Friday, November 05, 2010

Grunigs' Update on Excellence in Public Relations

Drs. Jim and Lauri Grunig have been teaching and researching public relations for decades. Their research on the characteristics of excellent public relations has been widely published. At the PRSA International Conference last month, the two presented an update on their findings to an audience mixed with educators, practitioners and researchers.

Jim presented thoughts on the value of relationships in public relations. The relationship has always been central to the practice of public relations but now we are able to measure them, using indexes of trust, commitment, loyalty, satisfaction and mutual influence.

Refreshing their findings on excellence in public relations, the Grunigs offered these eight qualities of the practice:

1. Public Relations should be a managerial function;
2. Public Relations should be strategic;
3. Public relations should be integrated, but not Into Marketing;
4. Public Relations should be symmetrical–bridging the relationship between a corporation’s interest and stakeholder interests
5. Public Relations needs to promote social responsibility
6. Public Relations should advocate for diversity
7. Public Relations advocate ethical practice in organizations
8. Public Relations should be global.

In one of the best quips of the conference, Grunig stated that “not all public relations adds value. Some of it is quite worthless.” Not an unexpected observation, given that the Grunigs have been advocating for standards in the practice their whole careers.

They also shared two observations about changes in public relations practice today. The first change is a social responsibility crisis resulting from crises of confidence and trust in our society. Citing the collapse of the financial industry, the mortgage crisis and the BP oil spill from earlier this year, Grunig believes that the sustainability of organizations has come into question.

Second, the growth of digital media is another change in public relations practice. Digital media are more participatory in nature, which has led many organizations to mourn the loss of control of the message, but the Grunigs believe we never had control. Calling this the “illusion of control,” the Grunigs assert that the public is no longer constrained by what the media report, as the power to publish is shared by all.

This was a fascinating combination of theory and practice. I wonder how many practitioners in San Antonio feel that what they do is "excellent." What's excellent about your practice?

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