@. Weaver (1970:211) explains that reflective thought is needed to discover the highest values and then to relate these to the particular circumstances. Holtzhausen (2000:99-102) stresses the need for fundamental change in society, and says that postmodern values have something to offer public relations practitioners, who can act as community activists and contribute to alliance politics in order to address ideological domination of minority groups.

It can be seen that power and domination and values and ethics are the basis of the critical perspective. It is not surprising then that the feminist perspective couches much of research done under the critical approach of public relations. Rakow (1989:287-298) says that organisations generally prefer traits classified as male - efficiency, rationality, individualism and competition - and that the entrance of substantial numbers of women into the field represents to some extent the movement of the practice of public relations towards a model based more on the feminine values of co-operation and collaboration. Grunig, L (1992:81) reports on research literature which suggests differences in the basis of moral judgement between men and women, such as women base moral reasoning on responsibility, men on rights, women value both intuition and rational thinking and prefer a win-win conflict solution that will benefit the whole, while men prefer short term goals which benefit a few.

Grunig, L (1992:79-81) discusses ethics in public relations and how it can be practised to make it worthy of success. Grunig refers to the claim of Pearson (1988) that ethics is not based on right or wrong but rather on the establishment and implementation of 58

mechanisms for thrashing out by discussion the validity of varied claims and actions. Grunig also points to the dilemma of openness, which Brain (1988) said may make top management unwilling to include public relations managers in the top coalition.

Holtzhausen (2000:93-114) says that while public relations theory is embedded in positivism, based on the notion that a single truth can be determined through scientific rigour, the postmodern approach holds that publics view organisations from a sense of their own individual reality. Diversity is thus a highly influential factor. Ethical decisions based on values of right and wrong may not be sufficient for public relations decisions in a complex society. Holtzhausen says (2000:95) AAs a discipline that has far-reaching effects on society, public relations needs to be understood and examined in a broader social, cultural and political context rather than in a narrowly defined organizational function.@ A society that is ethically responsible cannot stand on the reality of there being a single, dominant and privileged group, but must take cognisance of all groups in their diversity. For this reason, public relations practice is often called upon to deal with issues which are the subject of activism. This involves public relations practice in community activism, in which ethical issues play a driving role. Social change is a main objective, with developing technology providing activism with channels such as the interactive mass media which multiply the influence of each communication act immeasurably, so that the final impact can challenge organisational influence of mass message impact. Public relations practitioners can work from within organisations to resist injustice in society. Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) see public relations as

interactive and cooperative with the potential for building community. Toulmin (1958) says that rhetoric is central to ethics. Pearson (1989:111-117) says that business ethics is communication ethics, which is based upon dialogue and the concept of intersubjectivity. Postmodern rhetorical theory is dialectic in that it rejects both

objectivism and relativism and transcends this dualism through intersubjectivism. This is where cooperation and collaboration enter the public relations arena, two qualities which the feminist approach sees as residing in the nature of women rather than men, and which, because these figure so prominently in the emerging managerial style, may be the reason why so many more women than men are entering the field of public relations.

Pearson (1989:120-121) cites Buchholz (1985) when he says that objectivism in public relations took form as social responsibility programmes, in which the organisation saw the programme as being based on moral rightness. This approach was not very 59

successful, its basic value being challenged by pluralistic values, representing a relativistic approach of seeing competing claims as all having some validity. In public relations, this becomes passivity, which is an approach of social responsiveness. Intersubjectivism rises above both objectivism and relativism, as it is the sharing and the building of ideas between two minds. In public relations, this finds form in consultation between an organisation and its publics.

It seems from the foregoing that public relations practice is moving inexorably toward an engine of ethics. Two questions arise in this connection: ! can organisations afford large amounts of input into social change without it having a marked effect on shareholders? and ! can the present education curricula adequately equip students to meet the demands of strategic communication?

The critical perspective mirrors the situation of controversy in the early days of public relations. It is difficult to anticipate it making a solid contribution to the theory of public relations, because ethics conjures up different standards for the many different groups in today=s heterogeneous societies. Systems perspective

The systems approach to public relations is at present the dominating approach, because of its need for an integrative perspective. Like the rhetorical and the critical approach, it sees public relations as being persuasion at one end of the scale and moving through to consensus at the other end. Grunig=s (1984) models depict this as assymetrical and symmetrical models. Through studying the implications of persuasionconsensus, systems theorists have sought excellence in communication, which strives to obtain consensus between the organisation and its publics.

The systems theory focuses heavily on the organisation in its environment. Robbins (1990) explains the organisation and its operation of business cycle as a system. Grunig and Hunt (1984) see public relations as a subsystem which helps with the integration of all the subsystems with an alert eye on the surrounding systems in the environment. 60

Thus they see the public relations function as needing to work in close collaboration with top management, but also see a big obstacle to excellent public relations being the frequent exclusion of the public relations manager from Athe dominant coalition@. This is an important point which will be referred to again in this study. As the systems perspective is considered in much greater detail in Chapter 5, this brief reference is seen as sufficient here. Contribution/value of public relations perspectives for theory and research

Toth (1992:3-15) sees the study of public relations from the three perspectives as beneficial and enriching to the field. Toth also notes that the understanding of the three perspectives is largely complementary, particularly with regard to the cross-over in perspectives evident in research. Toth (1992:12) makes two proposals with regard to research: firstly, rhetorical and crital scholars must make the theoretical foundations upon which their criticism rests clearer and also define what they mean by rhetoric and public relations and argue how their findings contribute to our theoretical understanding of the domain, and, secondly, rhetorical and critical scholars can contribute greatly to research of the systems perspective by offering a much richer delineation of what is meant by communication. They can provide new dimensions to one of the key concepts of the definition of public relations - that of communication.

Toth focuses on points of profound significance with both of the above proposals. Grunig=s (1984) models deal with public relations as a phenomenon, whereas, for example, feminism of the critical perspective has a stronger emphasis on the people practising public relations and their welfare than it has on public relations itself. Only indirectly can it suggest that promoting higher prospects for men to become public relations managers than the organisation does women, may bias the kind of public relations practised. Holtzhausen (2000:93-114) suggests that public relations

practitioners who become community activists have taken public relations into a wider area than its proclaimed focus on managing communication between an organisation and its publics. Hutton (1999:202) says, AVirtually all of the definitions speak to the issue of >organizations=, ignoring the practice of public relations for individuals or groups of people who are not formally organized.@ Holtzhausen (2000) and Hutton (1999) are focusing on a point of deep significance, for it can be argued that the term public relations claims a focus of meaning only through it being attached to a locale 61

Aorganization and its publics@. For once we release public relations from its locale, we
come up against the need to define what public relations is, rather than where it is. Hutton=s proposal (1999:208-209) that public relations be re-defined as managing strategic relationships offers a clearer description than managing communication between an organisation and its publics, for it conjures up a powerful thrust toward a particular objective, and it is not thereby confined to a particular locale. This point will be raised again in a later section.

Hutton (1999) is calling for a theoretical grounding for public relations itself, which is the great need of the field. However, the history of public relations seems to have set it off on a path of whatever seems to work best at the particular time, rather than a seeking of firmly-based principles with a scientific basis. The critical approach does bring close examination upon practices which are connected with public relations, but by and large these are peripheral to the field itself.

The history of public relations education displays the lack of central focus from which different points of departure can be taken. This is likewise reflected in the perspectives of scholars.

The perspectives with which theorists approach public relations having been described above, the examination of the position with regard to theory and research lies at the heart of the quest for scientific status of public relations.


Theory and research : issues of theory development in public relations

Terry (1989:281-298) states that while public relations is emerging as a social science discipline, there must be a strong link between theorists and practitioners for advancement. He found that public relations looks to other disciplines for its theory base, for the only exclusive theory of public relations revealed by his investigation of texts is that of Grunig and Hunt (1984). Moreover, research which measured familiarity with theoretic concepts relevant to public relations, in particular their validity and practical utility, showed that while scholars were more aware of these concepts overall, they were more aware of those theoretic concepts borrowed from disciplines which were a major feature of their own background than they were of concepts used in public relations arising from other disciplines. Practitioners were far less able to rate the 62

theories/models in terms of familiarity, validity and practical utility than were scholars, a position unfruitful for the development of theory in a field in which theories need to develop from practical application. However, Poole and McPhee (1985:101) suggest that choice of method by practitioners operates according to their Apoint of contact with reality@ and may well bias research. This claim by Poole and McPhee (1985) indicates a great need for discrimination in developing theory, which is strengthened by the statement already quoted of Hazleton and Botan (1989:13) that Athe craft approach to public relations education and training does not produce the unique body of theoretical knowledge necessary for the development and advancement of a profession@. Instead, these authors say we should seek the development of public relations theory in the humanistic and empirical traditions of social science, for there has been little of public relations research that is theory driven. Botan (1989:100) says AWith a few notable exceptions, public relations has not systematically addressed the development of theory or the relationship of practice to research and theory building@. Botan (1989:102) believes that practitioners have an important role to play in theory building, for while social science theories seek to explain human behaviour, such theories can be tested by the practitioner and results obtained then used to modify theories, which can generate further research in the continuing process of theory development. Thus theory can be used to predict, in other words, to direct practitioner=s activities.

It seems from the foregoing that a major difficulty in the field of public relations is the lack of a fundamental purpose and a mission, a lack of cohesion and a fragmentation of endeavour. The medical field can be characterised as seeking to save and preserve human life, the scientist seeks to develop theories objectively in search of truth, but it is exceedingly difficult to compose a single statement which would characterise the goal of those who serve in the field of public relations. Toth (1986:29) also points out that there are few consistent or theoretical perspectives developing in the field, while Pavlik (1987:17) says that most of the research in the field seeks to deal with specific practical issues, with very little research being designed for building a general, theoretical body of knowledge.

Thus, while it is suggested that, for example, public relations programmes could help to provide the testing ground for theory on human behaviour, there is also a strong underlying pointer to the need for practitioners planning such research-testing to possess a good knowledge background of the relevant theoretical bases and also of the 63

relevant society.

Cutlip, Center and Broom (1985) also stress the need for theoretically-based research as a foundation for the development of the field, and Cutlip and Center (1982) mention that many different research traditions are drawn upon by public relations, among them those of economics and organisational communication. Prior-Miller (1989:67-68) says that organisation theory has its roots in a number of social scientific disciplines, and also states that because much of the practitioner=s work incorporates interpersonal and mediated communication, communication theory is one of the logical theoretical traditions for building the theoretical body of knowledge needed in public relations. PriorMiller (1989) adequately makes the point that it is important that researchers understand the root theories out of which the various research traditions have grown so that they can build a unified body of public relations theory by relating new research to these origins. Prior-Miller (1989:68) also points to an enlightening observation about

organisational communication - there is not a single, or even a few, theory or theories offering explanation and prediction, rather are there a group of highly-complex and diverse Apartial theories@, called middle-range theories, each with a limited ability to explain aspects of organisations, and each of which have been developed from four theoretical frameworks in sociology, often referred to by sociologists as grand theories. Because public relations also draws on diverse research traditions, and because it is based in communication theory and organisational theory to a large extent, is concerned with human behaviour and is a social science, the fact that these middle-range theories of organisational communication have their roots in sociology points strongly to the potential for public relations researchers to build a body of knowledge which may emerge as many middle-range theories explaining various phenomena of public relations and related human behaviour, based upon or having connections with these four theoretical frameworks of sociology.

Yet, while it is stated above that Prior-Miller (1989:67) sees communication theory as a logical theoretical tradition for building a foundation for public relations, it should be mentioned that there are problems in communication research such as that there is a lack of fundamental research, there is a tendency to rely on the application of communication and to conduct investigation that is de-contextualised, and there is also a lack of critical evaluation of research. As this question is discussed further under section below, this brief reference is made here so as to put the question of theory 64

development for public relations from communication theory into perspective.


Issues pertaining to theory development

Prior-Miller (1989:69-77) gives a brief synopsis of the four theories referred to above and their potential to contribute to a body of public relations theory:-

Symbolic Interactionism

This theory has its roots in behaviourism and deals with interactions among people and the impact on society. It holds that people use symbols in interacting and the meaning gained is the meaning the participants attach to the symbols. This meaning can be negotiated. This study sees it as a noteworthy point that public relations deals with groups of people, which means that planned-for effects will always be based on the perception of the response of the common denominator of any group. Prior-Miller (1989) suggests that public relations see the organisation as a unit, and organisational communication as the process of negotiating meaning. This study also sees PriorMiller=s (vide) phrase Athe process of negotiating meaning@ - with the emphasis on the word negotiating@ - as describing one of the fundamental bases of public relations. While this identifies it in a compelling way with the communication process, it does not identify the arena in which public relations operates, thus there is room for the point of view that public relations is more than a process of communication, but that Amore than@ can refer only to location, for if we speak of objectives, such as Apromoting the mission of the organization@, we have also entered the area of ethics of communication and the philosophy of communication, because of the agency nature of public relations.

Prior-Miller (1989) gives an example of the utilisation of this theory in public relations : the public relations researcher can use this symbolic interactionist perspective in order to study symbols used in corporate logo so as to explore how those symbols become statements of strategic choice.

Exchange Theory

This theory also has its roots in behaviourism, and is based on the assumption that people will form relationships and maintain them while they believe the rewards are 65

greater than the cost. A basic proposition is that social structures result from social exchange between individuals. Thus social interaction is based on the benefit of the exchange. The unit of analysis is the individual, and Prior-Miller (1989) again suggests that public relations researchers utilise the organisation as the unit of analysis. It can be seen that this theory will have great relevance, for example, for the maintenance of balance in organisational interaction, both internally and externally.

Prior-Miller (vide) mentions that practitioners who depend on organisations to hire them will thus have less power to require higher pay for their skill and knowledge. However, another aspect of great significance can be added to Prior-Miller=s (vide) observation in this regard - public relations practitioners who are receiving emolument must offer fair exchange for this, and this means that their activities must provide benefits for the employing organisation which help to promote the mission of such organisations, which constraint may well upset the balance in public relations exchanges.

Conflict Theory

When Marx (1969) took the production process as a unit of analysis, he offered a perspective very different from the two referred to above and also of that of structuralfunctional theory, which follows. In production, resources will always be scarce and because it is assumed there are always differences in power, interaction will be conflict over the distribution of the scarce resources. The most obvious example of this theory in today=s economic world is wage disputes between industry and unions.

Prior-Miller (1989) gives an example of conflict theory applied to public relations: the investigation of practitioners in organisations becoming aware of inequalities in resources available and the power they have to make decisions about the products of their work and how they use pressure in order to bring about change.

This study will mention later that public relations practice in the late 1990s has focused very much on the difficulties created by the fact mentioned earlier that few public relations managers are part of the dominant coalition in organisations. Conflict theory could be utilised to study such a problem, and is also relevant to the problem raised by Feminism that the male public relations practitioner is directed at an early stage of employment toward a management-level position far more often than is a female public 66

relations practitioner.

Structural-Functional Theory

Structural-Functional Theory assumes that organisations and relationships exist as part of a larger system and that co-operation, conflict or communication are processes by which the different parts of the system adjust to one another for the maintenance of the whole system. As the system is seen as greater than the sum of its parts, the system as a whole is the unit of analysis. This sees the interests of individuals as of secondary importance. Thus the organisation is seen as serving the system, and its value can be measured by its function as part of the system. Prior-Miller says that as the structure of the organisation itself has a great influence, public relations researchers could, for example, study the functions of public relations in the organisation and their relationship to practitioner=s roles and rewards. In the light of the present strong focus on why public relations practitioners are seldom part of Athe dominant group@ in organisations, it is suggested that structural-functional theory could be beneficially employed for research on this question.

In focusing attention on the potential of these root theories for public relations research, Prior-Miller has facilitated the growth of a body of knowledge in public relations, and has emphasised that while theoretical research is a basic need, growth of a body of knowledge through testing and adapting and generating further research also places great responsibility upon the public relations practitioner. However, Prior-Miller

(1989:68) also states that Astley and Van de Ven (1983) have given the proliferation of middle-range theories on organisations a mixed review, for while it encourages critical enquiry it also results in theoretical compartmentalisation. Prior-Miller (1989:68) goes on to say that this is, indeed, an important point, for researchers must understand the root theories which are the origins of research traditions, so that these can be related to new research and emerging theories. These comments underline the need for a

comprehensive general theory of public relations which shows how various schools of thought are related to one another, but Prior-Miller (1989:77-78) suggests that researchers may be able to build connections between existing middle-range theories and their theoretical roots as a beginning point for developing new theories. Such new theories for explaining and predicting public relations phenomena can contribute to the development of a unified theory of public relations. 67

Before considering contributions to the theory of public relations, a distinction should be made between a theory and a model. Hazleton and Botan (1989:7&8) explain that a theory consists of two or more concepts and a statement explaining the relationship between those concepts. The statement(s) linking the concepts are logical in character. Thus a theory predicts and provides a measure of control. Hawes (1975:122-123) defined a theory as an explanation and a model as a representation, for models represent aspects of the phenomenon without explaining the relationships among the parts of the modelled process. VanLeuven (1989:194) states that models are

representations of reality and each model serves as a conceptual representation of how effects develop from different sets of conditions. Models, therefore, serve as guidelines.


The scientific status of Public Relations : The need for an exhaustive scientific framework

At the beginning of this section Terry=s (1989:281-298) statement is referred to that the only exclusive public relations theory revealed by his examination of texts is that in Grunig and Hunt (1984:21-26):-

Grunig (1984) introduced these four models of public relations, two of which are shown below, and two are shown later:!

Press agentry / publicity model which seeks media attention by any means and utilises propaganda extensively. (Barnum mentioned at the beginning of this chapter is an example of the utilisation of Press agentry/publicity).

Public-information model, commonly used by government departments and nonprofit organisations, where largely-accurate positive information about the organisation is disseminated to publics without interaction with those publics.

Grunig (1984:7-29) says that the above two models utilise one-way communication. These two models strongly re-inforce the claim of Miller (1989:45-66) that public relations is Aa process that centers on exerting symbolic control over certain aspects of the environment@ (1989:47). The comments under Symbolic Interactionism above describe public relations as negotiating meaning through the utilisation of symbols, and the above two models of one-way communication point strongly to control as the 68

underlying objective. It should be observed that the first of Grunig=s (1984) models marks the birth of public relations, and the second model represents its rapidly-following first spurt of development. Miller (1989:45) claims that Aeffective, ethically defensible persuasion and effective, ethically defensible public relations are virtually synonymous.@ Miller=s (1989) point of view is strengthened by the growing circumstance of recent times whereby activist groups are employing the services of public relations practitioners. Yet Miller (1989:47) points out that this does not make public relations suspect, for attempts at controlling our environment are intrinsic to human being, and moral and ethical judgements must rest upon each individual circumstance. Miller=s (1989) identification of persuasion with public relations is also relevant to Grunig=s (1984) third and fourth models of his theory of public relations. However, although persuasion through negotiation of meaning through the utilisation of symbols is integral, the third and fourth models seek interaction with the relevant publics, as follows:!

Two-way asymmetric model, in which organisations use research in order to identify messages which will be likely to persuade their publics without the behaviour of the organisation being changed.

Two-way symmetrical model, in which organisations use bargaining, negotiating and strategies of conflict resolution to bring about symbiotic changes in the ideas, attitudes, and behaviours of both the organisation and its publics.

Grunig=s (1984) four models show the growing sophistication of public relations practice - from one-way communication to two-way communication, with the fourth model approaching a basis of dialogic communication. However, just as the dialogic method of communication further refined with Kierkegaard=s (1968) indirect communication based on Socrates=s midwife approach (Plato:1937) gives us a wonderful ideal for which to strive in our own communication but we find that its use is restrained by the measure of practical application from one situation to another, so we need to ask what percentage of public relations practice can be conducted through processes of bargaining, negotiation and the utilisation of strategies of conflict resolution. Terry (1989:286) says that public relations, which is a behavioural science, is slow to put into practice the theories of academics, and that despite the fact that the two-way symmetric model is the ideal form 69

of public relations, it is estimated that only about 15% of current practice operates at this level. This strengthens the claim of this study that Grunig=s (1984) two-way symmetric model can in essence only be relevant to a percentage of the work of public relations practitioners. However, it should not be overlooked that in the years following 1984, the right for all affected parties to information and to be consulted has become more and more firmly entrenched, which must promote the use of Grunig=s (1984) model in public relations practice, marking it as a model pointing the way to the new century. Holtzhausen (1995) utilised Grunig=s (1984) theory in order to build a General Theory of Public Relations. However, Holtzhausen (1995) saw the lack of scientific status of public relations as a hindrance to the development of a General Theory of Public Relations, and so considered this question first.

Holtzhausen (1995:1) states that despite the work of some eminent scholars, it is still not clear whether or not public relations is seen as a subdomain of communication science, or whether it is a domain of science in its own right. Some scholars see public relations as being grounded in the social sciences, while several see it as belonging to the field of communication. It was Grunig, J (1990:3) who pointed out that, while public relations is a subdomain of communication, it is also strongly based on management and organisational theory. This means according to Holtzhausen (1995:1-2), it is also connected to sociology and psychology, for it has its roots in behavioural theories. Holtzhausen (1995:4) also states that there is virtually no research on public relations in South Africa and that there is confusion between marketing and public relations, so that public relations is also confused with marketing communication and, consequently, public relations is seen as a means of persuasion. As mentioned earlier, Miller

(1989:47) saw ethically defensible persuasion and ethically defensible public relations as very similar processes. Holtzhausen (1995:9) set out with the aim of contributing to establishing public relations as an independent field of study and as a recognised social science rather than it being a subdomain of another science or sciences. Holtzhausen (1995) also set out to provide a general theoretical model for theory application and development in the field of public relations. As the research in South Africa had been undertaken largely as communication science and had addressed the communication process between organisations and publics and saw this as persuasion and as a support system for marketing, Holtzhausen (1995) also sought to examine the metatheoretical principles of the public relations field and so to broaden knowledge of the field in South 70


In order to establish whether or not public relations can be seen as a scientific domain in its own right, Holtzhausen (1995:12) undertook an extensive literature survey. Although the survey found that there are many differing opinions on what constitutes a science, Holtzhausen found (1995:38) that these differences are points of secondary interest and that there are several points on which philosophers of science agree and which can be used to identify the attributes of science. Using these attributes as a measure of the public relations research field, Holtzhausen (1995:225) concluded that public relations has a justifiable claim to being a scientific domain in its own right. It fulfills the following requirements of a scientific domain:! Its tremendous growth in theory development is increasing its body of knowledge. (However, this study holds that it is important in this claim that theory which is public relations theory be identified clearly from suggestions for development from other fields, which may yet take place.) ! As a science it is practised diligently and methodically by a dedicated group of scientists, such as Professors Jim Grunig, Larissa Grunig, Elizabeth Toth, Robert Heath, Vincent Hazleton and Carl Botan, to name just some in the United States. ! Healthy debate prevails in the field of public relations, such as the debate surrounding public relations as persuasion, questioning of the Excellence model, et cetera. ! Public relations research shows that it is influenced by the worldview and presuppositions of the scientist, such as in the case of feminist scholars, and these play a role in development in the field. It is healthy that its scientists support different worldviews, different paradigms, et cetera. ! There is much theoretical activity in the field. Holtzhausen states (1995:220-222) that the growth of theory in public relations is proven by the many articles, theses and dissertations which are published all over the world.2

However, it must be pointed out that it is difficult to establish that there are a large number of articles, theses and dissertations which have contributed to the scientific body of knowledge of public relations. The critical number counts those which are theory-


! Public relations represents a body of information which needs to be investigated, and this is the strategic management of communication in the organisation, relating to both its internal and external publics. The expansion of knowledge is providing a clearer picture of what public relations does, both as a science and as a function. This is an unchallenged body of knowledge up to the present time as befits a science. (However, as stated earlier, Holtzhausen (2000:95) says that public relations needs to be understood and examined in a much broader context than that of a narrowly defined organisational function.) ! New hypotheses are continuously being proposed and tested by other scholars. Thus it can be stated that public relations holds heuristic properties. ! Public relations is scientific in that it solves problems within its field. For example, the Excellence Model contributes to organisational effectiveness. ! Public relations is using theories from other domains in its studies. It used to focus on the application of communication theories, but is now using organisational theories and metatheoretical applications. Social science has also made valuable

contributions with regard to culture and society. When theories from other domains contribute, a scientific domain proliferates. ! Public relations research is healthy in the respect that it has more than one broad research tradition - the Excellence approach and the Persuasion approach. More traditions are developing within the Excellence approach. ! While it is acknowledged that public relations is a young science, all sciences go through an immature and a mature stage. This is a natural process.
based. This claim that there is much theoretical activity in the field is moderated by Holtzhausen=s acknowledgement - given in the second paragraph after this list of requirements - of there being a weak point of holding that public relations should be seen as a science. (Holtzhausen 1995:222).


! Most sciences developed from the practice of crafts. Public relations developed from journalism, and this is probably why it is linked with communication. However, public relations is now a field of study on its own. (Holtzhausen (1995:38-42 & 220-225)

Holtzhausen (1995:225) sees the foregoing evidence as sufficient for claiming that public relations is a domain of science in its own right and should not be seen as a subdomain of any other field. Holtzhausen (1995:222) also mentions a weak point of public relations as a science. This is the testing of theories, which is regarded as the most basic form of practising science and essential for the growth of science. There are not enough scholars who work at testing these theories, Holtzhausen (1995:222) argues, and states that postgraduate studies of public relations should address this need, as should, also, public relations practitioners through the evaluation research of their campaigns. Holtzhausen (vide) says Athis might be one of the weaker points of public relations as a science@. This weaker point is of fundamental importance to the

professionalisation of public relations for, as this study has shown, testing and acceptance of theories and regular re-testing for the bringing-up-to-date of the body of theory is the foundation of scientific recognition. Moreover, the focus has also fallen in this study upon the inadequacy of many public relations practitioners and some researchers in founding testing upon theoretical bases, which can be linked to education programmes lacking broad and deep theoretical coverage. This study holds that once public relations merits scientific status, this will be evident in its body of theory which defines public relations, differentiating it from other fields, and identifies problems, linking the concepts involved and their relationships in a way which offers prediction and control.

Holtzhausen (1995:4) sees the existence of a general theory of public relations as pivotal to the argument that public relations is a science. Grunig (1990:3) stated that a general theory of public relations was emerging. Grunig (1990) proposed a general theory of excellent public relations, seeing public relations as a subdomain of communication but as also being closely related to management theory. Holtzhausen (1995:46) states that a comprehensive analysis of public relations definitions carried out by Pearson (1989:227), found that all shared the common concept of communication management. Holtzhausen adopted as the basis of her study the definition of Grunig and Hunt (1984:6) 73

that public relations is the management of communication between an organisation and its publics.

Holtzhausen (1995:1-4) also refers to the approaches of European, particularly German, researchers, who leaned towards the sociological and methatheoretical approaches. Schulz (1990:32-33) made reference to the approach of American researchers as being pragmatic and so as measuring public relations against its practical relevance and benefit. The view of public relations as a social science is also evident in the work of Hazleton and Botan (1989:13), who stated, as previously said, that the birth of public relations from the crafts training in journalism had not produced the body of theoretical knowledge necessary for development of the profession. Botan (1989:99-100) saw public relations as an applied social science based in communication and thus as an applied communication science. Botan (vide) believed that a focus on skills

development had pre-empted a systematic approach to the development of public relations theory. In an analysis of 240 communication departments in the United States, Neff (1989:159-172) found, as already stated, that business schools offered only a single course in public relations with a limited focus and suggested that as public relations became more complex it would shift away from journalism and that its future lay in the field of communication. It is on this point that Grunig (1990:3) made a distinction by stating that while communication theory was unconditionally applied to public relations, public relations was a blending of organisational/management theory and communication theory. Long and Hazleton (1987:5) suggested that general systems theory would provide theoretical principles for the study of public relations as a multidisciplinary phenomenon.

In considering the views of the various researchers, Holtzhausen (1995:4) observed that scholars saw public relations as taking place at the metatheoretical (philosophical) level, the communication level and the organisational level. Holtzhausen (vide) argued that a general theory of public relations would include theories each of which applied either to one or to more of these functional levels, following Littlejohn's (1989:29) claim that the scope of a theory rests on its comprehensiveness or inclusiveness. Grunig's (1990) proposed general theory of excellent public relations, thus became the focus of Holtzhausen's (1995) investigation. Grunig (1990:5-30) maintains that public relations is practised on three levels:-


Micro level

- where the planning, execution and evaluation of public relations programmes takes place

Meso level

- pertains to the organisation and management of public relations departments

Macro level - refers to environmental influences on public relations

Grunig (1990:14) said that research in public relations had started at the micro level where research into information campaigns focused on communication as persuasion. Excellent public relations was practised when public relations was approached as a twoway communication process, and a two-way symmetrical approach to communication between an organisation and its publics formed the basis of excellent public relations at micro level. Here the confusion between marketing and public relations occurred, but the situational theory providing for segmentation of publics propounded by Grunig (1975) provided strategic management, and this thus formed a comprehensive public relations theory on micro level.

Meso level, the organisational or managerial level, determined the kind of public relations model used. The two-way symmetrical model adopted dialogue, negotiation and compromise in communication between an organisation and its publics. This was the more likely when public relations was an integrated department, distinctly separated from marketing, and where the public relations manager reported directly to senior management. Grunig (1990:23) acknowledged, however, that organisations also used a contrasting model - one which utilised a communication approach between the organisation and its publics which was characterised by monologue, conflict and persuasion. Noteworthy here is Grunig's (1990:24) finding that the two-way symmetrical model was more likely to be adopted if the public relations manager were part of the dominant coalition and if he/she were an educated public relations professional.

Macro level excellent public relations, which utilises the two-way symmetrical approach, contributes to organisational effectiveness and is influenced by:! Participative decision-making with symmetrical internal communication 75

! An environment that is complex and holds high uncertainty and threatens the autonomy of the organisation ! Societal culture - participative, rather than authoritarian, cultures promote the two-way symmetrical approach to communication ! The power-control perspective - if the public relations function does not have power and is not part of the dominant coalition, few public relations programmes are excellent.

The integration of the two-way symmetric approach on the micro, meso and macro level provided the general theory of excellent public relations as proposed by Grunig (1990).

Grunig and Grunig (1992:291-292) saw his theory of excellent public relations as a normative theory, which is a theory which provides a model which would improve the practice of the activity which it models if it were followed. Thus it could solve problems, while its counterpart, a positive theory, described how phenomena actually occurred. A positive theory could be used to understand problems.

Holtzhausen (1995:141) concluded that the literary overview of public relations research supported Grunig's (1990) model of a two-way symmetrical approach to communication management in the organisation, and that there was also strong support for the claim that utilisation of this model is the most ethical and the best way to practise public relations - this model would be referred to as the Excellence Model of public relations.

However, the literary overview had suggested that another model of public relations is being utilised. Holtzhausen (1995:130) says that, according to Grunig (1990), research in public relations began with information campaigns with a focus on communication as persuasion. The two-way process of communication view developed later on this level, the micro level. Holtzhausen (1995:135) says that Grunig (1990), in referring to his twoway symmetrical model on the meso level, conceded that organisations had mixed motives and also utilised an asymmetrical model on the meso level. On the macro level, Grunig (1990:26) claimed that if the public relations function does not have power and is not part of the dominant coalition, few public relations programmes are excellent. These acknowledgements, Holtzhausen (1995:136) claims, suggest another model - the Persuasion Model - operates on all three levels - micro, meso and macro. As this model seeks to persuade its publics according to the needs of the organisation so that, if used 76

successfully, it would help meet the organisation=s goals, Holtzhausen (1995) sees it as also being a normative model, and referred to it as the Persuasion Model of public relations. Cheyney and Dionisopoulos (1989:148-149) confirm the presence of a persuasion model by stating that all communication specialists speaking as corporate rhetors should, no matter what their specific arguments or interests may be, maximize the possibilities for human dialogue because of the great responsibility they carry due to the mostly Aone-way@ nature of corporate communications. Pearson (1989:127) states that communication dialogue should be the central focus of business ethics in public relations.

As the literary overview had revealed the use of the Persuasion Model in addition to the Excellence Model, it also indicated that public relations practitioners used a mixture of these two models. Holtzhausen (1995) called this the Mixed Model of public relations practice. Holtzhausen (1995:141-142) saw the Mixed Model theory as a positive theory, because it described the way in which public relations is being practised, representing reality rather than an ideal. Thus Holtzhausen (vide) adapted and expanded Grunig's (1990) general theory of excellent public relations and combined the three models of theory application in public relations practice, as shown in Figure 2:-

Persuasion Model


Excellence Model



Figure 2 : Theoretical Models of Public Relations Practice (Holtzhausen & Verwey 1996:37)

Each of these three models operates on the three functional levels of public relations practice, being the metatheoretical level, the organisational level and a communication level. They combine to form Holtzhausen's proposed General Theory of public relations, as shown in Figure 3:-







FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication

FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication

FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication


FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication


FUNCTIONAL LEVELS: metatheoretical organizational communication

Figure 3 : A General Theory of Public Relations. (Holtzhausen & Verwey 1996:40)

The proposed General Theory of public relations is inclusive of the phenomena of the practice of public relations, and can also be successfully integrated into a systems approach to public relations, which is the dominating metatheoretical approach to public relations (Holtzhausen 1995:166).

Holtzhausen has made out a strong case for the recognition of public relations as a science, while her emphasis on the lack of research for testing theories will, no doubt, promote the yielding of further research which will contribute to the body of public relations theory and so strengthen it. At this point, it is appropriate to consider issues which constrain the development of Public Relations as a science.



Issues constraining the development of Public Relations as a science Lack of definition

Bredenkamp (1997:77) and Hutton (1999:199) point out that agreement has not yet been reached on a broadly accepted definition of public relations. In order to understand the challenge involved in the compilation of a comprehensive and widely-accepted definition of public relations, Table 3 sets out the trends of public relations and their characteristics, their aims and descriptions of practice or relevant definitions which have been offered:-

Table 4: Trend

Description of Trends of Public Relations Time Period

Up to early th 20 century

Manipulative techniques, in other words, propaganda Characteristics of stage 1 as well as a new focus on human relationships : honest and open communication with the people, promotion of justice.

To help organisations to control its publics

Description of Practice or Definition

To Apublicize the organization, its products, and its services in any way possible@ (Bredenkamp 1997:86; Newsom et al. 1996:20). Mediated information was recognised as a powerful technique for influencing public opinion. Hutton (1999:200) : Ivy Lee, the first public relations counsellor, focused on honesty, understanding and compromise to ensure a Aproper adjustment of the interrelations@ of public and business.


Pearson (1992:116) : Hiebert saw public relations practice as having a dual aim - the maintenance of power regardless of ethical considerations and also the dissemination of information To persuade, to inform and to influence the publics of organisation.


Characteristics of stage 1 and 2 and also implementation of planned programmes of action to gain support of publics for organisational activities - used analysis, prediction and control.

Skinner and Von Essen (1982:1) : The World Assembly of Public Relations in Mexico City in 1978 approved the following definition which was endorsed by 34 national public relations organisations:

APublic relations practice is the art and social

science of analysing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organisation leaders, and implementing planned programmes of action which serve both the organisation=s and the public=s interest.@ To create mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. Cutlip, Center and Broom (1985:4): APublic relations is the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends.@

1980 early 1990s

Characteristics of stages 1, 2 and 3 and : Integrated communication involving operations combined with advertising, marketing. Dialogue and collaboration with publics - furthered by technological developments. Characteristics of stages 1,2,3 and 4

1990s and current

Long-term relationship building.

Hayes, R. (1996:24-25): AInstead of deal or transaction based


and: Strategic and counselling approach rather than a tactical and implementation approach.

networking, we have accessibility and personalisation of the information superhighway for the importance of long-term relationship building. We must find a way to position public relations as a strategic management tool with political, cultural antennae. For this, we need to be able to speak the language of business, our knowledge must be broad, we need the intellectual framework and methodologies which can make us truly PR professionals. We must be able to communicate globally, regionally and locally.@

Table 4 reflects inter alia, the dubious beginnings of public relations, its questionable techniques and its unworthy approach. While the second trend of honest and open communication is laudable, the table shows that the public relations historian Hiebert (Pearson 1992:116) was disturbed at the dual aim, and this throws light on a major difficulty in defining public relations. This is the fact that public relations was not born as something bad which trended to improvement and is presently good, having outgrown wrongful intentions. This difficulty is manifested in Hiebert=s concern, for the use of propaganda techniques for selfish motives of the first trend-period of public relations did not die with the coming of the second-trend period. In fact, it is still with us today in this fifth trend-period, just as the practices of the second, third and fourth trend-periods are still existent in practice today. Here lies the difficulty in reaching broad agreement on a definition of public relations, for what might be called Agood public relations@ (such as is aimed at the promotion of democracy), is practised by some few organisations some of the time. Organisations do not only practise according to the latest trend of public relations, they may possibly utilise all the trends. Bredenkamp (1997:77) says that public relations faces much criticism and its credibility is questioned, but that in trying to meet such criticism, public relations will develop further, improving its accountability. Yet this poses another challenge, for if public relations practice is to be more accountable, the question arises, firstly, of who it is to be accountable to, for that will govern the integrity of the accountability. The second question which arises in this regard, is how will this be viewed by organisations for promotion of realisation of their goals?

In an article in the Public Relations Review on the definition, dimensions and domain of public relations, Hutton (1999:199-200) states that the identity crisis from which public relations has suffered from early in the 20th century has been largely of its own making because it has failed to establish a broadly accepted definition of itself in terms of its fundamental purpose, its dominant metaphor, its scope or its underlying dimensions. It has not for example, articulated in any depth basic premises such as the nature of 80

relations or relationships. Hutton (vide) points out that the resulting void has been filled mainly by critics, who use unflattering descriptions such as spin, spin control or spin doctoring. Hutton (vide) sets out to ! propose a definition of public relations; ! explore some of the implications of that definition, in terms of the domain of public relations; ! propose a three-dimensional framework by which to analyse public relations theories and practice; ! encourage the process of integration, rather than disintegration, of the field.

With regard to a definition of public relations, Hutton points out (1999:201) that a standard criticism of public relations definitions is Athat they tend to be focused more on the effects of public relations and/or the specific tasks that practitioners engage in, rather than on its fundamental purpose@. Hutton says that another criticism is that many of the academic definitions are normative or prescriptive, rather than descriptive of the true function of public relations and that while large parts of everyday practice embrace persuasion, this is seldom included as a basic tenet. Likewise, manipulating public opinion does not feature in definitions, yet many major agencies define their business in such terms. The core concepts of communication or relationships are seldom identified, and even when they are, they are not identified in a substantive way. Moreover, Hutton (1999:202) says almost all of the definitions speak of organisations, ignoring the practice of public relations for individuals or groups of people who are not formally organised. Hutton (vide) also states that definitions which fail to distinguish public relations from other communication fields or from large areas of sociology, psychology and cultural studies, exacerbate the lack of clarity about public relations. The decline of the term public relations is manifested by the figure of only six of the top fifty public relations firms using the term in their title, according to the report of Adams cited by Hutton (vide). Hutton sees the trend for using terms such as image management and reputation management and perception management as ominous for the field, for they typify the approach of managers who lack training in public relations to think in superficial terms, or of the advertising agency. Semantic confusion, Hutton (1999:203) holds, leads to disintegration of the field, resulting in internal/employee communications being lost to human resources departments, government relations to legal departments, corporate identity to marketing departments, and media relations to diversity departments. The 81

topic of stakeholder relations which is growing in both democracies and in management departments of business schools, is an additional recent threat to the field of public relations.

Hutton (1999:203-205) considers the major problem of the field is that little research has investigated the fundamental dimensions of public relations. For example, the largest sponsored research in the field=s history and the subject of numerous articles is that of Grunig and Hunt=s (1984) four models typology: Ayet there is little evidence that the underlying dimensions - direction of communication (one-way or two-way) and balance of intended effects (assymetrical or symmetrical) - discriminate among the many public relations theories or practice philosophies, or are causally related to any substantive measure of organizational success@ (1999:204). Hutton refers to the questioning of the discrete nature of the four models dimensions by Cancel et al. (1997) in their suggestion that a continuum provides a more appropriate framework. Their (1997) Contingency Theory of Accommodation in Public Relations focuses on only one of the two dimensions

Abalance of intended effects@ or how much the public relations activities are intended to
serve the client=s versus the public=s interest. While this represents an important step forward in theory development, Hutton (1999:204) says, Aneither theory nor empirical data suggest that only one dimension is likely to provide a framework for all of the basic public relations theories, philosophies or orientations@. Some of the many critical dimensions of public relations theory and practice are identified by Hutton (vide) as perception vs. reality short-term vs. long-term goals degree of honesty amount of research number of stakeholders (and the specific stakeholders selected) internal vs. external orientation image vs. substance level of effect (awareness vs. attitude vs. behaviour) level of initiative (reactive vs. pro-active). Hutton (1999:204) presents his hypothesis that the substantive differences among the various orientations or definitions of public relations can be explained by the dimensions of what is named, for simplicity and memorability, as the A3 I=s@: interest, initiative and image. These answer the questions ATo what degree is the public relations function focused on client interest versus the public interest?@, ATo what extent is the public 82

relations function reactive versus pro-active@ and ATo what extent is the organization focused on perception vs. reality (or image vs. substance)?@ Hutton (vide) says that while additional dimensions (such as interactivity) might provide further insight, this might also destroy parsimony.

The three dimensions of interest, initiative and image provide a cube framework by which various definitions of public relations can be analysed. According to this

framework, these appear to be six models of public relations practice. They are:persuasion: promotion, propaganda, Aengineering of consent@. advocacy: defending the client-organisation in the court of public opinion. Public information: for trade associations, government agencies. cause-related public relations (crusading): as for Red Cross. image/reputation management: publicity, spin control and creation and manipulation of symbols. 6. relationship management which identifies mutual interests between a clientorganisation and its publics.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


Hutton=s (1999) three-dimensional framework is shown below:-

In the above list, advocacy, information dispensers, crusader, image-maker or reputation manager, are all either too narrow or too superficial to describe the practice or aspirations of public relations, Hutton (1999:208) says. He (vide) continues that while persuasion is a strong candidate, it holds the weakness of a lack of Adiscriminant validity between public relations from sales, marketing, politics or perhaps even journalism@. The last model of public relations practice, relationship management, captures the essential elements of the field, Hutton claims. He considers that the specific definition proposed in the article, managing strategic relationships is stronger than relationship management, for managing implies planning, control, feedback and performance 84

measurement, strategic implies planning prioritization, action orientation and a focus on relationships most relevant to client-organisation goals, and relationships implies effective communication, mutual adaptation, mutual dependency, shared values, trust and commitment.

While Hutton (1999) acknowledges that his description of the field of public relations may not be entirely accurate, the three words serve as a partly descriptive, partly prescriptive workable paradigm Afor a field desperately in need of one@ (1999:209). Hutton (vide) stresses again the lack of substantive research in public relations and the lack of definition of field themes. He points out that while other fields have also omitted to define relationships, the field of marketing has made a valuable contribution, which has been overlooked by public relations. This is Morgan and Hunt=s (1994) model titled the commitment/trust theory of relationship marketing, in which shared values (corporate culture in public relations terms), communication and the costs of exiting the relationship are antecedents. Morgan and Hunt (vide) also provide a pilot test of this model with a competing model, using higher-order statistical techniques. Hutton points out that utilising this model could be invaluable in financial public relations and even with regard to relationships with employees. Hutton=s proposed definition and framework suggest a hierarchy of public relations= primary roles, functions and tactics, as given below:-

Figure 5: Hutton=s Framework of Public Relations Roles, Functions and Tactics

Definition AManaging strategic relationships@ Situational roles persuader, advocate, educator, crusader, information provider, reputation manager Primary functions performed research, image making, counseling, managing, early warning, interpreting, communicating, negotiating Tactics/tools utilized publicity, product placements, news releases, speeches, interpersonal communications, web sites, publications, trade shows, corporate identity programs, corporate advertising programs, etc.

(Public Relations Review - 25(2) Summer 1999:p211)


One of the values of the above hierarchy is its focus on the true significance of the terms as either a definition, a situational role in public relations or a function of public relations, or the tactics or tools utilised in public relations, thus moving away from the confusion created by the use of terms interchangeably.

Hutton (1999:212) also points out that communication is a necessary but no longer sufficient foundation for public relations, which also needs social psychology, anthropology, and other social sciences, business management and training in new technologies and also, possibly, industry-specific training.

Grunig (1984), Holzhausen (1995) and Hutton (1999) are among the very few researchers who have researched the phenomenon of public relations itself rather than issues peripheral to it. The field sorely needs more such researchers to help build a body of knowledge for the achievement of scientific status. Hutton has met head-on the fundamental challenge of the public relations field for a definition of what public relations is in essence. Should general agreement on his framework and model be forthcoming, it may give rise to extensive work and theory development on, for example, philosophies which can be fruitfully applied for the benefit of relationships in the business sphere. In this, his article supports the claim of Holtzhausen (1995:47) that there are contending theories of public relations, and that there is continuing discussion of the theory of public relations, as befits a young science propagated from a craft. It would seem that public relations may well gain sufficient agreement on definition and domain in time to justify a claim to scientific status, but this will need fundamental research, and the position of research with regard to the applied fields of communication is considered next. Status of applied communication research !Criticism of applied communication research

A brief explanation of research in public relations is first given:Knowledge is gathered for public relations by formal research ! in which the study can be replicated by someone else and the findings supported; and informal research ! in which the procedure does not necessarily allow someone else to repeat the study with the same results. Formal research can, therefore, be used for prediction and informal 86

research can only be used for description. Formal research can be both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research can take the form of focus groups, in-depth interviews, panel discussions and research that is historical or legal. It yields description and is not measurable. Formal quantitative research is essentially measurable and thus yields itself to utilising new technology in an impact-making way, such as computer programmes offering representation in every graphic form of figures obtained by survey analysis or content-analysis. Informal research utilises opinion audits, which can be based on observational data and so describe trends, but this research does not examine underlying factors. Thus an opinion audit may assess how many people are for/against an issue, but not consider any reasons for their opinions. Auditing opinions is also done in organisations, when it is usually conducted by an outside party and is known as a communication audit. As these are conducted in order to identify weaknesses in the communication structure of an organisation, far-reaching decisions can be made upon the findings of a communication audit. Mersham, Rensburg and Skinner (1995:12) also describe the analysis of broadcast publicity to determine quantity and quality of coverage with regard to audience, medium, message and frequency as another informal research tool utilised by the public relations practitioner. In addition, Mersham, Rensburg and Skinner (1995:12) mention observation that is unobtrusive, which can be included as part of field experiments.

In public relations, informal research is frequently utilised in the form of opinion audits in order to ascertain and influence the opinion of target market groups in order to plan programmes or evaluate results of programmes. On the technician level of public relations, much time and energy is devoted to compiling data bases and record-keeping to facilitate opinion-auditing. The technician level and this predominant part of its work, is the bread-and-butter of public relations, for, without it, the higher levels could not perform expertly. Such research is limited, for little attention is paid to context. The communication manager/public relations manager will conduct research which is likely to be of both a qualitative and a quantitative nature. The communication manager/public relations manager will thus utilise the research skills of public relations technicians of the organisation, but will also need to conduct research which will require a thorough background knowledge of social sciences and of psychology, as well as of areas relevant to the organisation, such as economic. Such research, however, is not conducted with frequency. This focus upon research that is limited as against research that is contextual, could very easily be the underlying cause of the dissension evident in 87

the field of communication studies for a number of years. This dissension has particular reference to the communication application areas of journalism and public relations, and may reveal a basic cause of the paucity of public relations theory, including the lack of agreement on its fundamental definition. The Journal of Communication, No.33(3) of 1983 is referred to as the AFerment in the Field@ debate. Internationally prominent scholars made the following assertions:Much communication research is trivial Statistical significance is mistaken for practical significance Studies do not build upon one another Studies are done devoid of any underlying theoretical base Studies are done on things such as audience ratings and effects in an isolated way, disconnected from relevant social and cultural effects ! American mass communication research is exploring a path of what is effective for industry and its profit motive, rather than investigating the interests of society ! Communication is a fragmented field The issue of insufficiently-grounded research was again raised at the conference held at Syracuse University in 1985. Sharp edited Communications Research The Challenge of the Information Age (1988) in which important contributions of delegates, who were international communication leaders from both academia and industry, discussed the failures of communication research and tried to point directions for the future. Dennis, in his contribution Whence We Came (1988:3-20), referred to the "blistering critique" of "the dominant paradigm" of mass communications research by the sociologist Todd Gitlin. This criticism of empirical investigation techniques which had been taken over from one of the founding disciplines of communication, sociology, by mass communication researchers, has resulted in one of the sharpest divisions in the communication discipline. The essence of the criticism is that much research is being done in an isolated and fragmentary manner. An example is audience ratings, which is done on a regular basis with inadequate linking to broad impacting factors of, for example, socio-cultural and economic nature. An exception to this is the longitudinal study of the effects of television violence on children, which has been carried out continuously over many years in the United Kingdom. Ferreira (1997:24-44) reviews the IPRA Model for public relations education, and suggests that international public relations should form a detailed additional section, with political, social, economic, 88 ! ! ! ! !

technological and other relevant topics being covered. One can see that more and more voices are calling for communication education to provide the background for contextual research. At the 1985 conference at Syracuse, Yu in Sharp (1988:42) referred to the criticism that much mass communication research lacks direction and is neither intellectually exciting nor socially useful, as being in part attributable to the fact that research in mass communication is sometimes done by researchers from disciplines other than communication, or by employees of news media and advertising agencies. Yu suggested that mass media research should ask questions about whether or not the mass media are meeting individual and society's needs.

Another 1985 delegate, Comstock, in Sharp (1988:109-117) pointed to research of a mass media campaign to reduce coronary risk by changing individual practices. This had turned out to be highly significant research, Comstock stated, mainly because it had been founded on a solid theoretical base: the health belief model from social learning theory in behavioural psychology. This strengthens Prior-Miller=s (1989) suggestions for the development of theory. Comstock (1988) also pointed out a failed and embarrassing research project, the 80-90% cable-wired television coverage prediction. The

researchers used a technological model and overlooked a body of data on the relationship between the media and their audiences. Lack of theory and partisan data collection were identified as the cause of invalid results.

There were also, at the 1985 Syracuse Conference, appeals for communication research to "tell us what it means" (Sharp 1988:120-121) and claims that the barrenness of applied newspaper research "is due to the lack of a widely understood foundation of basic research on which to build" (Sharp 1988:122).

In the 1990s, many articles strengthen the debate for communication research to concern itself with the environment, especially social and cultural matters. In this way, the debate has shifted to political grounds. In South Africa, communication and its role in furthering democracy and development underline this. An example is the article by Burton, Politics, communication and development in South Africa: methodology and mediations in a period of transformation (1996:159-178) and another is the article From communication to democratic norms by Winseck and Cuthbert, M (1997:1-20).

In focusing attention on globalisation and the integrated nature of communications that 89

was developing, Stanton (1991:46-47) emphasises that communication has become exceedingly complex due to the constantly developing technology.

Babrow (1993:10-118) addresses several questions raised in the Journal of Communication on the future of the field. He states that the disciplinary core depends on the synthesis of efforts to unify and diversify the field. He describes communication as a multiple-process theory, explaining the complexities of human communication and social experience.

Peters (1993:132-139) deals with the identity question raised in the "Ferment in the Field" debate. He states that the old boundaries of disciplines have become permeable, and that inquiry takes place in "areas". Peters states, further, that mass communication research was conceived as a topic field, not as a discipline in its own right. He concludes with the statement "We should worry less about fitting a largely irrelevant model of what a discipline is and more about doing intellectually deep work" (1993:138).

Babrow (1993) underlines above the disciplinary core of communication and stresses the importance of unifying a diversifying field. Peters (1993) is stressing the question of identity, and while it is true that there should be a stronger focus on doing intellectually deep work rather than worrying too much about what a discipline is, sight should not be lost of the fact that until there is a broadly accepted definition of public relations in terms of its fundamental purpose, it is unlikely to yield fundamental research which will build a body of theory leading to scientific recognition.

It is pertinent to consider also research which, in contrast to the aforementioned, strengthens the position of public relations theory - being the research on Grunig=s Excellence Theory of Public Relations (Grunig, L.:1997). This research underlines the importance of research in order to examine theory and contribute to the body of knowledge. The next section, therefore, comments on research which is constructive for the building of a body of knowledge for public relations.


Value of applied communication research


Grunig, L (1997:286-300) sheds more light on the question of organisational application of Grunig=s (1984) two-way symmetrical model and the relationship between its use and the use of the two-way asymmetrical model. Grunig, L (1997) was one of a 16-member team which carried out what became known as The Excellence Project. The Research Foundation of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) wanted to know how public relations contributes to organisational effectiveness and what that contribution is worth. The team added a third question so as to establish the The Project did not

characteristics of an excellent communication department.

distinguish between public relations, communication management and organisational communication, the key element being the notion of managed communication. The Project began with a survey of almost 300 small, medium and large organisations, of a varied type, surveying some 5 000 people in all - chief executives, communication managers and about twelve other employees not of the public relations department. The first part of The Project was quantitative, and this was followed by a second part, in which graduate students helped to conduct long interviews reviewing the survey data, thus this part was qualitative. The 283 organisations surveyed included samples from English-speaking United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK), while graduate students applied the survey instrument in their own countries - India, Taiwan and Greece - modifying the questions in their face-to-face interviews to accommodate cultural differences. Team members were participant-observers at some of the

interviews. The Project was developed and conducted by established scholars in the field of public relations as well as by a seasoned practitioner. Graphs depicting the results of The Project as well as discussions of important outcomes are given in a book by Dozier with Grunig and Grunig (1984). Points emerging include that raised by several writers - that the communication department needs power and influence within the dominant coalition in order to promote the practice of the two-way symmetrical model, which influence, however, may be informal; that the technician role follows orders while the managerial role influences strategic decisions; that participative cultures encourage wider decision making; that contributions to strategic management by communication departments are key to communication excellence; while expertise in both the technician and managerial role is a requisite for the foundation of excellence, its achievement also requires top communicators to play advanced organisational roles of communication manager and senior adviser (1984:75-119).


Grunig, L. (1997:292) confirms Holtzhausen=s (1995) finding already mentioned that organisations practise in reality the mixed positive theories of the Mixed Model. Grunig, L (1997:292) explains that in excellence in public relations, organisations use the two-way asymmetrical model for research in order to establish the viewpoint of publics, and then use the two-way symmetrical model in order to bargain and negotiate so as to achieve balance in the relationship, or mutual understanding. Dozier et al. (1984:97) argues that this can be seen, according to Murphy (1991) as a mixed-motive game, in which the parties indulge in cooperation and competition, and engage in asymmetrical tactics to make gains yet overall strive towards compromise. It can be seen from the foregoing that Grunig=s (1984) fourth model of public relations widens the scope of public relations and draws it away from a one-sided effort to build toward the achievement of organisational mission; it seems that the aim of public relations is being moderated so that it can identify and then bargain and negotiate with publics which may affect the mission or long-term viability of the organisation. This draws in environmental scanning, and must surely suggest the need for the public relations practitioner to possess a wide background and education. Grunig, L

(1997:298) reports, however, that few heads of public relations departments are strategic managers, lacking the knowledge of evaluation research, environmental scanning and segmentation techniques needed for excellent communication. This finding returns the discussion to the point of public relations roles for the twenty-first century, which is considered next.


Public relations roles

Research into public relations roles (Broom & Smith 1979; Broom 1982; and Broom & Dozier 1986) revealed four types of roles: the expert prescriber who acts as an

authority on public relations problems and their solutions, the communication facilitator acts as a liaison between the organisation and its publics, the problem-solving process facilitator is a member of the management team who contributes the public relations planning and programming process to the solution of problems, and the communication technician, who prepares and produces communication materials for public relations programmes and endeavours. The role of communication facilitator, who is a member of the management team, was defined in more detail in 1994, by Cutlip, Center and Broom 92

in that they also saw collaboration and consultation with other members of the management team as a contribution of this role, while in 1992 Dozier said that the first three roles were aspects of a broad, managerial role, while the fourth role constituted the technician role. These two broad categories of manager and technician are generally seen as being the mainstay roles of public relations practice. In 1998 Toth, Serini, Wright and Emig (1998-151) reported on research they conducted into public relations roles for the period 1990-1995, and confirmed the managerial role fulfilling the three types of role: that of expert prescriber, communication facilitator and problem-solving process facilitator. However, they (1998:158) also report a role emerging which included counseling and research and communication with clients as well as programming decisions, and which they referred to as the Agency Profile. This role was also found by Toth, Serini, Wright and Emig (vide) not to feature any of the activities of the technician role. Grunig (1990) referred to the three levels of micro, meso and macro at which public relations is practised. The micro level, where programmes are planned, executed and evaluated, utilises the technician role, whereas the meso level, which requires the organisation and management of the public relations department, utilises the managerial role. The third level, macro level, refers to environmental influences on public relations. It has been accepted that this macro level was also covered by the managerial role of public relations, yet there have been clear pointers by various scholars, such as Grunig, L (1997), Lindenmann and Lapetina (1982), Broom and Dozier (1983), Blum (1997), to name just some, that heads of public relations departments are seldom strategic managers, many of them lacking the knowledge and background required for this aspect of the managerial profile. Steyn (2000:20-43) reports on the findings of an empirical study which set out to discover the role expectations of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of organisations in the area of corporate communications, being the roles of PR technician, PR manager and PR strategist. Steyn (2000:20) says that given the findings of Dozier, Grunig and Grunig (1995) that achieving communication excellence required there to be shared expectations between top management and corporate communication, the study established a benchmark of CEO expectations of the most senior manager in the corporate communication function.

Steyn (2000:30) identifies the role of PR strategist:A... a strategic role for the corporate communication manager at the top management


or environmental level.

This role consists of monitoring relevant environmental

developments and anticipating their consequences for the organization=s policies and strategies, especially with regard to the stakeholder environment. It also constitutes corporate communications input into the organization=s strategy formulation processes, resulting in a contribution to corporate strategy.@

Not only did the study confirm the role of PR strategist as a strategic role at the top management level of the organisation, but it showed that it involved feeding strategic information into the formulation policies of the organisation. It can be argued that Steyn=s (2000) research has confirmed the third emerging role first reported by Toth, Serini, Wright and Emig (1998), and has also identified it as the role which fits into Grunig=s (1990) macro level of public relations practice. It can further be argued that the wail of Anot being members of the top coalition@ which is identified as the public relations manager=s explanation of the lack of power sharing which pre-empts communication excellence, may better be directed towards the education and training and, indeed, the accreditation, of public relations practitioners. Steyn (2000:41) makes the suggestion Athat tertiary institutions and professional associations providing education and training to senior corporate communication students and practitioners should pay attention to providing them with the strategic management and strategic communication skills and knowledge required to fulfil the expectations that top management seems to have of them@. 2.4.10 Professional accreditation/recognition

Registration of public relations practitioners is not compulsory. It can be argued that the names the mass media apply, such as Aspin doctoring@, do not promote recognition of public relations as a profession. Its great need is the service of public relations itself! If a practitioner were appointed to such a job, the practice of public relations itself can be seen as the organisation, and the practitioner as practitioner. This practitioner would want to build the reputation of public relations practice in the eyes of society, who would be the public/publics. This practitioner would need to act as agent for public relations practice, but would have to hold loyalty to both sides, in other words, building the reputation of public relations practice proceeds on a foundation of public interest. This 94

makes the practitioner=s approach essentially that of a go-between, just as a lawyer acts as go-between between an accused party and the law. This is the thrust of the dilemma of public relations practice: while the legal system in which the lawyer operates is maintained and adjusted by the government/ruling political party which is separate from the body of the judiciary to which the lawyer belongs, this legal system itself provides the measure of right and of wrong action for practising lawyers. The body of the judiciary, therefore, may admit to its register such people it deems appropriately qualified in knowledge and background and skills to act on behalf of clients for their benefit according to the constraints of the relevant legal system. The parameters of the body of knowledge required for qualification as a lawyer can be clearly set out for a particular legal system, and the various levels of legal positions are also clearly defined in rising ascendancy.

The practitioner acting as agent for public relations practice would have to persuade society that it is closely founded upon a body of knowledge with definable parameters and which offers the judgement of right/wrong practice independent of its registered members, so that conduct may be labelled professional or unprofessional, in order that those paying for the service may have expectations of particular value for such service. Such registration of members should also clearly consist of levels, each level indicating a relevant value (not to be confused with monetary value) in an ascending scale. Looking at public relations roles as referred to above, one might suggest an ascending scale of technician, manager and strategist.

Grunig (2000:26) gives a list of traits which can provide a measure of professionalisation of a field: ! a set of professional values ! strong professional organisations that socialise practitioners into these values ! professional norms - such as those provided by a code of ethics - which can be used to enforce values ! technical skills acquired through professional training ! an intellectual tradition and an established body of knowledge. Grunig also cites Beam (1990:2) who defines a profession as one in which practitioners

Acontrol the substance, performance, and goals of their work@. Exchange theory, which
was referred to earlier, challenges such status for public relations, because of the 95

practitioner being hired by the organisation. However, Grunig (2000:26) says that if the practitioner is a member of the dominant coalition of an organisation he/she will be able to influence the choice of a public relations model.

Most bodies of public relations practitioners have a code of ethics which members are expected to observe. A point that is unclear because of the agency profile of public relations, is how the practitioner observes this code and his/her own personal ethical code in the light of conflicting ethical codes from the employing organisation. The very fact that the practitioner must balance his/her ethical code with that of the employer suggests an ethical code of limited strength. However, no code applies to a person in all situations, as exemplified by the commandment Thou shalt not kill in the war situation. Grunig (2000:29) believes that the practitioner should be willing to balance personal values with the values of others, and sees this as a critical value of public relations practice.

Grunig (2000:29-30) refers to the social roles in which White (Grunig & White 1992) says public relations practitioners view their work: the pragmatic social role, where the client=s views or interests are represented to help the client achieve their objectives, the conservative social role in which Athe interests and privileges of the economically and politically powerful@ are defended, the radical social role in which organisations wanting change in society are represented, and the idealistic social role, in which a symmetrical approach to public relations is adopted.

Grunig (2000:32) says that the idealistic social role recognises human rights and requires collaborative advocacy. Collaborative advocacy is a process in which

consensus is reached through an approach of balancing self-interest with the interest of others. The two-way symmetrical model of public relations offers such an opportunity. However, Grunig (2000:36) points out that the Excellence Study (already referred to) showed that only practitioners with the knowledge of strategic, symmetrical practice have the power needed to negotiate with clients to implement the symmetrical ideal. When the organisation sees its relationship with publics as collaborative, we have societal corporatism, and such an approach, together with the practice of excellent communication, is seen by Grunig (2000) as enhancing the professionalisation of the field. Moreover, should public relations gain professional status, accreditation would 96

become compulsory. Some of the difficulties faced in the field of public relations are illustrated in the history of public relations education in South Africa, which is dealt with in Chapter 4.

Some of the obstacles faced in seeking scientific recognition for public relations can be engaged by viewing it from an encompassing point of view so that it can call upon the necessary scientific base and yet maintain its integrity. This is countenanced in the following section.

2.4.11 Relationship between communication as a science and public relations

Communication is a discipline which holds scientific status. Communication studies include a course on theory, which is sometimes called communication science so as to distinguish it from the other communication courses. Communication science consists therefore, of a recognised body of knowledge, built upon the various theories which have been accepted by its recognised scientists and which are constantly being tested and updated. An example of theory updating is the finding by Pratt and Manheim (1988:7595) that, contrary to previously held beliefs, interpersonal and other traditional forms of communication are used by rural people more than is mass communication. This finding led to changes in the underlying approach to development communication. This has great relevance to communication campaigns which, in turn, have great relevance to the work of public relations. It can be seen that public relations is inextricably tied to communication as a discipline, yet this is not just an ontological link, for it has been said earlier that not only is a body of theory essential to a scientific discipline, but that it also requires constant updating through testing in practice. In this way, theories are reinforced or adjusted, and the process of updating should take place on a continuous basis.

Were public relations research to use theory of communication as it fundamental logical system, the experience of the public relations profession (case histories) would provide empirical events for recognition of the logical system, being theory of communication. This would promote the growth of a body of theory for public relations, for it would offer great opportunity for discrimination in the application of such communication theory. It would be the variations of application of communication theories necessary to bring 97

about the results indicated by public relations objectives, which could provide the basis of a specialised body of theory for public relations. As this requires prior general agreement upon what the objectives of public relations should be, attention should be focused on the great need such research elicits for public relations objectives to be concisely and unambiguously expressed.

Public Relations practitioners are in an ideal position to test theories in practice. In this way their contribution to the science of communication can be invaluable. In order to fulfil this role, practitioners need a sound background in the theory of communication and also in research in order that the testing is conducted along scientific lines with the empirical being strongly supported upon a theoretical base. In addition, the practitioner will also need to be an expert in communication technology, constantly striving to keep abreast of latest developments. Practitioners may also need deep knowledge of other areas which are intertwined with their area of work, such as finance, in order to be able to carry out research which has bearing upon their work.

In this way, Public Relations practitioners can make a great contribution to the building of theory in its theoretical capacity through re-inforcement of its predictions or through adjustment of its predictions for current technological innovations in their specific area of applied communication. Such contributions are likely to be both vibrant and challenging, for scientific status demands both theorizing and its testing on an applied basis for constant updating. One cannot stand without the other as a science. For the fulfilment of such a role, Public Relations practitioners need an education which will fit them for such challenges.


This chapter has given a brief description of the birth of public relations and the controversy which has arisen therewith and also a global perspective of the history of public relations education. From the outset it can be seen that there is a gulf between the approach to public relations education in the USA and that in Europe. Differing approaches to education in the public relations field lead to issues of content. Issues of content impact on reaching agreement about the domain of public relations and also of which perspective should be adopted for its curriculation. In turn, such 98

confusion can confound the promotion of research in the field, and can, moreover, act as discouragement for well-grounded research. When little worthy research is produced in a field, its scientific status can be questioned. In public relations, it is a case of it not yet having gained scientific status.

The importance of scientific status to professionalisation of a field has been discussed, and it is suggested in this chapter that education can play a vital role. For issues of education include the adoption of an appropriate perspective of curriculation. This returns us full circle to the issue which emerged from the beginning of the discussion : there are differing approaches to public relations education which create a chain of problems leading to a lack of scientific status and a lack of professionalisation of the field.

The position can be simply represented as follows:-

Figure 6:

Chain of issues tethering public relations Issues of approach to education Issues of content Theoretical content - domain - perspective Issues of professionalisation Issues of education

This chapter has, in addition to revealing the issues of a lack of theoretical content and also of research content, also pointed out that as greater role sophistication is taking place in the field, this will have to be taken into account by education. Together with rapid technological expansion and globalisation, this will make increasing demands upon 99

public relations education.

The question of professional accreditation and recognition has also been discussed, as well as the contribution which public relations can make in the form of practical research, thus illustrating the link which exists between communication as a science and public relations.

As it seems that the wresting of an improved status for public relations begins with the approach adopted in education, the next chapter examines curriculation approaches to public relations education.