Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss issues of PR theory and practice. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents seven questions that are crucial to the conversation between PR theory and practice. The questions center on these concepts, in turn: identity/image, organizational culture, modes of representation, advocacy, audiences (including “the self”), dialogue in idealism and practice, and social engagement. Findings – The persistent, negative reputation of PR has to be of concern to theorists as well as practitioners. PR has tended to ignore, hold static, or even render invisible the internal affairs of organizations, including the values, opinions and preferences of employees. The idea of representation, with its epistemological, political, and linguistic senses, can help to inform PR theory through a full‐blown consideration of what it means to “stand for” an organization or a cause or an industry. Advocates of PR practice who essentially argue that “the wrangle of the marketplace of ideas” will yield some kind of truth, or at least a high‐quality debate, fail to acknowledge that the quantity of views expressed and the quantity of organizations engaged may no more bring us toward genuine deliberative democracy than 500 TV channels make us better informed. In PR practice, as well as in marketing and other communication functions of the organization, a great deal of the symbols organizations produce are both shaped by and tailored to self‐consumption. Rather than assuming that the procedural correctness of symmetrical communication systems is necessarily to the same as dialogue, PR scholars and practitioners need to come to terms with the more subtle forms of power at play when organizations engage in talks and negotiations with their stakeholders. The paper advocates a perspective that takes into account the full “pragmatic” possibilities of persuasive campaigns – viewed not only in isolation but also in terms of their broader and cumulative effects. Originality/value – The paper adds to the debate on PR theory and practice.
Journal of Communication Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2006
Keywords: Public relations; Organizational culture; Corporate identity
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