From credibility to liability Changing trends in the practitioner accountability

Practitioners are judged by their results more and more. The clients , the media and public opinion hold the communication professional responsible for their successes but also for their failures. Public relations is the art of presenting, representing and interpreting facts in a particular way with a view to achieving a given objective. This art has been practiced throughout history. At individual level but also at higher levels (Government, corporations, interest groups). However the profession of communicator is younger then a century. Credibility first In the beginning the public relations man or woman had only to deal with things as Copy-writing, promoting products etc. After that as an organized activity, public relations was largely press relations and other forms of visible communication. To gain recognition for they professional capabilities Pr practitioner had to establish their own credibility among their clients, employers, the media and the public. Legitimacy In his farewell lecture , professor Anne van der Meiden, has a thesis about moral legitimacy. He asks the question: Is the communication specialist only the instrument of his client without any legitimacy? It is an important question. Does the communication specialist have an opinion about the subject or does he just do what he is told? Accountability PR practitioner are becoming social engineers. They are compared with engineers and architect but the difference is that the engineers and architects don't have to think about moral values. The PR practitioner is dealing with human beings and he should be aware of the moral implications of his act. A matter of excellence in quality? Or is it more? A distinction should be made between the following areas of behavior. The professional field In the professional field there are lot of standards for PR. Some PR companies even use the ISO 9000 certification. Key aspects of this standard are management responsibility, human resources and quality.

The relationship with clients/employers


Quality is in the relationship with the clients the most important thing. But it is very difficult to define what quality in PR is.

The relationship with the Community In the relationship with the community the communication practitioner might be held responsible for misleading information. The writers of this piece think that the PR practitioner is responsible for the actions he takes also when it is for an employer. It is very important that the PR practitioner should be legally recognized as a profession because in this way you will only have PR practitioners who will work ethical . Operating in an ‘e-mocracy’ In these times everybody is a kind of journalist and everybody has an opinion. It is difficult to separate facts from these opinions. Information and entertainment become one. But the quality from the information is going down.

Summary Appendix 2 Reader Developments in Communication/PR

Theme: Societal culture and Public Relations This appendix pursues the question of the extent to which societal cultural ultimately determines the nature of public relations in an organization.

General theories of public relations The most theories are coming from the United States. This is probably because public relations activity is widely regarded as a quintessentially American invention. Carlson (1968) suggested that public relations is a child of 20th-century United States. He contended that PR is an outgrowth of the respected democratic belief that facts and issues that influence public policy should be available to all sections of the population in a society.

Tedlow (1979) also viewed PR as an outgrowth of US political and commercial developments. The author contended that PR was one pillar of American salesmanship. He viewed corporate PR as a method of protection against the political consequences of hostile public opinion.


Pimlott (1951), has visit the US to study US public relations practice, saw the dominant social and political role it played in US society. He perceived PR as one of the weapons used by businesses in meeting the challenge to survival of capitalism, and as a means by which US society adjusts to changing circumstances.

Introductory textbooks such as Wilcox, Ault and Agee (1989) and Grunig and Hunt (1984) agreeing that PR is a US phenomenon. This might seem logical given the fact that most mangers and executives from almost all nations are trained predominantly in the US or the United Kingdom. Therefore, they carry back similar management philosophies to their native countries. Others not making these ‘pilgrimages’ are acculturated into the management creed of the West. Therefore, there is a need for studies that should seek not only to identify the PR practices of organizations in different nations, but also to identify whether the theories conceptualized in the US adequately explain the practices.

After several studies J. Grunig and L. Grunig (1989) concluded that culture could be a key determinant of the public relations activity of organizations.

Following the pattern that Smircich (1983) explained, we see a distinction between corporate culture and societal culture although it seems fair to assume that the latter has a great influence in the formation of the former. Smircich distinguished between organization studies that viewd culture in different contexts. The first form of research Smircich posited sees culture as an independent variable mainly for comparative management studies. A second linkage between culture and organizations that Smircich identified is the one conceived by those researchers who view culture as a variable internal to an organization. Referring to this internal culture as corporate culture, these scholars viewed organizations as culture-producing phenomena. They agree that organizations exist in a wider cultural context, but focus on the cultural artefacts that organizations produce such as legends and stories, heroes, rites, and rituals, and shared assumptions and meanings.

The appendix contend that although corporate culture is a factor that affects PR, societal culture is equally important because it has a significant impact on an organization’s human resources as well as its corporate culture.

Are organizational processes culture-bound? Smith and Tayeb (1988) identified two kinds of organizational researchers:


1. Macroresearchers  they study the organization as a whole unit and analyze formally prescribed structures such as departments and decision procedures. 2. Microresearchers  these researchers focus on the nature of superior-subordinate relationships through an analysis of leadership and participation. Tayeb identified two opposing schools of thought: 1. Culture-free thesis  macroresearchers have advocated this thesis, arguing that the link between organizational characteristics such as organizational structure and their contextual factors are stable across societies. 2. Culture-specific thesis  microresearchers favoured this approach because a more microscopic focus upon the behaviour of particular leaders within an organization makes it increasingly difficult to formulate measures that are truly culture free. Tayeb found flaws in studies adopting the culture-free approach. For example at the theory of Haire, Ghiselli and Porter (1966). They implied that cultural differences do not affect managerial thinking when they stated that being a manager is a way of life. Tayeb contended that their study completely overlooked the fact that most of their respondents had been undergoing management training courses during the time they participated in the study.

In her own comparative analysis of English and Indian organizations, Tayeb found that organizations in these diverse cultures responded identically to similar contextual demands but that, the means of arriving at the responses were significantly different.

Hofstede (1980) used the terms values and culture to describe mental programs. Whereas he saw values as attributes of individuals and collectivities, he saw culture as a property of collective human groups. Hofstede observed that values are non rational because they are imbued into individuals very early in their lives. This explains why what is perfectly normal behaviour in one society may often be considered abnormal in another.

Determinants of culture

Kaplan and Manners talk about what they called the subsystems of culture. The nature of these subsystems definitive impact in shaping a society’s culture, we prefer and refer them as the determinants of culture. Kaplan and Manners argued that these determinants help explain a majority of the cultural traits of an individual. Anthropologists have used one or more of these determinants to explain cultural variations in societies.


Cultural materialist Harris viewed a society’s culture from an economic perspective. The first determinant called technoeconomics, the authors saw the first part of the term as the technical material. And saw the second part as the arrangements employed by a given society in applying its technical equipment and knowledge to the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Nimkoff and Middleton found that family types varied with technoeconomic arrangements.

Hofstede used the terms individualism and collectivism. An individual’s personality is largely determined by individual’s experiences within the family.

Sahlins demonstrated that higher levels of productivity will generate increased levels of sociopolitical complexity. It’s another term for modernization, in turn affects the worldviews of individuals.

Williamson contended that a study of attitudes such as the extent of social interaction and secularism and relates values will reveal varying degrees of acceptance of modernism. Williamson used rationally to measure modernism. He preference for an urban rather than an agrarian lifestyle.

The significance of social structure is that one can observe social interactions and analyze them. Kaplan and Manners observed than even socio-structural theorists ultimately have to make use of one of the other three subsystems to explain role behaviour. The third cultural determinant ideology as the ideational realm of culture, Kaplan and Manners found ideology to be representative of the values, norms, knowledge, themes, philosophies and religious principles, worldviews, and ethos held by people of a society.

There is a great deal of disagreement among anthropologists concerning how much of a determinative role ideological factors play in the maintenance and change of culture.

Spiro listed five ‘levels’ of ideological elements on a given culture:


1. 2. 3. 4.

Individuals learn a cultural idiosyncracies Also learn to use such ideological constructs. They believe these constructs to be true and valid. These constructs have some cognitive salience, individuals use them as guides in structuring their social and natural worlds. 5. In addition to cognitive salience, constructs also have been internalized by individuals so that, in addition to serving as guides, they initiate behaviour. The fourth determinant of Kaplan and Manners is personality. It has his roots in the psychological state of individuals. The popularity of Freudian psychology gave an enormous impetus to anthropological theorizing about personality. The family unit is the pimary institution and establishments such as art, religion, mythology, of folklore are secondary institutions.

Dimensions of culture

The concerted work of several scholars has yielded dimensions of culture that researchers can use to place a particular society on the cultural continuum. We can use these dimensions to chart out similarities and differences among societies.

Hofstede was able to factor out four principal dimensions of culture. The first cultural continuum , individualism-collectivism, has been recognized and studied by many theorists as a dimension affecting intergroup processes. Collectivist cultures, in contrast, stress group goals and individual good is superseded by the welfare of the community. One can hypothesize, then that workers in collective cultures may be more attached to the organization they work for. Kaplan and Manners saw a cultural subsystem with equated with what they called idioentrism and collectivism.

The second dimension that Hofstede identified called Power distance. It indicates the extent to which power is distributed unequally among people belonging to different strata.


The third dimension of Hofstede called uncertainly avoidance, it deals with tolerance for people with different views.

The fourth dimension is: masculinity/feminity, as a measure of the nature of society’s culture. It identifying men as being assertive and woman being nuturant.

Tayeb studied a fifth dimension, interpersonal trust. He found hostility and mistrust between managers and lower level workers. He also found the sixth dimension, commitment. Managers in both countries felt more committed to their organizations than workers.

Societal culture and public relations

We are in strong agreement with the advocates of the culture specific approach and contend that organizations are effected by culture.

Hall saw such a strong interconnection between the two concepts that he remarked that culture is communication and communication is culture.

Pacanowsky and O’Donnell-Trujillo saw culture as the residue of the communication process.

Spradley said that culture is learned revised, maintained, and defined in the context of people interacting.

We see a conceptual link between culture and public relations through the presuppositions. According to J. Grunig he listed to an opposing set of worldviews and referred to them as symmetrical presuppositions.


We contend that public relations has been primarily as U.S. practice, tempered by some lessons from its practice in the Anglo countries such as United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. We see an era in which public relations will undergo fundamental changes and become enriched as a profession. There have to change certain techniques to suit different cultures. The result will be the growth of a cultural richer profession

Propositions linking societal culture with public relations

We sum up our conceptualization linking societal culture and public relations by making the following propositions:

1. Societal cultures that display lower levels of power distance, authoritarianism, and individualism, but have higher levels of the rest. 2. Organizations that exist in societal culture do not display these characteristics Group 2 Summary “Denig Chapter 1” Communication within the Socio-Cultural Context

Communication professional should response to the dominant value patterns of the target group.

The Zeitgeist divided the past fifty years into five periods: 1. 2. 3. 4. 1950’s, focused on economic thinking and action toward a better society; 1960’s, period for ideology, protest generation was rise 1970’s, time for hedonism, people wanted to enjoy 1980’s, egocentric oriented, everything must be straight out, people were judged by their performances and focus their live accordingly (basic attitude) 5. 1990’s, rise of new concept on ethical aspects (purity, transparency, accountability), economic recovery shown by big amount of investment. Also moral scandals were increased, The value wave recognition is: to anticipate forth coming value waves; to predict value waves;



to predict a relatively new current (also called “new discipline”) which appears to be taking shape in the first decade of the 21st century;

Social cultural currents (an international catalogue): wave movements in social norms and values that affect the attitude and human behaviour.

1. Autonomy: freedom of choice, individuality. Autonomy can be positive change (flexibility, innovation and harmony) and also negative (isolation, anomie). 2. Autonomy. This following currents relate to autonomy: - Way of life: taking control of your own life; self formulated aims and means; independent of conventional directives and social conventions; self reflecting in making choices; - The power of knowledge: - Achievement: - Multi faceted individual: - Flexibility of sexual roles: - Op-time alisation: efficient and methodical in using time. “Time is money”. 3. Individual maturing, people are more receptive to both changes in themselves and in their immediate environment. - Vitality piloting: - Savouring time: - Making magic: - Intraception: - Voluntary Simplicity - Neo Spirituality: 4. Search for meaning: a search for new meaning (in personal level) and ethical norms. - Ethics of responsibility: - Community spirit: - Techno-progression: - Sustainability - Environmental Consciousness - Authenticity: 5. New social fabric, flexible and informal networks - Global Village: being aware of some world wide connection - Local Orientation: focusing on the own region and direct social environment - International orientation: - Heterarchy: - Flexible families: being receptive to various types of living together without marriage - Fluid networking: 6. Complexity, people are expected to make their own choices and to creace some system out of the uncertainties and possibilities of the world.



Fear of individualisation: Adaptive navigation: Information maze: Transparency: Multicultural interest: Time Crunch: people have lack of time to do many things Law and order: Tolerance:

7. Hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, sensual self-indulgence. This following currents relate to hedonism: - Discerning hedonism: - Crude hedonism: - Violence fascination: being attracted to action and violence - Poly-sensuality: Peace at home: Summary Developing Communication Reader Challenges in communication Chapter 9; Betteke van Ruler The communication grid, a situational model for strategic communications management.

This chapter is about the developing of communication management over the last years. In starts with changes in society. - The changing from command economy to a negotiation economy That means that the norm for people and organisations has become that consultation is required on everything. - Organisation has to be good and visible Good stands for that the organisation supplies good quality products or services at an appropriate price. Visible stands for showing what it represents, accounting what the organisation does and showing that it takes note of what society thinks. - Relationship management is getting more important Communication with employees, with customers, with journalists is important. Gutteling (1999) finds out that the outcome of communication processes in crises depends to a large degree on the relationship that the organisation had with those audiences prior to the crises.


Changing of communication managers Communication had to be managed well. During the years the position of communication managers has been changed. In the sixties and seventies communication was an ornament. The information flow was always one-way traffic from the organisation to an unknown public. There was growing criticism and communication became a management instrument (Craft model). Van Riel developed the concept of ‘corporate communications’. Two dimensions are deciding factors in the planning system of corporate communication. Image and Identity. At the end of the eighties there has been a different vision of the role of communication management. Communication as a strategic model (Seller’s model). Slowly there is a movement from one-way traffic flow (controlled) to an two-way traffic flow (real). The Symmetrical model. Terms like interaction, influencing, transaction thinking are getting introduced.

Van Ruler had developed a new communication model. The communication Grid. It is made for managers and it can help them to use communication as a strategic instrument. The communication manager is not a communicator. He or she is standing in the middle of communication traffic, and from there diagnosis the problem, decides what can be changed by deploying communication and opts and deploy one or more strategies.

Communication Grid: The four fields that can be identified in the matrix can be seen as sub areas of communication management, in which conditions are described under which they can operate and can realistically be deployed as strategy. The communication management can choose one of the four strategies: informing, persuading, consensus and dialogue to resolve communication problems.


There is made a distinction between one-way traffic and two-way traffic. Also there is made a distinction of the flow of information (revealing) and the flow of influence.

Informing: controlled one-way traffic and revealing provides the information strategy. This strategy is for help in forming opinions and decisions.

Persuasion: controlled one-way traffic and influence provides the information strategy. The target is influencing knowledge, attitude and behaviour of the other person.

Consensus forming: two-way traffic and influence provides the consensus strategy. This strategy is mainly deployed when there are conflicting interests and it refers to a process of mutual influencing.

Dialogue: two-way traffic and revealing provides the dialogue strategy. This strategy is the facilitating bridging function that is formulated in interactive policy-making and socially responsible enterprise.

Betteke van Ruler developed above model but she still sees three problems: 1. First problem is that the form of this model of communication management can only be practised if communication has been seen as an integral part of an organisation. 2. The second problem is the problem that communication and organisation can no longer be separated. 3. The last problem she sees is the enormous changing in the role of the communication manager himself. -


Index Consensus forming Credibility Dialogue Harris Hofstede Kaplan and Manners Legitimacy masculinity Nimkoff and Middleton Pimlott Smith and Tayeb Socio-Cultural Context Spiro Tedlow Williamson p. 12 p. 1 p. 12 p. 5 p. 4 p. 4 p. 1 p. 7 p. 5 p. 3 p. 3 p. 8 p. 6 p. 2 p. 5