Backs to the wall: how public relations carries discomfort for organisations

Backs to the wall: how public relations carries discomfort for organisations
Document type
Working Paper
Author(s)
Campbell, Fiona
Publisher
University of Hertfordshire
Date of publication
1 January 2010
Series
The University of Hertfordshire Business School Working Papers
Subject(s)
Management & leadership: including strategy, public sector management, operations and production
Collection
Business and management
Material type
Reports

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Public relations plays a sensitive role in dealing with the discomfort felt within organisations about the ethical implications of their operations. Organisational discomfort seems to be on the increase, and this may be as a result of demands for greater transparency. The purpose of public relations is to tell an organisation's side of the story. This role is mission critical, yet practitioners do not necessarily have the status to enable them to carry it out effectively. The practice appears to take on organisations' discomfort and deal with it by justifying decisions in which it has no part. Blatant attempts to mask the source of discomfort do not work, but they seem to be commonplace. Practitioners often seem to find themselves with their backs to the wall. Blaming the media may make them feel less uncomfortable. Practitioners seem to keep quiet about this aspect of their work, and it may be seen as valuable, especially when the discomfort is the leader's own. Practitioners seem to need to believe completely in what the organisation is doing, otherwise they could not bear the discomfort. It is not acknowledged. It could be a cause of 'essential dissonance' (Berger 2005) within the field. Seen this way, the discomfort in and around public relations appears to be endemic.

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