Purpose – This purpose of this paper is to examine how two, American‐based, international public relations agencies came to participate in the United Nations Global Compact. The global compact is an initiative which brings together more than 4,000 member organizations in over 100 countries to address some of the world's most pressing issues. Specifically, this paper seeks to identify: the events that prompt these senior‐level executives, as members of their agency's dominant coalition, to initiate participation in the global compact; what obstacles within the agency present challenges to joining the global compact; and how each agency integrates the compact principles into its work. Design/methodology/approach – Grunig's situational theory of publics is used as a framework to create a single, embedded case study which integrates three subunits of analysis: in‐depth interviews, and primary and secondary document analysis. In‐depth interviews are conducted with one senior‐level executive/counselor from each of the two agencies that are examined. Primary document analysis focuses solely on the Communication on Progress reports which must be submitted on a bi‐annual basis by every global compact participant. Secondary document analysis includes any agency‐produced materials, such as speeches/presentations, as well as articles written for business publications. Findings – Overall, results indicate that both agencies have yet to fully integrate the compact principles into their own internal functions, and primarily use the global compact as a tool for counseling clients. However, both agency executives reveal that it is going to become necessary for their agency to involve themselves in the global compact, within and across the entire agency – particularly in terms of confronting issues such as ethics and diversity. Originality/value – This paper adds to the existing scholarship in a few, important ways. First, it incorporates and encourages the continued use of qualitative methods to examine contemporary issues that face the practice of public relations. Second, this research establishes an argument for furthering the idea that public relations professionals can be advocated for social change and can be influenced through the work they do. Finally, this paper stresses the continued importance of public relations work in facilitating global citizenship initiatives.
Corporate Communications: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 7, 2009
Keywords: Public relations; Corporate social responsibility
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