A ‘two-way symmetrical’ with James Grunig

16 Oct

You must have noticed. The emergence of Twitter (twitch-speed) and Facebook (fun, frivolous and frankly personal) has allowed blogging to settle into a comfortably reflective niche in the personal publishing ecosystem.

This means it’s suitable for discussing, debating and disseminating ideas – but preferably in everyday language (note how Seth Godin does this, but not the debating bit). PR Conversations has lived up to its name by debating public relations and social media with James Grunig.

Here’s the key discussion point I take out of this. James Grunig says:

I think public relations is headed in two incompatible directions… I call these two competing approaches to public relations the symbolic, interpretive, paradigm and the strategic management, behavioral, paradigm.

Practitioners who follow the interpretive paradigm emphasize messages, publicity, media relations, and media effects to put up a smoke screen around the organization so publics cannot see the organization’s behavior as it truly is.

In contrast, the behavioral, strategic management, paradigm focuses on the participation of public relations executives in strategic decision-making so that they can help manage the behavior of organizations…The strategic management paradigm emphasizes two-way communication of many kinds to provide publics a voice in management decisions and to facilitate dialogue between management and publics both before and after decisions are made. The strategic management paradigm does not exclude traditional public relations activities such as media relations and the dissemination of information.

I see public relations moving in both directions. I hope it will move away from the interpretive approach and become more of a strategic management approach. I have done everything I could do in my career to move it in that direction. However, I believe practitioners who emphasize marketing communication and media relations in their work are pushing hard to maintain the interpretive approach.

This is a good start point for our discussions in the class running on Friday and Saturday.

One Response to “A ‘two-way symmetrical’ with James Grunig”

  1. Simonsays 20/10/2008 at 10:42 pm #

    Two-way communications as strategic management – the past and future of PR?

    I mentioned systems-based communications theory and its forefather, James Grunig, in a post last week. As fortune would have it, Grunig took part in an open discussion with the PR Conversations blog. It may be ‘classic’ PR theory but it

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