Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

This talking point is asking you to debate whether PR can in fact be seen as the conscience or the activist within an organisation and the implications of  PR practitioners having to “choose sides” between an organisation and the greater good of society.

It is drawing on Lecture #5, and asking you to debate it in the context of PR ethics,  PR as the conscience or ‘activist’ inside the organisation and the difference between modernist/ postmodernist approaches to PR.  See the lecture reading if you have not already done so.

63 Comments »

  1. Stephen Bowie Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 3:51 pm      

    In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

    Surely with the words “the greatest number of people” this can only apply to politics and the general election. Every person in the nation is affected by government policy and government change. If the representantives of each party is to be believed then their party only has our best intentions in mind when campaining. According to http://www.spinwatch.org.uk More often than not today’s election campaigns are fought out on a battleground which is being determined and controlled almost entirely by the news media. Newspapers, radio, television — and now websites on the Internet — provide the stage on which the politicians have to perform and try to win the attention of an increasingly sceptical, and sometimes hostile, electorate. This indicates that with all these avenues to explore and show your intentions,having a large number of pr practioners on your side can only be a good thing as each will have an expertise in how to relate to the public within different forms of the media.
    For a goverment to be successful in their quest to win an election they must have a large number of pr representatives in their camp. David Cameron the current prime minister has surrounded himself with former pr reprsentatives, he himself also being one. Having these pr practioners on board will lead to strategic communication. This is vital for an election campaign. Ronald D Smith states Startegic communication is often informational or persuasive. It’s common purpose is to build support and understanding for ideas and causes, services and products. All of these are what is effectively being ‘sold’ to you in an election campaign. With a large number of pr practioners taking a side this will inevitibly lead to them winning their vote which effects the whole nation.

    references – http://www.spinwatch.org.uk
    Ronlad D Smith 2009

  2. Jamie Carr Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 4:50 pm      

    Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

    Firstly I am in agreement with the majority of others when I say that PR can be seen as the conscience of an organisation but this depends on which approach you take.

    There are two approaches that should be considered when talking about PR practitioners inside and organisation having to “choose sides”. These approaches are the modernist and post modernist approach. The modernist approach is all about firmly supporting the organisation and taking their side i.e. the organisations goals and strategies are not questioned. The post modernist approach is far more open minded and “understands PR to generate perceived truths among publics” (Tench and Yeomans 2006).

    It’s not untrue to say that a PR practitioner’s role is also built on respect and willingness to support the organisation in relation to its decision making. The modernist approach fits in with the role of a practitioner but it may not be the best option with regards to involving the greatest number of people.

    By using the post modernist approach I believe that this would ultimately be the best option for the greatest number of people involved. Using this approach would allow PR to distance itself from the organisation slightly so that they can involve more publics. However, it is vital that PR practitioner works ethically when taking this approach because if they fail then it could affect the organisation negatively in terms of public trust (Holtzhausen 2002).

    In conclusion I believe that taking the post modernist approach can act as the conscience of the organisation and that it is a reasonably good idea that PR practitioners take sides in relation to reaching the greatest number of people.

    References:

    Holtzhausen, Derina R. and Rosino Voto (2002) ‘Resistance from the Margins: The Postmodern Public Relations Practitioner as Organizational Activist’, in Journal of Public Relations Research.

    Tench, R. & Yeomans, L. (2006) Exploring Public Relations

  3. Kim Blyth Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 5:03 pm      

    It is indeed without question that there is a moral dilemma surrounding whether PR practitioners choose to be the conscience or activist within an organisation. On one hand, we expect PR practitioners to remain professional and dedicated to an organisation they are working with, but on the other hand how far do we expect them to go? Does this entail covering truths for an organisation which could potentially affect their publics? And above all is that ethical?

    Grunig et al’s (2002) theory of the “modernist” approach suggests that management decisions and strategies should not be questioned by outside parties; including those such as PR practitioners. In today’s society this approach seems highly unrealistic. PR companies can work in partnership with organisations but they have a right to an opinion and they also have the right to represent who they choose. Tench and Yeomans (2006) explore the roles of social responsibility and obligation in relation to public relations. This also links to the list of questions (Parsons cited in Tench and Yeomans 2006) that all PR practitioners must ask themselves when communicating messages to publics from an organisation. Such questions include; will this invade anyone’s privacy? Is there any harm involved? Will anyone be misled by this information? In my opinion, such social responsibility is imperative in the efforts of working ethically.

    Whilst I have argued the importance of practitioners behaving ethically within an organisation, professionalism is also essential. Over the past weeks we have established that PR has a lot to do with “reputation.” If this is correct, then PR companies themselves will indisputably hope to keep a good reputation and will therefore need to take care when working with organisations. While they may wish to share information with publics that organisations would rather not, practitioners must find a balance between pleasing their organisation and maintaining their own ethics and values.

    Grunig, J. E. (1992) Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management

    Tench, R. & Yeomans, L. (2006) Exploring Public Relations, Prentice Hall: UK

  4. Stephanie McDonald Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 5:42 pm      

    Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

    Communication in many ways is more complex than just a linear relationship; this is what inspired Newcomb’s “co-orientation model” of 1953 an idea of symetrical communication.

    Newcomb’s co-orientation model can be seen as a system that can be viewed as one that needs to balance itself out, a change on one side of the relationship must be matched by the other side of the relationship.

    It is vital that each involved party can trust all other participants,
    and their ideals and views in accordance with: Intelligibility; Truth; Truthfulness; Legitimacy.

    It is vital to a PR organisation and it’s public’s that there is constant communication and honesty in the working relationship. This can aid in addressing any issues promptly and ironing them out immediately avoiding a ripple effect of additional issues.

    By utilizing a co-orientation model it is possible to obtain information from all involved sides and utilize this to create the best PR campaign for your client and insure return business and an ongoing rapport with your clients and public’s.

    (Grunig amd Hunt)

  5. Eilidh MacLennan Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 6:25 pm      

    Public Relations Practitioners are in a difficult situation with a duty to both their publics and their organisation. A PR practitioner can do a lot in order to improve a company’s reputation, however I have to question who the PR practitioner considers their loyalty to lie with, the company or their own ethics. As Coombs and Holladay (2007: 39) state, “While the professional codes of ethics suggest that practitioners should favour the interest of society as a while, the reality is that the practitioners work for the client”

    Personally I would agree with Desmond that in general PR practitioners act as the conscience of the organisation as they are the one who push for a positive relationship between an organisation and its publics, but basing its values on the opinions of the company and the strategy that they are trying to influence. After all, as Bowen et al (2010) suggest, PR is all about trying to influence and change a person’s opinion on certain issues, therefore they have the responsibility to act ethically. This would be considered a more modernist, traditional approach. However, as Stephen Nicol and Leah Gillott earlier debated, the fact that the PR Practitioner is the conscience of the organisation may not be a positive outcome.

    In terms of ethics, I would imagine that a PR practitioner has a duty to the organisation it represents and that is where their loyalties should lie. However, an activist within an organisation would be pushing for ethical rights for the organisation, possibly more based on external views than internal views which I feel would be highly beneficial for the organisation as it increases trust with its publics for a greater number of people. An activist would not necessarily base its strategy on the approach of the organisation if it did not feel that the organisation was working in its best interest, instead influence opinions to its favour. This would take a more postmodernism approach; basing decisions on more situational based ethics, separating itself from the power centre of the organisation, but in essence, reaching a greater number of people.

    Bowen, S. Brad, R. Rowlins, B.(2010) An overview of the Public Relations Function. Business Expert Press: New York

    Coombs, W. Holladay,S. (2007) It’s not just PR: public relations in society. Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford

  6. Douglas Darby Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 6:46 pm      

    Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?
    As many of my fellow classmates have stated and agreed on it is a good thing for the greatest number of people if a Public Relations practitioner does decide to choose sides.
    There are two strategies that relate help answer this question, the modernist and postmodernist.
    The Modernist approach is explained by Grunig et al. This approach outlines that the main matters are the economic gains of the organisation and the outcome is “focused more on the goals and aims” of the organisation, so the Public Relations practitioner is acting in the best aims of the company and not for the greatest number of people.
    The post-modernist approach however provides a different and more ethical view. Its power comes from the “micropolitics” and “personal connections” Holtzhausen, Derina R. and Rosino Voto (2002). Decisions are also made on the basis of situational ethics and moral decision making. This approach is far more open minded and Tench and Yeomans state that this post modernist approach “understands PR to generate perceived truths among publics”.
    The modernists role is the more typical stereotype of a PR practitioner, i.e. one who does what is best for himself and his clients/employers, but the post modernist strategy is more far more beneficial for the greatest number of people because of the fact decisions are made on a moral and ethical basis. Internal PR’s tend to declare their allegiance to people, ideas, values before an organisation itself, and this leads to conflict, struggle and ethical decision making. This ethical and moral behaviour creates trust and understanding amongst a PR and his/her publics and it therefore allows succeeds in creating the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
    The influential power that a organisation can have over a PR and how they operate is seen as a source of distrust therefore modernists PR practitioners are seen as very hard to trust and secretive and only in “it for their own personal gains.
    Holtzhausen, Derina R. And Rosino Voto. (2002). “Resistance forms the Margins: The Postmodern Public Relations Practtioner as Organisational Activists” in Journal of Public Relations Research, 14 (1), pp 57-84
    Tench and Yeomans (2006) Exploring Public Relations
    Grunig, J.E., Grunig, L.A., Dozier, D.M. (2002) The Excellence Theory cited in Botan, C.H. & Hazleton, V. (2006) Public Relations Theory II, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers,

  7. Ryan Allan Said,

    November 12, 2010@ 11:09 pm      

    To begin, I feel it is necessary to note that I am in agreement with the opinion that PR can in fact be viewed as the activist of an organisation; however this balances heavily on the angle in which you perceive the situation.
    To answer this question fully it is crucial two approaches within PR are understood, these are the modernist and postmodernist approaches. In accordance to Tench and Yeomans (2006) a modernist approach is one that “legitimises the discourse of management and organisations as given and superior.” It is recognised that within this approach the organisations goals and strategies are not questioned, a strong sense of control and consensus is present and what matters is the economical contribution of goals. This is also seen as the more traditional method and theory of PR which frequently sides with the organisation. I feel that Scott made a very valid point when arguing that it would not matter whether the organisation was right or wrong, the modernist approach would always side with them. It is therefore arguable that this would not be beneficial for the ‘greater’ number of people involved.
    In comparison, the postmodern approach understands PR to “generate perceived truths among publics through its role as a creator of organisational discourse,” (Tench and Yeomans, 2006). In relation to Grunig et al (1984) this involves, “situational ethics, decision making and dysemmerty. In my opinion this is essential in favouring the greater number of people, as being ethical creates trust among others; a quality integral to the communication between organisations and their publics. When using this approach, decision making is affected by both internal and external groups, a factor which I feel allows more effective, educated and unbiased decision.
    In closing I feel that a postmodernist approach would benefit the ‘greater’ number of people as it is structured more so on ethical decisions and supplies the organisations publics with honesty and trust.
    Tench, R, Yeomans, L. (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. UK.
    Grunig, LA, Grunig, JE, Dozier, DM. (2002). Excellent Public Relations and Effective Organizations: A Study of Communication Management in Three Countries. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

  8. Rowan Stern Said,

    November 15, 2010@ 11:25 am      

    If a P.R practitioner has had to choose sides between their own beliefs / public’s beliefs and the organisations, then they are more than likely to be following the postmodernist approach to Public Relations. The Postmodernist approach to P.R is often an activist approach to P.R meaning that the practitioner believes in beneficial change. Rather than believing in a particular organisation they believe in a cause and set their goals around this cause. “In this role, Practitioners will be change agents, serve as the conscience of the organisation, and give voice to those without power in their relationship with the organisation” (Holtzhausen 2002).
    The opposite of this would be a modernist approach which is a guided approach. A definition of a modernist approach could be “an approach that legitimises the discourse of management and organisations as given and superior. Modernist P.R attempts to reduce or eliminate crises, control publics and contribute to organisations effectiveness, usually measured in financial terms.” (Trench & Yeoman’s, 2006). A modernist practitioner follows the strict voice of their organisation and ignores their own personal beliefs. They are the exact voice of the company and are often seen in a dimmer light by the public as they are seen to be less honest. Holtzhausen (2002) states that postmodernism is the reaction to modernism, he shares that the modernist approach is a rational economic approach with well evaluated managerial goals in place.
    The question asks how ‘choosing sides’ is beneficial to the greatest number of people. As I stated before if you are choosing sides you are most likely a postmodernist. This approach is beneficial to the public because it aims to be based on the most ethical and moral decision. It encourages a strong relationship between the organisation and the public, giving the local society a voice. This in turn benefits the organisation because they are seen as a loyal, honest and conscience holding company and not a cut throat money making machine. The postmodernist approach doesn’t necessarily have a detrimental effect on the company so therefore I believe it should be followed more often as according to Holtzhausen (2002) the modernist approach dominates North America and most western countries.
    References:
    Holtzhausen, Derina R. And Rosino, Voto (2002) ‘Resistance from the margins: The postmodern Public Relations Practitioner as an Organisation Activist’, in Journal of Public Relations Research, pp 57-84.
    Trench, R & Yeomans,L. (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall.

  9. Ewan Fisher Said,

    November 15, 2010@ 8:32 pm      

    Talking Point #4: In what ways might it be a good thing for the greatest number of people, that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves having to “choose sides”?

    It is true to say that PR can be seen as the ” conscience” inside the organisation or working as the “activist”. PR can be portrayed as the activist due to the fact that inside an organisation PR highlight ethical situations and needs which require immediate and local decisions. An activist commits themselves to a cause or an idea rather than whats is happening within an organisation. Their ethical decision making is shaped by internal and external groups, not simply the strategic objectives of the organisation.

    PR practitioners inside an organisation may find themselves having to “choose sides” within an organisation and their are two approaches PR will take. The first being the “modernist” approach which is more conservative with PR supporting the organisation at all times and not questioning their goals or strategies. However, the “postmodernism” approach offers a different view whereby local and situational ethics are taken into account which a big emphasis being placed on moral decision making.

    By taking into account these approaches, I believe that it is a good thing that for the greatest number of people a PR practioner inside an organisation can find themselves having to choose sides. By choosing the postmodernist approach, I think it would greatly benefit the number of people involved. This is due to their idea of distancing themselves from the organisation and becoming more involved with the public. It is vital that when taking this approach a practitioner acts with moral dignity and with ethical decision making in order to gain the public trust.

    In conclusion, I would say that the postmodernist approach mirrors the conscience of an organisation with the PR practitioner “choosing sides” relevant and beneficial for the greatest number of people.

    Tench, R. & Yeomans, L. (2006) Exploring Public Relations

    L’Etang, J, Pieczka, M, 2006, Public Relations: Critical ebates and Contemporary Practice

  10. Heather Gair Said,

    November 16, 2010@ 5:51 pm      

    From reading my fellow classmates views on this topic and researching somewhat into it myself I believe that it is a good thing that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves to choose sides.
    An article by D. Holtzhausen on “Resistance from the Margins” states that “a postmodern view of public relations practice holds that practitioners will act as organizational activists”. The postmodernism view of PR inside an organisation suggests that the management’s views are not always correct. The decisions which are made in relation to PR are based on morals and ethics of the situation. , Shannon A. Bowen, Ethics and Public Relations PhD, October 30, 2007 implies that “a strong sense of ethics and of how to arrive at ethical decisions can enhance the career prospects of public relations professionals”, therefore thinking ethically benefits the PRs future career. Ethics and professionalism matter in PR as PR is about building relationships of trust, reliability, confidence, faith and integrity.

    Grunig et al looks at PR from a modernist’s point of view. Modernists are more concerned with sticking with the aims and goals of the organisation and overlook their own personal beliefs. Holtzhausen describes a modernist “as seeking to apply universal explanation that privilege management discourse and goals as natural legitimate”. This quote sums up a modernist perfectly; they do what is in the best interest of the organisation without showing any ethical thought.

    In conclusion after looking at the good and bad of organisations “choosing sides” it is clear that many PR practitioners can become too focused within an organisation and loses focus on what really matters. “Choosing sides” in my opinion is a postmodernist approach as you are able to choose between what is ethical and what is not will benefit the greater number of people through honesty and trust.

    Holtzhausen, Derina R. And Rosino Voto. (2002). “Resistance forms the Margins: The Postmodern Public Relations Practtioner as Organisational Activists” in Journal of Public Relations Research, 14 (1), pp 57-84
    Trench, R & Yeomans,L. (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall.
    Parsons. P. (2004) Institute of Public Relations.

  11. Heather Gair Said,

    November 16, 2010@ 5:53 pm      

    From reading my fellow classmates views on this topic and researching somewhat into it myself I believe that it is a good thing that PR practitioners inside an organisation can find themselves to choose sides.
    An article by D. Holtzhausen on “Resistance from the Margins” states that “a postmodern view of public relations practice holds that practitioners will act as organizational activists”. The postmodernism view of PR inside an organisation suggests that the management’s views are not always correct. The decisions which are made in relation to PR are based on morals and ethics of the situation. , Shannon A. Bowen, Ethics and Public Relations PhD, October 30, 2007 implies that “a strong sense of ethics and of how to arrive at ethical decisions can enhance the career prospects of public relations professionals”, therefore thinking ethically benefits the PRs future career. Ethics and professionalism matter in PR as PR is about building relationships of trust, reliability, confidence, faith and integrity.

    Grunig et al looks at PR from a modernist’s point of view. Modernists are more concerned with sticking with the aims and goals of the organisation and overlook their own personal beliefs. Holtzhausen describes a modernist “as seeking to apply universal explanation that privilege management discourse and goals as natural legitimate”. This quote sums up a modernist perfectly; they do what is in the best interest of the organisation without showing any ethical thought.

    In conclusion after looking at the good and bad of organisations “choosing sides” it is clear that many PR practitioners can become too focused within an organisation and loses focus on what really matters. “Choosing sides” in my opinion is a postmodernist approach as you are able to choose between what is ethical and what is not will benefit the greater number of people through honesty and trust.

  12. Ronan Capon Said,

    November 17, 2010@ 1:50 am      

    Public Relations Practitioners find themselves in an awkward position within an organisation as they have a responsibility to their employer but also to the greater good of the public. The problem can often pose them to make difficult decision where in some circumstances they have to ‘choose sides.’ There is some debate to whether PR is seen as the conscience or the activist within an organisation and how this relates with modernist and postmodernist approaches of PR; this is done in context with PR ethics.

    PR practitioners have to determine whether their devotion to their organisation or their bond with publics is more important, as Leonard Mogel emphasises in the book ‘Making it in Public Relations’,

    “The PR practitioner is required to work on a cross-functional basis to help protect and enhance corporate reputation ……. and protect customer loyalty on a product” (Mogel 2002)

    This highlights the difficult situations PR practitioners can find themselves in as they have identify the correct balance of doing the correct job for the organisation but also protecting the public’s.

    Ethics can be used as a framework of moral principles that can be used in evaluating situations and making decisions, thus making it crucial for PR practitioners to consider these aspects when doing their work. I would have to agree with many that PR is the conscience of the organisation as they ensure things are done correctly and ethically correct. A recent example of this is when the Primark chain changed their suppliers due to the ill-labour of the workers the suppliers were using; they now prohibit the use of child labour in its manufacturing chain.

    PR people could be regarded as working activists and that their loyalty is to a cause or an idea rather than solely to an organisation. As described by Timothy Coombs “Activists helped create the ‘need’ for modern public relations” (Coombs 2007). This modernist approach to PR allows practitioners to utilize public relations to attract publics and organisations attention putting across their ‘idea’ or ‘cause’.

    Therefore it could be identified that it is a good thing that PR practitioners can find themselves having to choose sides as often they have the correct motives for the decision they make. Modernist public relations are a product of the late 19th century supports a more traditional approach by supporting organisation goals and ensuring efficiency and rationality. This can be an ineffective method of public relations as it directs publics in a direction and attempts to force publics down a particular route by reinforcing the organisations goals and objectives. Thus leaving PR practitioners in a position whereby they promote the organisations ideas as opposed to looking out for the greater good and supporting both the public’s and the organisation. It is up to the individual which ‘side’ and approach they are going to take when adopting their PR strategy.

    Leonard Mogel (2002). Making it in public relations. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 318.

    W. Timothy Coombs et al (2007). It’s not just PR: Public Relations in Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 52.

  13. Sinead Wylie Said,

    November 18, 2010@ 12:08 am      

    Choosing sides within an organisation assists in giving a more balanced, equal outcome for an organisation and its publics. Practitioners within an organisation can choose whether to take sides which reflect PR as the conscience or activist through a post-modern or modern approach.

    Postmodern writers Holtzhaussen and Voto (2002) note that PR is accused of acting unethically. Ethics are organised frameworks of moral principles that can be used in evaluating situations and decisions. Agreeing with Douglas Darby the postmodernist approach provides a more ethical view than the modernist approach which theorists like Gruing et al adapts, which tends to focus on the organisations aims and goals with no social beliefs or morals taken into account. Supporting Heather Gair, I too believe the modernist approach does not exercise personal belief.

    With the postmodernist approach, power comes from “micro politics” and “personal connections. This approach reflects PR as the conscious inside an organisation as decisions are ethically based, through the use of cognitive and non cognitive methods. It allows for other opinions to be heard and not just opting for the strict modernist approach which leaves no room for free thinking. Practitioners would have to adapt a postmodernist approach by separating themselves from the centre of power within the organisation, however this can cause struggle and conflict in making decisions, and the aim and objectives of the organisation may not be addressed.

    A prime example of a company having to choose sides, for the good of the people, is the well established organisation, NIKE. In the 1990’s it was reported that NIKE’s factories in India were providing employees with extremely poor working conditions in Vietnam and in India they were employing child labourers. It was up to the organisation to choose whether to address or ignore this issue. NIKE adapted a postmodern approach acting as the conscious of the organisation. But it was through NIKE’S approach in dealing with this issue that seen the PR practitioners as activists within the organisation. A a result in 1991 they developed a code of conduct to improve working conditions in all factories and have increased the working age within NIKE. They also have implemented a Code Leadership Standard for Labour and Management, giving guidelines to how the factory and employees are maintained and treated.

    I believe that it is a good thing for the greatest number of people that PR practitioners choose sides, as ethical issues are addressed and personal beliefs and values are recognised into the organisation which provides a social responsibility to its publics. It allows the publics to gain trust in the organisation if ethical issues are addressed and in turn benefiting the organisation.

    Tench and Yeomans (2006). Exploring Public Relations. 2nd ed. Essex: Pearson Education. Chapter 15.
    IW. Timothy Commbs, Sherry J. Holladay, 2007, It’s not just PR: Public relations in society, 1st ed. Australia: Blackwell Publishing
    Gruing et al (2002)
    Holtzhausen, D. & Voto (2002). Resistance from the margins: The postmodern public relations practitioner as organisational activist. Journal of Public Relations Research, 14, 57-24

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